Happiness is a choice

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‘Eva, isn’t it exhausting being happy all the time?’ That was the peculiar question a friend asked me a few years ago as we were driving in her car while I was excitedly telling her about something.
The short answer is ‘No’, it’s not exhausting to be happy and let’s not confuse happiness with energy, motivation and drive.

While I’ve always been a rather positive person, with a hunger for life and a curiosity about what lies behind the limits we and others put on ourselves, it took conscious choices and mindful effort to create the life I live now and enjoy the happiness and satisfaction I am fortunate to have.

‘Easy for you to say’ is what people have said in the past and my response to that is this blog today.

I believe that happiness is a choice.

Not as simple as choosing to be happy one minute and feeling a rush of positive emotions and bliss wash over you 10 seconds later.
Rather a choice where we decide to swap the negativity, doubts and criticism, the self-pity and complications and we step out of our own way to make room for opportunities, positivity, a welcoming attitude and newfound confidence in our abilities.

 

It takes effort

Like with everything that is worth doing, this takes effort and time. It’s not easy yet the investment in our own wellbeing and the way we carry ourselves through the rest of our lives will make it all worthwhile.

Throughout my life I’ve enjoyed a pretty smooth ride with a safe home, loving parents, supportive teachers and good friends.
Many times I have felt guilty about my ‘luck’ when compared to others around me who had many more challenges thrown their way.
I don’t have any influence on the fact that my parents are awesome or which class I was assigned to in primary school. I didn’t choose our neighbors whose daughters were my best friends in childhood and I decided at some point that feeling guilty about my fortunate start to life was no use to anyone.

Over the years as I observed those around me I also realized that many people are given choices and opportunities, sometimes on a silver platter and they still reject them. Maybe they don’t see what’s in front of them or maybe they’d rather stick to the status quo. To what’s comfortable and known to them.

 

The many choices we have

Most of us – and especially if you’re reading this blog on your laptop or mobile phone – have our basic needs met. We don’t struggle to survive and we can focus on our self actualization and our desires beyond food and shelter.

We have many choices every single day, some trivial, some more substantial. And every day we hav the opportunity to change our lives in small and big ways.

If we don’t like our daily breakfast of toast and jam, there are literally endless other options for us to try. If we don’t like our jobs, we can find new ones, jobs that make us feel more appreciated and challenged.
If we don’t like our friends, we can meet new people, and the list goes on…

 

Happiness isn’t given to you

Does that kind of change lead to happiness? No, not in isolation.
Happiness, in my experience, comes from within. That’s why I strongly believe that happiness is a choice.
It doesn’t arrive through external factors and even if , for example, your spouse and kids make you happy, you still choose that happiness through the way you react to them, the way you make them part of your life and the way you share feelings and experiences.
You could just as easily reject them or criticize them and find all the stuff they do wrong and deny yourself the chance of experiencing happiness in your family relationships.

While you have limited control over the things that happen to you, your reactions to and interactions with the world around you are entirely up to you.
How does that make you happier? It’s a process and will probably require many small steps and changes before you will notice a big shift. Once you adjust your attitudes towards others and treat them differently, in a way that is more aligned with creating a positie environment, you will receive feedback from those around you. Whether it is direct or indirect, you will notice things changing slowly at first and then more and more quickly as changes build on each other.
Again you have a choice: do you take this feedback and turn it into more positive actions or do you go back to your old ways?

 

A mindset of happiness

Using positive reinforcement to accelerate your growth and cultivate a mindset of happiness is also your choice.
I don’t want to suggest people should become hopeless optimists that are far removed from the realities of life. I do, however, get very frustrated with the negativity and constant complaints and excuses I hear from people who are fully in charge of their lives and could very well improve their situation.

Yes, there are times when everything sucks and when things don’t go to plan and life throws you one curve ball after another. And even in my own life things aren’t always as shiny and rosey as they may appear at first glance.
Instead of dwelling on bad events, sulking because of an argument or getting hung up on mistakes I’ve made, I try to learn from those situations as quickly as possible, because there is so much living to do, there are so many places to see and experiences to make in the time I have left.

I don’t operate with the ‘what if you had 1 day left to live’ mindset, but certainly treat this life as my one shot of doing something amazing on this planet. It is very unlikely that I get another chance to be me again after I die, so I want to get as much as I possibly can out of it. I want to arrive at the end of my life knowing I have used up all of my passion, my talents, my energy, all of my love and happiness to make this world a better place in some way.

