In a recent John Maxwell, “Minute with Maxwell” I heard an interesting story. There was a young lad fishing in a river and catching a sizable number of fish according to a man who was observing from the opposite shore while also fishing that river. The man watched the youngster catch, measure, and then release or keep fish. Peculiarly, he kept the shorter fish and released the longer ones. My immediate reaction was that the fish must have been trout and that the fisherman was convinced (as am I) that the smaller ones tasted better than the larger ones, thus his selection of “keepers”.

Later the man made his way across the river to the side where the boy was. He approached him and let him know that he had seen him release the big ones and keep the small ones throughout the day. He then inquired why. The selective angler’s answer was a surprise to me if not to his elder as well. He said he kept only the small ones because his frying pan was a 7-inch frying pan. The size of his take-home catch was limited to the size of his pan.

Prior to returning to the fish and frying pan discussion, let’s talk for a bit about joy and happiness and the often not so subtle difference. Don’t worry, the two are connected.

According to Diffen – Joy and happiness are both emotions where a person has feelings of contentment or satisfaction. But both these feelings may differ from each other based on the reasons causing the feeling and the nature of the feeling. J.D. Salinger, the author of Catcher in the Rye, once wrote, “The fact is always obvious much too late, but the most singular difference between happiness and joy is that happiness is a solid and joy a liquid.”

That is certainly something to contemplate! A solid versus a liquid. I’ll likely be wound around that axle for a bit.

Diffen continues by comparing the two as such: Joy is a stronger, less common feeling than happiness. Witnessing or achieving selflessness to the point of personal sacrifice frequently triggers this emotion. Feeling spiritually connected to a god (God for me) or to people. Happiness (on the other hand) is an emotion in which one experiences feelings ranging from contentment and satisfaction to bliss and intense pleasure.

Of course, we all love being happy! But what about joy? Consider that Diffen (and many other sources) suggests that happiness is an “outward expression of elation” and is “temporary, based on outward circumstances”, whereas joy is “inward peace and contentment” and is “lasting, based on inward circumstances”.

Staying with the Diffen explanation, the causes of happiness are “earthly experiences and material objects”. The causes of joy are “Spiritual experiences, caring for others, gratitude, and thankfulness”. Are you sensing some separation of the two? Which do you prefer now?

“Joy seems to me a step beyond happiness-happiness is a sort of atmosphere you can live in sometimes when you’re lucky. Joy is a light that fills you with hope and faith and love.” – Adela Rogers St. Johns, Some Are Born Great.

Before returning to the frying pan, let’s first explore the term expectation. Briefly, an expectation is a belief that something is going to happen that hasn’t yet happened. I believe in God and because of that I also believe that one day I will be in heaven. Not that I deserve it, but strictly because of God’s grace and promises. If I didn’t believe that, my actions would surely be dramatically different than they are today. If they were, how would I change them? I would have to find something to believe in that would motivate me to change my behavior, my perspectives, and my feelings regarding life now and eternally.

Back to the fish and the frying pan. Let’s begin with the young angler’s expectation of his expedition. It is likely that he expected to catch fish. It is also likely that he expected to release some beautiful large fish because they would not fit into his 7-inch frying pan. What a pity! Because he only had the capacity for a 7-inch delicious Rainbow Trout (my assumption), he missed out on feasts (possibly including family and friends) instead of the small morsels he was able to prepare for himself.

What are your expectations? Is your pan small? If so, what do you plan to do to acquire a larger one? I will leave you with a true story about someone who made choices that inspired his expectations to become reality.

‘Tell me, Wally,’ my amazed friend asked the driver, ‘have you always served customers like this?’ Wally smiled into the rear-view mirror. ‘No, not always. In fact, it’s only been in the last two years. My first five years driving, I spent most of my time complaining like all the rest of the cabbies do.

Then I heard the personal growth guru, Wayne Dyer, on the radio one day. He had just written a book called “You’ll See It When You Believe It.” Dyer said that if you get up in the morning expecting to have a bad day, you’ll rarely disappoint yourself… He said, ‘Stop complaining!

Differentiate yourself from your competition. Don’t be a duck. Be an eagle. Ducks quack and complain. Eagles soar above the crowd.’

Have your expectations gone extinct? If so, you are not alone. That’s not the good news, however. The good news is that not all is lost.

Wally the Cab Driver made a different choice. He decided to stop quacking like ducks and start soaring like eagles. How about you?

Smile and the world smiles with you… The ball is in your hands! One reaps what they sow. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up… let us do good to all people. Remember, Ducks Quack, Eagles Soar!

Have a wonderful day, unless you already have other plans.