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By Todd Adams

During most MenLiving meetings, we start with a check-in process. Last week, I led our very first Friday meeting, and I chose the topic of emotions, which is the 3rd of the Five MenLiving Suggestions. The main emotions I typically focus on are anger, fear, sadness, and joy. Lately, I’ve been thinking about joy and whether our experience of it gets less intense as we age. I’ve been struggling with this question over the past week. Part of me believes that it does. Here is my evidence, seen through the lens of pop culture:

My wife and I attended the U2 concert at the Sphere in Las Vegas earlier this year. The band sounded amazing, and the venue was like nothing we’d ever seen before. But I got the feeling that Bono and the rest of the band were kind of going through the motions, treating it as just another gig among the thousands they’ve done before.

Two weeks ago, Cathy and I attended the Tim McGraw concert (in cowboy hats and boots) at the United Center. Tim sounded great, but similar to U2, it felt like it was just a performance and was lacking a certain energy. I couldn’t tell if the energy was missing from him or me. I left feeling I got my money’s worth, but the experience didn’t feel as special as I had hoped.

Over the last weekend, I went to a Niall Horan concert with my daughter. He used to be a member of One Direction along with Harry Styles (I also attended his concert with my daughter). Even though I wasn’t familiar with any of Niall’s songs, my daughter knew all of them. I was able to really focus on Niall and I noticed that despite being a professional musician for about ten years, he seemed genuinely excited to be performing. His heartfelt gratitude towards the audience was deeply moving. His joy could be felt, and it was mesmerizing in a way that even Tim and Bono couldn’t match.

One of the most famous lines in The Breakfast Club is when Ally Sheedy’s character, Allison, says, “When you grow up, your heart dies.” I watched Inside Out 2 this weekend and “Joy” says to the other emotions, “Maybe this is what happens when you grow up – you feel less joy.”

Is joy different as we age? At 52, I find joy in quieter moments: listening to birds, watering my garden, being with a friend who’s open, taking a conscious breath with my wife and three daughters while eating together. Or perhaps I’m not experiencing joy and instead experiencing contentment? Or maybe it’s simply semantics?

As I write this, I am preparing for our annual MenLiving “Play Like We Did When We Were 7 Years Old” Event that happens tomorrow night. We might play kickball or dodgeball, but I have a feeling I will be experiencing some joy.

At the end of all our MenLiving meetings, I ask the guys to do a one-word check-out. I think I might be checking out with “confused.”

Meet Todd Adams

For 30 years, Todd has been a leader in the construction industry. He is also a certified life and leadership coach for men. Since 2010, he and his wife have cohosted Zen Parenting Radio, a top-ten kids and family podcast.


  • Shaun Emerson says:

    Nope! I say let joy be the default. Double down on joy!

  • Mike Rosen says:

    I think it’s like a lot of life-if I think moments of joy are going to ‘happen to me’ I’ll likely find fewer than more and if I can practice finding joy in ways that others may think are atypical or would t necessarily be joyous, then my life feels more enJOYable. For example, I just drank a glass of cold, chocolate milk and it was 100% joyous. It was SO good. I find joy every time I click into my pedals and ride my bike. The other day Jack and I replaced a broken side mirror on one of our cars. The laughs we shared during the process were joyous as was the satisfaction of the successful repair(even though we had to take the door panel off twice because we didn’t route the wire for the mirror AROUND the window. Lesson learned.) I think one can look for and find genuine, legitimate joy in places and in ways others haven’t, can’t, or won’t. I’m not going to rely on anyone else to find that joy for me.

  • Todd says:

    love it. thanks for your thoughts Mike 🙂

  • Marti says:

    Dear Todd,
    Another useful, related concept is the state of being called Contentment or Santosha. In Kriya Yoga, Ssantosha is one of the five niyamas/observances and, after non-violence/Ahimsa, THE MOST important state of being to cultivate in order to mature spiritually.

    Santosha means remaining content with what you have, and not desiring that which you have not earned. I think of it as the quiet kind of feeling, maybe like the introverted cousin of joy. After decades of practice, I am grateful to be content in my Elderhood!

    Brene Brown’s book Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and and the Language of Human Experience is an excellent resource for those who want to dive deeper into naming their feelings.

    Love and appreciation to you and all the regular MenLiving guys,
    Marti Beddoe Hitzeman

  • Marti says:

    p.s. If you want to experience JOY, watch Taylor Swift in action for 3+ amazing hours of unmitigated joyful presence!
    Love, Marti

  • Ken Cox says:

    Hey Todd,
    So grateful you shared your experiences. I agree %100 and also with the social media warnings. I did not get my son a cel phone until second semester Junior year. You can only imagine his disappointment, but he did learn to live with it. He was so grateful that to this day he takes excellent care of his phone and doesn’t overuse it. It was worth the fatherly guilt I felt;)
    I have studied yoga for over 40 years and one of my biggest takeaways is: joy is our nature. Many don’t feel this because we cover it up with desires and too much damn thinking. When you drop both, the joy naturally arises. We humans also make the mistake of connecting satisfaction of a desire with joy. I bought the shoes, now I am happy. But what really happened was the desire disappeared and you felt your joy. Until, of course, the next desire arose to cover it up:(

  • Glenn says:

    I agree with Mike. Chasing Joy is a fool’s errand. I have tried to manufacture joy with an event or a trip but I generally feel let down afterwards. I Just grab it any way I can.

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