NAGS HEAD, North Carolina — He sounds like a dog howling over a missed meal as he floats on top of a wave.

The smile on his face assures me that he’s not missing anything. That cry I mistake for longing is a rally cry inviting joy to visit our spot on the beach.

As I try to reassemble my life from another failed attempt at a great many things, my son reminds me what my journey should really be about — finding joy.

He found it on a body board borrowed from our hotel. My daughter found happiness burying her feet in the sand, then rinsing off in the cold, fall ocean.

Each person finds joy differently. Joy also varies depending on where you are in life. Something that brought you joy 10 years ago, may not bring you joy now.

For those like myself, who struggle to define themselves and love themselves in the place they are in, there is a risk of trying everyone else’s way to find joy instead of defining it on our own terms.

“Steve is happy because he is vegan, sober, active and races polar bears on weekends, so I have to do that too to be happy.”

That may make Steve happy, but do you really like running with deadly polar bears? Is your definition of “being active” different that Steve’s? If so, plot your own course.

If you haven’t found that source of joy, I suggest trying new things. Mountain Kid 3 found joy when he tried using a body board. He found something new and took a chance. Now, he loves it.

The morning routine worked until it didn’t one day. I panicked and almost threw the routine out the window. Once I calmed down, I reclaimed the routine and took a break. It brings me joy, so I’m going to keep at it.

There is another thing I feel that I need to address in this post. And that’s about hanging on to joy. If you lose it, that’s OK. The world isn’t all smiles and happy rainbows. It is OK to take a break if you feel you need to, just don’t give up.

I often hear “No Zero Days” from various self-improvement courses and groups I participate in. It almost sounds like you’re constantly striving for the next thing, constantly hustling or running around like you’re on fire.

Personally, I can’t do that. I can do incredible things, but I am not built to go nonstop 24/7.

Recharging your batteries is needed. Rest, taking time to plot your next move, is not an unproductive day. It set you up for better things later on. Your rest allows you to see things in a fresh way, allowing you to tackle things while you’re at your best.

Sometimes you stray away from joy — your “why” — and if you keep running, you won’t notice.

A screenshot of a video my husband posted of me jumping into the water.

I noticed it today when I was watching the boy on his new favorite toy. I noticed it yesterday when I decided to jump into the freezing cold ocean and get wet. I felt alive. Like joy was soaking me just as much as the cold salty ocean — that kind of enthusiasm that I’ve rarely experienced. Something I didn’t know I missed until it hit me like the waves did.

The key to any journey of self-improvement is to find joy in what you’re doing. When you have that or know how to look for it when things are grim, you’ll be able to stay on course.

Good luck and have a a great week. What have you done recently that has helped you find joy? Email me or comment below.