Why Ambiguity Kills Joy

Why Ambiguity Kills Joy

The pursuit of happiness. It’s one of the most fundamental human longings. Each of us wants to experience and have joy in our lives. Joy gives us richness and meaning – we can even have it when going through difficult situations. Having a joyful attitude also makes us more productive and helps us create more meaningful work. (I highly recommend you check out Rich Sheridan, the CEO of Menlo Innovations and his thoughts on the Business Value of Joy)

Sadly, our actions and attitudes often work against our desire for joy. We want joy, but instead we often choose to be self-centered, bitter, or one of the million other sour things take away happiness.

One such joy killer isn’t often thought of: Ambiguity. What? How does ambiguity even remotely relate to joy, you ask? In some respects ambiguity is a good thing – being flexible and able to adapt to various situations is a great skill to have. However, there is another side of ambiguity that is very dark because it lacks purpose. Each of us needs a purpose – we need to accomplish something of value. When we are living or working without clearly-defined purpose, we tend to feel bogged down, get frustrated, and aren’t able to give our best to what we are doing.

Bad Habits
Here are a few of the bad habits I’ve seen in my own life that contribute to ambiguity.

  • Starting the day without a plan
  • Avoiding important (but scary) tasks by doing less important things
  • Writing down generalized tasks like: “work on blog” instead of specific tasks like: “add three blog post ideas to my ideas folder.” “Turn two ideas into outlines and turn one outline into a complete draft.”

3 Ways to Defeat Ambiguity
Living in ambiguity is like spending the day wandering around in a dense fog. It’s a terrible feeling and a frustrating way to live. I have had to be purposeful in pursuing habits to conquer the cycle.

1. Spend time thinking
If you don’t actually spend time contemplating your life or understanding what your highest-payoff activities are, you will never be able to have specific purpose.

2. Write Things Down
Organizing your thoughts into written words is incredibly powerful. It brings clarity and it cements what you think into something tangible.

3. Have Accountability
Left to our own devices, we usually choose shortcuts and laziness. Having friends who understand what we are trying to accomplish and can call us on is critical. My team and I meet every day for 15 minutes and answer three questions: 1) What did we accomplish yesterday? 2) What do we plan to accomplish today? 3) What barriers or obstacles do we see getting in the way of what we hope to accomplish? Doing this every single day has revolutionized the way we work and our attitudes about it.

Live with Purpose
When you are feeling a lack of purpose what do you do to get back on track? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Why don’t you head over to the Launch Thought Facebook page and we can discuss!

6 Comments

  • Josh Patrick says:

    A first cousin of ambiguity is too much choice. We need to have strategies in our life that help limit the amount of choices we need to make. The more choices we have the more confusion in our lives. Getting clear about what and why we want to do something is a big remover of ambiguity and helps provide clarity.

  • Josh Patrick says:

    A first cousin of ambiguity is too much choice. We need to have strategies in our life that help limit the amount of choices we need to make. The more choices we have the more confusion in our lives. Getting clear about what and why we want to do something is a big remover of ambiguity and helps provide clarity.

  • Stan Bush says:

    #1… starting the day without a plan. If you start the day without a plan, that’s exactly the way the day will end.

  • Stan Bush says:

    #1… starting the day without a plan. If you start the day without a plan, that’s exactly the way the day will end.

  • Pat says:

    Grant, I like this approach to finding joy. Joy and planning were not a link I had previously made. Joy and purpose works for me. Doing the most important thing before all the small stuff is something I have done since reading the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Key point in your post.

  • Pat says:

    Grant, I like this approach to finding joy. Joy and planning were not a link I had previously made. Joy and purpose works for me. Doing the most important thing before all the small stuff is something I have done since reading the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Key point in your post.