I have a friend who’s a mechanic from Haiti. Recently, I took my car for a tune-up. I like my friend and mechanic because we talk about life and business in Haiti, as well as a host of other things. Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. The mechanic told me an expression used in Haiti that I hadn’t heard until now. And, it goes like this, “Ma voiture est une BM-DOUBLED PIED.”
Instead of saying something like, “My car is a BMW” – the “W” sounding like “double-vey” the Haitians say “double pied” meaning “two feet.” So, Haitians like to say, “My car is a ‘BM Two Feet.'” Meaning, the primary mode of transportation for Haitians is their two feet. Most don’t own cars. Automobiles are considered a luxury.
I’ve often traveled to Haiti. My work in Haiti started after the 2010 earthquake. I’ll tell you that although the country is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, so many of its people are joyful.
The Difference Between Happiness and Joy
If you look at news articles or speak to your friends and co-workers, many people are chasing happiness. Everyone wants to be happy. In fact, some have argued that happiness has become big business in the billions of dollars. There are tens of thousands—probably millions—of articles, programs, classes, and books.
But, there’s a difference between joy and happiness. You can’t have happiness without joy. And, joy is what I found plenty of in Haiti. Those of us living in developed nations can learn a lot from the Haitians and perhaps spend a little less on programs and books that sell happiness to us, but ultimately don’t deliver the greater feeling and value of joy.
Happiness is transitory. It happens when you get a new car, listen to a song you like, speak with someone who inspires you, get a new job you wanted or have a great vacation. All of these things can make you happy.
Joy does not depend on circumstances. Joy is internal. It’s a feeling of completion, hope, and peace. Joy doesn’t depend on the latest iPhone, car, job, or a new pair of shoes. You can be joyful despite having circumstances that would be considered harsh in your life, such as suffering a disease or poverty.
How to Be Joyful
There are some ways to be joyful in your life—no matter the circumstances. Here are some ways I’ve found joy in others and in my life:
• YOU Matter! I have those words in the signature of my email. It was said to me when I was a confused 15-year-old young man by my high school teacher. I think that message is something that many people forget or don’t internalize. YOU Matter! The fact that you’re here on this planet and living this life means you matter. You’re important, and you can be joyful in your life, no matter what’s happening.
• Be Grateful. If you’re grateful every day, you’ll begin to see the changes of having that positivity in your life. Being grateful is a path to joyfulness. I have a colleague and friend that writes every morning in a journal and notes three things she’s thankful for in the morning and then again at night. What she’s found is that it’s an excellent way to start and end the day. She’s also discovered an appreciation for the little things in life, and that has brought her joy.
• Have Fun. Both in my home and at my company’s world headquarters, we don’t take ourselves too seriously. We have a good time. We work hard, but we also allow ourselves to let off some steam. Research has demonstrated that laughter and smiling help people have a positive attitude. If you appear happier, you’ll begin to see people treat you better and you’ll feel better inside. It’s all better energy. And, the better you feel on the inside, the more joyful you’ll ultimately begin to feel.
Finally, finding joy doesn’t come overnight. If you want to be joyful, peaceful and have a better outlook, you have to do your homework. You have to practice joyfulness and the suggestions I shared every day. Keep at it consistently. If you need to remind yourself to practice joyfulness, place an alert on your cell phone or remind yourself in a way you see it each day. After three months of practice, you should experience a more joyful life. You’ll then have what many Haitians have despite natural disasters and poverty.
Wayne Elsey is the founder and CEO of Elsey Enterprises (EE). Among his various independent brands, he is also the founder and CEO of Funds2Orgs, which is a social enterprise that enables nonprofits, individuals and organizations to raise funds while helping to support micro-enterprise opportunities in developing nations.