What if I told you happiness was a choice?
What if I told you that even on the darkest days, when there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel, when you are feeling crushed, defeated, and helpless, you could still choose to be happy?
It feels a bit far-fetched (and my emotions agree) but my somewhat under-utilised “logic brain” is shouting “listen up, it’s true!”
(It should also be noted early that “happiness” can be standardised to realistic levels. I’d be satisfied with a resting heart rate under 100bpm and a good night’s sleep!)
Recently I presented a book review on ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’, a book that I have read at least 4 times because it just keeps giving!
One of the most valuable lessons comes from Habit 1: Be Proactive
“That’s pretty vague, what does it mean” you ask?
Well, in short it tells us to use our unique human gift, the ability to critique our own thoughts and actions, and take responsibility for our future outcomes.
It turns out that if you have the ability to reflect on your past, then you also have the ability to influence your future.
Deep right? Not really, it’s deep as a baby’s bath, but in its simplicity lies the beauty of it.
Act or be acted upon. Be the chef and not the soup.
Actually believing you can influence your future creates a great sense of empowerment and control. Feeling in control gives you both the ability to identify your actual choices, and the freedom to act on them.
Conversely, feeling like a victim is paralysing!
You can choose to do things that make you happy, even when the choices are limited.
Want to see it in action?
Send a 5 year old into a milk bar with $2 and watch it play out. See them looking at the big chocolate bars, icecreams, and chips. Watch them navigate through a series of emotions as they realise that no matter how much they want the big KitKat, they can only afford the little Milkyway or Freddo Frog. “But mum, it’s not fair!”
What do we tell them?
“Sorry honey, but you only have $2 to spend, so you can’t have that, what about these ones on the bottom shelf? You can pick any one of these.”
We’re so wise. We’re pretty much gurus.
We tell them to accept the situation (they only have $2), and focus on the choices that are available to them (the bottom shelf).
If this reality is too hard for them to deal with, you get a front row seat to an intimate screening of broadway’s newest musical “Tantrums and Tears”
But, if they CAN deal, they walk out of the milkbar with a chockie, a smile on their face, and a really long story to bestow upon the next person they talk to. “Look what I got!!”
The key lesson here is, if they can accept the limits, they gain control which allows them to enjoy the choice that THEY make. And the logic was so simple to our experienced adult minds, who were not emotionally drawn into the whole chocolate conundrum.
So would it be so crazy to ask ourselves to apply this logic to our own ‘grown up’ situations?
Accept the things that can not be changed, and act on the things that can.
If we feel and act like victims of circumstance, we are giving up our ability to influence our future and our happiness. Therefore, happiness is a choice.
So, the next time you’re stuck with the “bottom shelf”, look it square in the eye and say,
I’ve got $2 here, and I’m going to spend the hell out of it!
Andy Fithall – Founder of In Other Good News.