What causes my feelings? How can I best navigate these feelings? These are things I consider aaaaallllll the time. One thing I’ve realized is that the word happiness doesn’t quite jive with me. When I think about what happiness means, I associate it with positivity, with feeling good and upbeat. And frankly, I don’t even WANT to feel positive all the time. I strongly believe that the whole emotional spectrum is important and necessary.

I think what I’m seeking is joy. To me, joy is different than happiness. Joy is broader. When I think about what joy means, I associate it with being wholly engaged with life, with awareness and being courageously immersed with what is (even if the present moment is painful). That’s what I want.

But how do I experience joy? What theories and reminders help align me?

Gretchen Rubin presents the idea of developing your own list of personal “happiness commandments.” This becomes a guideline you can reference to live life in the way that is best for YOU. Mine are still a work in progress, but what I’ve come up with so far has been very useful to me! I’m calling them my JOY GUIDELINES rather than happiness commandments, just because that wording resonates more with me.

If this idea piques your curiosity, I’d definitely recommend writing your own! I’ll share what mine look like at this point. I could write an entire post on each of my guidelines, and I probably will, eventually. But for now, a brief explanation will do!


Carrie’s Joy Guidelines


Laugh all of your laughter, weep all of your tears.

This line from The Prophet by Khalil Gibran evokes a theme I found emerging in many of joy guidelines: joy and sorrow are inextricable. If I want to be fully expansive and radiating happiness, I need to be just as willing to be bowled over by sadness. I can’t protect myself from experiencing the darker, more difficult aspects of the human experience. When I try to reign in my laughter or stifle my tears, I rob myself of the true depths of life.

Be the King of Cups.

The King of Cups has become my tarot BFF lately. I used to relate most to the Queen or sometimes the Page of Cups, but recently I’m realizing that the King has many lessons to offer about how I might best show up in the world. He is emotionally intelligent, but he is also logical. He understands how to feel his feelings and use them constructively (instead of living in a dreamworld or falling to pieces). He values dreams and intuition, but also values tangible experience and scientific reasoning. He has a collected presence; he brings a stabilizing, healing energy to others. He does not judge. He does not cling to expectations. To me, he is a sage, a zen master; yet still humble and humorous. I want to be the Kind of Cups when I grow up!

Stand knee deep in the flow of life.

This quote from the Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron speaks to me of mindful intention. I do not want to stand on the sidelines of life, I want to stand knee deep in the flow. I want to be fully immersed, aware of each decision and action that I make.

No lies, just love.

I have only one tattoo and it is these words, quoted from a Conor Oberst song. There are many levels of meaning here for me: the obvious being the importance of telling the truth. Lies drain energy, telling the truth is love. This line also reminds me to gently remove my masks, to shed anything within me that is a lie. Vulnerability is beautiful, living with an open-heart is painful as fuck sometimes…but it’s also love.

We’re all in this together.

I place a lot of importance on ME. My soul, my journey, my life, my emotions…I’m the center of the universe, right?! Sure, it’s important to honor myself; but it’s also important for me to remember that we are all one. We are all connected. We all have our struggles, our stories, our experiences. We’re all trying to navigate life. It’s important to be empathetic, it’s important to take care of each other, I am not alone.

These are beautiful times.

I struggle processing a lot of terrible things happening in the world today. Sometimes I get so swept up in all the horrific things going on that I forget to acknowledge that these times may be hard, but they are also beautiful. I took the line “these are beautiful times” from an Owl City song, the entirety of which speaks to me about struggling with darkness and finding the strength to live in the light.

There are ebbs, there are flows.

There are times I feel like I’ve lost the thread. Times when I feel uninspired, disconnected, apathetic. Gradually, I have learned that as unpleasant as these ebbs may be, they are a natural part of my life. Ebbs happen and that is okay. Just like the tides going in and out, the flow always comes back.

It’s meaningless, it’s meaningful.

I think paradoxes are an interesting approach to complicated topics. I used to gravitate back and forth between assigning tremendous meaning to EVERYTHING and then thinking everything was random and pointless. I’ve now found that taking more of a middle ground approach is better for me. When I accept that maybe something can be both meaningless AND meaningful, I feel closer to the truth.

Take the next right step.

This is a nugget of wisdom you’ve probably heard from me before if you’ve worked with me one on one. As many of us do, I can get caught up in telling myself I have to have a huge master plan before I take action. But this is rarely the case! Usually, it is better for me to focus on taking the next right step, even if it is a small step. Looking at the big picture is valuable from time to time, but I don’t get anywhere without breaking it down and taking the next step.

Give fucks wisely.

This is one of the most fucking powerful things on my whole fucking list. I got this idea from this article (hands down one of the best fucking things I’ve read on the internet). Not only do I enjoy liberal use of the word fuck, but I am a HUGE believer in giving fucks wisely. The fucks that I have to give are a limited resource. I want to give fucks about things that actually matter and not give fucks about meaningless bullshit. When I give my fucks wisely, I find a more powerful and potent way of living.

Go for a walk.

For me, walking is a spiritual practice. When I am sad, it is good to go for a walk. When I am happy, it is good to go for a walk. When I’m stuck, it is good to go for a walk. When I am a human living life on this planet, it is good to go for a walk.

Create for the sake of creating.

I’ve written about creating for the sake of creating before, and I probably will again. This is a vital concept for me. I need the space and permission to create just because. Not because I’m expecting money or praise or fame…but because I feel called to create. To have a truly joyful life, I have to let my creativity fill in all the corners of my experience simply because it feels good to do so.


If you come up with some Joy Guidelines of your own, I’d be curious to hear them. Do leave a comment and share.

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