It may sound foolish to people to look for the good in every situation, no matter how bad it is, but it has served me rather well these past 32 years and I would love to help others give it a try to see if it works for them too.

 

Happiness is a choice

Happiness is a choice. I strongly believe that. You can choose to find happiness within yourself, just as well as you can choose to be miserable, grumpy and negative.
The world has plenty of negative people already and there are enough negative and sad events around us that we don’t need to add any more to that pile.

I want to encourage you to choose happiness and to find it within yourself. Not through the perfect house, the perfect spouse, the perfect job and the perfect car. Look inside yourself and work on aligning your external actions and reactions to your inner beliefs and values. Work on yourself and on making the changes required for your heart to sing.

It’s entirely up to you.

5 comments

  1. Eva,

    You are wise beyond your years. I remember the moment this recognition happened to me. I was about 13 years old, full of emerging hormones, and I was grumpy day after day. One day as I passed my bedroom mirror, I stopped and looked at my face. I said to myself: “Why are you being grumpy? Your life is fantastic!”

    It didn’t matter that I had no father or that I never even met him. It didn’t matter that I had a brother with chronic illnesses. I realized that my happiness was my decision! I could choose to be happy and to live a happy life. From that day forward, I have done just that. I have chosen to live happily.

    Even when the chips are down, I search for the goodness in things. Last week, I was singing the blues during a TopCoder competition, unable to solve any of the problems. I turned the negativity around and something good happened. To find out what that was, read this article: https://3danim8.wordpress.com/2017/08/17/lessons-learned-from-top-coder-competitions/. Happiness can change our destiny.

    Happiness is within our control. I wish more people could harness its greatness. If that were the case, things would be better on this beautiful planet.

    Finally, you are an excellent writer, full of insights and interesting information. Please keep writing because I really enjoy your work!

    Ken

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words and sharing your story, Ken. I am glad my blog is striking a chord with people. I will definitely keep writing 🙂

      Like

    1. He sounds like someone I wouldn’t enjoy hanging out with.
      My approach is to see the wonder in everyday small things, not to reduce them to basic physics to take away the shine.
      Rather than stripping a meal back to its basic components, I tend to be amazed by how those simple ingredients combined with the cooking process and creativity of the cook can turn into a unique combination of flavors, textures and smells.
      I am going to write about all of that in part two on this topic, to share some practical tips that have helped me.

      Ryan can be happy that everything sucks, while I focus on the fact that things don’t suck

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  2. Hi Eva,

    I think choice might be the critical component, not necessarily choosing to be happy. I agree that there are multiple ways to calibrate one’s outlook and approach to life so that more positive and happiness-inducing things occur, but I wonder if it’s more the act of controlling how you approach each day that leads to happiness vs. any decision to respond “positively” to a particular event. There have been many times when I’ve chosen to embrace the melancholy of a moment/experience and actually emerged from that with a sense of equilibrium and satisfaction that I could easily call happiness. It felt good to be sad for a while. It’s what I needed, and I chose to give myself that.

    There’s also the choice of recognizing what you can control and what you can’t. Not in a learned helplessness kind of way (i.e. “I’m a victim. I can’t control anything.”) but rather a realization that there will be things bigger than us that we can’t influence but that we need to somehow incorporate into our lives. Riffing off of Ryan’s post a little, the world can be a dirty and depressing place, and some events just aren’t going to be as great as we’d like them to be. Sure, sometimes we can push and exert some influence on these things, but many times we can’t. How we choose to deal with that reality has a direct impact (I think) on whether we feel happy.

    I recall an anecdote from my childhood that might illustrate my point. Every Saturday my sister and I accompanied my mom to church. We both hated going and would regularly plead with my parents to let us skip it. They always said no. Since Mass was at 5PM, I would spend most of the day depressed and angry leading up to going to Mass, and then I’d have a miserable hour sitting in the pews. And there went my Saturday. Until my Dad helped me realize something, namely that I only had to have one miserable hour vs an entire day of misery. He didn’t try to convince me that I was going to enjoy Mass (he knew me well enough), but did show me that if I accepted the fact that I was going to have a crappy hour from 5 to 6, I could free myself to enjoy the rest of the day. I stopped trying to move a boulder I was never going to move, and I didn’t try to muster up some appreciation for Mass that would transform that experience (I was a kid and the priests were boring). Instead I accepted what I couldn’t control and came to peace with the reality that one hour out of every Saturday would suck. I could then choose to enjoy the other hours that I could influence.

    A very thought-provoking post, Eva.

    Liked by 1 person

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