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I was at a recent family gathering where the conversation was bordering on gossip. As the negative comments and judgments started to fly, I jumped on the bandwagon and offered my assessment of the situation only to be quickly called out for my comment.

Not a person involved thought twice about what happened, but my sensitive side was crushed. I am not an unkind person, so what would cause me to make such a comment? I spent the afternoon doing some self-reflecting. It may not seem devastating, but it was a harsh reality check for me. The feelings generated from this experience have lingered in the back of my mind for weeks.

Have you ever had that happen to you before? Some seemingly small incident creates a tidal wave of emotions? I’ve played this interaction over and over in my mind as I have considered my choices for change this year. I’ve contemplated who am I becoming? What do I need to focus on to be a better person? How will I develop my “To-Be” process this year?

One Word

One of the most famous phrases from Shakespeare’s play Hamlet is “to be or not to be.” Its meaning has numerous interpretations. But, in the context of putting a word into action, consider whether it might be asking the question: should we be stoically passive or heroically active in the choices we make in our lives.

Choosing a word to focus on for the year has gained more popularity over the traditional annual resolutions. I’ve watched several friends select a word, and then Krista shared what she learned from the book, One Word that Will Change Your Life. I decided it was time to choose one for myself.

My Word

For me, last year was one of gathering knowledge. My scripture study focused on references to joy. I spent several months researching happiness, and more importantly, I learned what joy is not.

In contrast to the pain I felt at my family gathering, I have learned we have a choice when it comes to how we feel. When we are intentional in our thoughts, we create emotions to empower us.

So, after contemplating words like cheerful, positivity, and happy it seemed natural to arrive at the word JOY.

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My Why Behind Joy

Anyone can focus on a word all year long, but until we understand the “why” we will never really change. Why would joy make a difference in my life?

I chose “joy” not because I want to be happy, although I do, what I really want is to “be joy.” By definition, joy is typically a verb describing an emotion or feeling. But joy can also be a state of being. For me, the idea of joy being a noun makes it a tangible object rather than an abstract emotion.

Being “joy” can uplift us during the most difficult moments of our life. It has been said, “happiness displaces pain, but joy embraces it.” To me, embracing joy in the midst of a trial is mastering the ability to recognize the good that comes from growth.

“It’s not about the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, its the process of looking that brings joy.” ~Unknown

We are naturally drawn to people who emanate joy, and when we are with them, we feel joy, too. Like a light chasing the gloomy darkness away, joy is contagious to those who seek it.

We’re not supposed to feel good all the time. Opposition plays an important role in our lives. Without it, we wouldn’t appreciate the difference between good and bad, happy and sad, easy and hard. I’m not looking for a saccharine sweet outlook on life, but I want to embrace my ability to recognize there is a choice. A choice in how to react, how I will allow myself to grow and how I can process my emotions.

My real focus will be in applying all I have learned by making joy a part of who I am and incorporating it into the six life dimensions.

Spiritual • Physical • Emotional • Mental • Financial • Relational

My Hope

The power of a word brings hope for change in the new year. As with any change, there is work and action involved in making it happen. Twelve months from now I hope I will choose to not participate in a negative conversation. I want to make the heroically active choice of turning the discussion to a more positive topic rather than joining in the criticism. My purpose in becoming joy will hopefully change me and positively influence those around me.

Originally published at

Author of Creating Positive Habits and Practicing Progress, Lori writes about choices inspiring greater joy and happiness.

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