Happiness is a Choice

Happiness is a Choice

Allow me to let you in on a little secret. (No, it’s not Victoria’s Secret. Victoria really doesn’t have a secret.  Have you ever seen the merchandise in that store? It’s obvious the secret is pretty much revealed.) Are you ready? Here it is: Happiness is a choice, that’s it.  It’s a little secret, right?  But, a great one. Happiness is a choice. That’s all you need to know.  You are now enlightened. You can stop reading and go about your business. Congratulations on your newfound self-awareness. Hey, I’m kidding, alright? But it is true. Happiness is a choice. As I always say, making “happiness a choice” is what life is all about.  And it’s the best way to stay motivated throughout the day.

So … I know right about now you’re thinking, “If happiness is a choice, then why are so many people feeling crappy instead of happy? Why are so many people going through life feeling unfulfilled?” The answer is that most people either don’t believe that happiness is a choice or can’t understand its meaning. As Abraham Lincoln once said, “People are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” And this coming from a man who had the weight of an entire fractured country on his shoulders.

OK, so what do I mean by “happiness is a choice.” I think people can reject this notion out of hand because it is so simply phrased. “Oh, you mean all I have to do is make a choice and, presto, I’m happy?  Give me a break Sparky!” No, that’s not what I mean.  And don’t call me Sparky!

Happiness isn’t one choice, like deciding which presidential candidate will make you less miserable or picking between the chicken and the prime rib. Instead, happiness is one long, continuous choice. If that notion seems too daunting, try thinking of it as a lifetime of small, moment-to-moment choices.

On any given day there are a number of reasons/excuses that I can use to justify being unhappy. It can be work related, family issues (if you knew my family you would definitely understand), time constraints or someone else’s bad mood. The key, however, is that I know I’m responsible for my own state of mind.  I am totally aware of what happens to me when I begin to lose the thread of that control. Allowing these outside forces or circumstances to determine my happiness can quickly send me into a downward spiral. 

The same goes for you. Whatever it is that has the potential to keep you from enjoying the day and the success you desire, understand that it’s not the situation itself that is causing you to be unhappy or to feel unsuccessful. It’s really the thoughts you have about the situation. It’s what you choose to focus on over a period of time that fuel your emotions and defines your reality.

I find it amazing that the same incident can be experienced and interpreted in different ways by different people.  There are those who view little mishaps as a major catastrophe, while others find the humor in them.  Some people would have their day ruined if their car didn’t start.  These kinds of people have a tendency to intensify their problems by continuously rehashing their woe-is-me story. That’s not to say that you’re wrong to get upset when your car doesn’t start and you’re late for work.  That’s natural, of course.  But you’re doing yourself a grave disservice if you allow the bad mood to continue. If you’re not vigilant, one bad mood can snowball out of control and ruin what could otherwise be an enjoyable and productive day. 

Ralph Waldo Emerson had it right when he said, “To different minds, the same world is a hell and a heaven. My point is that rather than dwell on negativity, why not choose to focus on what is working in your life, to be grateful for what you have, and to use your time and energy finding solutions to your problems? If you do, you will be experiencing a happier, healthier reality for yourself. Either way, the outcome is based on choices. Choose to be happy now, no matter what is happening around you. If you wait for something else to change first, you don’t stand a chance at happiness. How’s that for delivering the truth?

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