The Art of Finding Joy and Building the Life You Want

Joy has an immense impact on health. It drives you to make decisions that can empower and enrich your life. Yet, many people today lack Joy, which is why I have shifted my focus toward helping you cultivate this important aspect of your well-being. But what really defines Joy and how can you harness it to build a more fulfilling existence?

The book “Build the Life You Want: The Art and Science of Getting Happier,” written by best-selling author and Harvard professor Arthur Brooks, Ph.D., and co-written by the renowned host Oprah Winfrey, sought to answer these questions.1

“Our mission in this book is to tie together the two strands of our work, to open up the amazing science of happiness to people in all walks of life, who can use it to live better and lift up others.

In plain language, we seek to help you see that you are not helpless against the tides of life, but that with a greater understanding of how your mind and brain work, you can build the life you want, starting inside with your emotions, and then turning outward to your family, friendships, work, and spiritual life,” they wrote in the book.

It’s Never Too Late to Turn a New Leaf

The book opens with a poignant anecdote from Brooks,2 reflecting on the final moments of his 93-year-old mother-in-law, Albina Quevedo. Despite facing adversities throughout her life, she looked back fondly at her memories and declared that she became happier as she aged.

As a child, Albina lived through the Spanish Civil War, during which her father was imprisoned. “Despite that, she always saw her childhood as a happy one because her parents loved her and loved each other, and this love was the memory that endured most clearly,” Brooks recounted.

Albina faced more challenges in her adult life, as her husband abandoned her and their children, offering no financial support and thrusting them into poverty. She spent years feeling miserable until she suddenly chose to turn her life around one day in her mid-40s.

“For reasons that were not clear to her friends and family, her outlook on life seemed to shift. It’s not that she was suddenly less lonely, or that she mysteriously came into money, but for some reason, she stopped waiting for the world to change and took control of her life,” Brooks narrated.

Her life-changing journey began with her decision to enroll in college and pursue a teaching career. Despite juggling studies and family obligations, Albina graduated at the top of her class and went on to teach children from underprivileged neighborhoods. She was able to support her family financially, make lasting connections with the people around her and later on reconcile with her estranged husband.

“She truly became her own person … Now here she was at age ninety- three, with her circumstances once again limiting her, but her joy undiminished — and even increasing … What was her secret to turning the corner at forty-five toward a better life — and getting happier for nearly five decades after that?” Brooks pondered.

You Are the Master of Your Own Life

In the book,3 Brooks explained that there are three things that happened to Albina that set her free from unhappiness. First, she came to the realization that she had the power to control her responses to life’s challenges rather than passively waiting for external changes to bring her joy.

Second, she made conscious decisions and took proactive steps to manage her reactions to negative emotions. Finally, she focused on the four important pillars of her life — family, friendship, work and spiritual connection. These three pivotal steps empowered her to build the life she desired. With her story in mind, Brooks advised:

“You, too, can become the boss of your own life, not an observer. You can learn to choose how you react to negative circumstances and select emotions that make you happier even when you get a bad hand. You can focus your energy not on trivial distractions, but on the basic pillars of happiness that bring enduring satisfaction and meaning.”

These insights echo the principles in my own upcoming book, “The Power of Choice.” Up until now, all my books, nearly all of which have become best-sellers, have focused purely on diet and lifestyle strategies for physical health and longevity. “The Power of Choice” is also, ultimately, about health, but approaches it from a different perspective — that of connection to your consciousness.

One of the key lessons from this book is that life is about creating Joy. You hold the ultimate authority over the experiences you encounter, as they are entirely shaped by your individual choices. If your life lacks fulfillment, then it could be your true Self telling you to make different choices that could steer you toward a more satisfying existence.

I intentionally capitalize “Self” and “Joy” to underscore their deeper, transcendent nature. Self represents unlimited, immortal consciousness, while Joy denotes a profound state of contentment that emanates from within yourself.

Avoid the Traps of Fame, Fortune and Pleasure

Another important aspect of finding Joy is to steer clear of the misguided paths toward it. Brooks addresses this in his article,4 “Love People, Not Pleasure,” published in the New York Times.

In this piece, Brooks talks about the story of Abd al-Rahman III, an emir and caliph of 10th-century Spain who, despite having fame, wealth and pleasure, said he experienced only 14 days of genuine happiness in his entire life. Brooks pointed out that Abd al-Rahman’s problem is not the lack of happiness, but rather unhappiness caused by his fixation on extrinsic goals. He further explains:

“What is unhappiness? Your intuition might be that it is simply the opposite of happiness, just as darkness is the absence of light. That is not correct. Happiness and unhappiness are certainly related, but they are not actually opposites … As strange as it seems, being happier than average does not mean that one can’t also be unhappier than average.”

Brooks cites research5 suggesting that individuals fixated on extrinsic goals often experience higher levels of stress, anxiety and dissatisfaction with life. The quest for fame, in particular, manifested in the modern world through mediums like television and social media, where people vie for attention by showcasing their everyday life. He suggests this leads to a superficial sense of fulfillment and feelings of inadequacy.

