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Excerpted from Creating a Life of Joy by Salle Merrill Redfield. Copyright 1999 by Salle Merrill Redfield. Excerpted by permission of Time Warner Books and Time Warner Bookmark.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.  HTML and web pages copyright by SpiritSite.com.
 


"There comes a point in each of our lives when we realize that we are responsible for our own joy."

Salle Merrill Redfield, Creating a Life of Joy, Part 2

One person who has learned to use his experience to grow is a man I know named Jerry. To meet him, you would think he had lived a charmed life. He is strong, healthy, and always upbeat. Daily he concentrates on what he can do to make his dreams come true. Jerry faced the challenges of being a prisoner during the Korean War, having to learn to walk a second time after an injury, losing one home to an earthquake and another to a fire. He also lost a successful business due to a negligent business partner. Numerous tragedies have dotted his sixty-something years, yet Jerry still has a great belief in the miracle of life. His focus is on actualizing his goals and making others happy. When I call him and say, "Jerry, how are you?" his response is always, "If I were any better, I couldn't stand it."

I also know a woman named Gloria who has a deep love for life, even though she and her husband, Bob, lost their adult son to AIDS. They cared for him in their home the last two years of his life. It wasn't the first time she had faced tragedy. At another point in her life Gloria had been homeless and unable to care for her children because of her addiction to alcohol. She overcame her addiction and dedicated her life to helping others in similar situations. Gloria is a beautiful woman with an infectious laugh and a wonderful sense of humor. You never hear her lamenting her past. She is always focusing on her strong spiritual beliefs and how she can help someone in the present moment.

Neither Jerry nor Gloria has had an ideal life, yet both are purposeful and optimistic. They are good reminders that growing from painful experiences and living in the present moment are how we find joy and happiness.

Our Needs

There comes a point in each of our lives when we realize that we are responsible for our own joy. Long-lasting happiness can't come from another person or material possessions. We may enjoy being around people and developing rich relationships, and we can find short-term pleasure in a new car, house, or computer. After a while, though, we take things for granted. Our possessions don't shine as brightly as they did when we first acquired them. And the people we are closest to will sometimes disagree with us or need to focus their attention elsewhere.

Having the day-to-day joy we long for comes from understanding our basic human needs and developing ways to meet them. Abraham Maslow, a founder of modern humanistic psychology, has theorized that we have certain primary desires that must be satisfied in order for us to flourish. Maslow constructed a basic hierarchy of needs that many theorists have acknowledged and built upon. This hierarchy ranges from the basic need for food and shelter all the way to the higher need for purpose and self-actualization.

Anthony Robbins, author of Awaken the Giant Within, is a contemporary author who offers a classification of higher need that I find helpful. He talks about six human needs that people continuously seek to meet either consciously or unconsciously as they strive to survive and function at various levels of personal development in the world: certainty, uncertainty/variety, significance, connection, growth, and contribution.

In our need to have certainty in our lives, we pursue our basic physiological needs as well as a stable environment of peace, love, and joy. We pursue our need for uncertainty through variety, surprise, and small challenges. Our need for significance is met when we are recognized and appreciated by others and acknowledged for our contributions. Connection comes from loving others, being loved, and feeling a sense of belonging. This includes a connection to God or the divine source of all that is the universe. The need to grow is met by traditional education, individual exploration, and study, and most of all through life experiences. And the need to make a contribution and leave a legacy is fulfilled by finding work that has purpose, volunteering our time, tithing our money, and parenting our children.

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