Happiness feels so much better when it’s spontaneous, doesn’t it?
You’re walking in the woods with your dog, or letting your hair down with your favorite friends, and suddenly you realize that in this moment, life is good. You feel happy!
But those moments aren’t really within your control. Happiness happens when it happens. IF it happens.
In a way, we can’t help trying to be happy. We’re programmed to strive for it.
It’s the reason we do so many of the things we do, from getting a haircut to getting married to getting back into school later in life.
There’s so much emphasis in our culture on being happy, it’s become a moral imperative.
It’s like in the 1992 film Glengarry Glen Ross when the slick Alec Baldwin character instructs another salesman, “A-B-C … Always Be Closing.”
Except it’s A-B-H: Always Be Happy.
All the time.
No matter what.
If you’re not happy, you must be doing something wrong.
But there’s maximizing opportunities for happiness, and then there’s struggling toward it.
Maximizing is natural and feels okay; struggling feels bad. It feels like something is wrong that you can’t quite make right.
Is Happiness a Choice?
Got a problem? It’s not a problem; it’s an opportunity! You’re just choosing to see the glass as half-full.
Never mind asking what kind of opportunity is presented by a broken thermostat in your oven. You’re getting lost in the details.
Choose your attitude!
Happiness is a choice!
… Except when it isn’t.
Happiness is like being in love. It feels GREAT, but you can’t force it. All you can do is hope it grabs on to you, and if it does, enjoy the ride.
You can’t make yourself feel happy. But you can:
- Put effort into creating a life that satisfies you.
- Kick people and things to the curb that definitely make you unhappy.
- Pay attention to all your feelings, for the information they give you about what matters to you. (See my post on Why We NEED to Sweat the Small Stuff.)
You can’t control the uncontrollable. You can’t make yourself happy if you’re not.
But little by little, you can take control of the things in your life that are under your control, and set up ideal conditions for happiness. For example:
- What you eat
- How much you sleep
- With whom you eat
- With whom you sleep
- How you spend your money
- What percentage of your money you save
- How you spend your free time
- Whether & how often you exercise
- What kind of exercise you do
- Whether you seek out fun or meaningful activities
- How much of your real self you share with others
- Whether you’re honest with yourself
- Whether and when you leave the house, or your comfort zone
I’m sure there are many other things I haven’t listed that you have control of in your life. Things that would make a difference to your happiness.
Instead of struggling to feel happy with the life you have, give yourself the gift of taking control and creating a life you can delight in.
Think like a country and take responsibility for making your life what you want it to be — at least to the extent you’re able.
You can never control the uncontrollable, but if you don’t take control of what you can, you might be signing up for a lifetime of struggling to be happy.