Brooks further highlights that prioritizing materialistic goals has been shown to increase the risk of anxiety, depression, substance abuse and even physical ailments.6 He also debunks the belief that sexual variety leads to greater well-being, citing a study7 that examined data from about 16,000 American adults, which showed that across men and women, the optimal number of sexual partners is one.

“This search for fame, the lust for material things and the objectification of others — that is, the cycle of grasping and craving — follows a formula that is elegant, simple and deadly: Love things, use people. This was Abd al-Rahman’s formula as he sleepwalked through life.”

Brooks concludes that to find the formula for happiness, you simply have to invert the formula that perpetuates the cycle of unhappiness. That is, “Love people, use things.”

Trust Yourself to Take Chances and Make Brave Choices

Ashley Armstrong’s journey as the cofounder of Angel Acres Egg Co. and the Nourish Cooperative8 is another inspiring example of how prioritizing Joy in your decision-making can lead to a more purposeful and fulfilling life.

The video above, taken from our previous interview, describes how Ashley made a radical career change to pursue her passion for regenerative agriculture. By making this brave choice, she was able to reclaim Joy, as well as improve her health and benefit other people.

Brooks himself took the same courageous leap when he quit his chief executive job at a large nonprofit organization to help people lift themselves by teaching the science of happiness. He shared in the book:9

“In the years since I made this life change, my own well-being has risen a lot. People notice and remark that I smile more, and I look like I’m having more fun in my work. My relationships are better than they were. And I have seen improvements like this in students, business leaders, and ordinary people who learn the principles.

Many of them have experienced pain and loss beyond anything I have ever faced, and found joy even amid their suffering.”

Much like the transformative impact of the choices made by Ashley and Brooks, as well as Albina, as illustrated in “Build the Life You Want,” your decisions hold significant power, capable of reshaping your own reality and impacting the lives of others.

It is my sincere hope that their stories empower you to trust in your own discernment and intuition, and help you recognize that your inner wisdom knows best what will bring you the most joy and fulfillment in life.

You Need Sufficient Cellular Energy for Decision-Making

In the video, Ashley touched upon the importance of having enough cellular energy to support the brain’s energy-intensive decision-making processes. This is because your brain consumes about 20% of your body’s energy despite being only 2% of its weight.

Various factors, such as having excess linoleic acid, high levels of estrogen and being exposed to endotoxins, can deplete your cellular energy and hinder your ability to make healthy life choices. It’s important to avoid these pitfalls to optimize your mitochondrial function, which is a central factor, as the energy produced by your mitochondria is virtually identical to the energy that created the material universe.

Improving your mitochondrial health boosts your ability to connect with the Source of your true Self, which is where true Joy resides. This is also where your intuition and inner knowing lie, which are always nudging you toward the direction of your authentic self and, ultimately, to a path that will bring you the most Joy.

Cultivate More Joy in Your Life by Anticipating It

Have you ever felt a sense of joyful, intense anticipation before a positive event, like a vacation, holiday or even a simple delightful meal? This emotion is encapsulated in the German term “vorfreude.” Rachel Dixon delved into this concept in an article for The Guardian,10 exploring how you can learn to anticipate and savor joy.

Dixon lists 30 ways to increase your vorfreude quotient according to experts, starting from something small like taking note of one joyful thing each day and having a routine that you can look forward to each day. For more tips to get more anticipatory Joy in your life, check out my article, “Embrace Joy With Vorfreude.”

Finding Joy Takes Time and Effort

As Brooks aptly concludes in the book’s introduction,11 “Building the life you want takes time and effort. To delay means waiting for no good reason, missing more time being happier, and making others happier as well.”

I wholeheartedly agree with this perspective. That is why, as you may have noticed in this article, I emphasized “Joy” over “happiness.” I believe there’s an important distinction between these two terms, as happiness is passive, fleeting and dependent on external factors.

In contrast, Joy is a verb; it’s an active state of being. It represents the ultimate pursuit and realization of life’s purpose — a journey that I hope you will embrace, as it will guide you to shape your life the way you want it.

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Dr. Mercola has always been passionate about helping preserve and enhance the health of the global community. As a doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO), he takes a “whole-person” approach to wellness, helping you develop attitudes and lifestyles that can help you Take Control of Your Health. By sharing valuable knowledge about holistic medicine, regenerative practices and informed consent principles, he has become the most trusted source for natural health information, with a legacy of promoting sustainability and transparency. CREDENTIALS Dr. Mercola is an osteopathic physician who, similar to MDs, finished four years of basic clinical sciences and successfully completed licensing exams. Hence, he is fully licensed to prescribe medication and perform surgery in all 50 states. Also a board-certified family physician, he served as the chairman of the family medicine department at St. Alexius Medical Center for five years. Moreover, he has written over 30 scientific studies and reports published in medical journals and publications. With his written contributions and extensive experience in patient care, he was granted fellowship status by the American College of Nutrition (ACN) in October 2012. Connect with Dr. Mercola at

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