Joy, if built on sand, becomes misery

Joy, if built on sand, becomes misery.

Imagine your dream home. The perfect layout. The best location. It’s exactly what you want and need for the rest of your life. Then, bam! It’s built. You walk inside, and you feel pure joy. But then something terrible happens.

A flood sweeps your dream home away. It’s gone.

Why? The home was built on sand.

Sand foundations can make once-significant sources of joy into significant sources of misery.

What’s Life’s Equivalent of a Sand Foundation?

If your joy is based on anything besides your perspective, anything outside of your mind, it’s built on sand. The primary attributes of a sand foundation are instability, change, unreliability, and outside your control. Sand isn’t meant to stay in the same place—by its nature of being small and fragmented, it is designed to be carried by forces like wind and water.

If your foundation is internal, it is solid and can withstand much. Let’s break it down into specific foundations.

Poor Foundations
Your wealth
Your status
External events
State of Circumstance (Prosperity, Crises, and everything in between)

Moderate Foundations
Your relationships
Your health

Strong Foundations
Your mind(set)

The differentiator of these three foundations is control. As you move from poor to strong, your level of control increases. We can only fully control our own minds. Nothing else, not even relationships.

Things like relationships and health are greatly influenced by our behavior, but even they can be torn from us without permission, by no fault of our own. When all else is stripped away, you’re left with your mind. Will your thoughts support you to greater heights or will they pummel you further into the ground? I’m asking you because it’s up to you.

The virus currently rampaging the world isn’t up to any of us. Our actions from here can affect the ultimate outcome, but some of what has happened and how it has affected our lives has been beyond our control. 

The chaos of life dictates that those who rely on circumstances to supply their joy suffer the most. There can be great joy, even in times of suffering. Will it be muted compared to the good times? Probably, but perhaps less than you’d think. Several studies have shown that our baseline happiness adapts to both significant fortune and misfortune alike (here’s one).

If You Can’t Control It, Don’t Make It Foundational

Whenever you experience a negative emotion, try to trace it back to the source. Then ask yourself what you can control in this situation, if anything. A simple example is traffic. Traffic upsets a lot of people, but it is outside of our control, so if you get upset about traffic, you are letting the world control your emotions. You’re building on sand.

Instead of a sand foundation, where the quality of your days is determined by circumstances, what if you relied on these for joy instead?

The Gift of Life

There are billions of people in existence, but to be one of them is miraculous! There are an infinite number of people who will never exist. If you believe in God, he chose you. If you believe in Naturalism, then you’re a rare winner of the life lottery. 

Blessings in Life

Life is hard, and everyone’s lot is different, but everyone can find blessings if they look for them. Gratitude journals or just occasionally saying or writing down your blessings can completely change your perspective. Try it!


Many people focus on problems. What if they focused on opportunities instead? In fact, many problems can be opportunities. My career writing books—one of the greatest blessings of my life—started with a problem. I struggled to change my behavior, and writing is how I explored that problem and found solutions.

Simple Pleasures

When is the last time you intently enjoyed a meal? I often scarf down food as I watch a show or think about other things. But eating is a great opportunity to slow down and enjoy the journey. 

I will often stop in my tracks to inspect a plant or insect. There are marvels all around us, and curious minds can enjoy them endlessly.

Bottom Line

If you really want to enjoy your life, you can’t let it be decided by anything that happens to you, good or bad. That turns your joy into a lottery. Rely on life’s foundational blessings for your joy, and let anything extra be a bonus.

Or you can just get cats. But even then, for me, it’s finding joy despite having allergies to them!

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