“Most folks are about as happy as they make their minds up to be.” – Unknown (but commonly attributed to Abraham Lincoln)
Oh, come on, Greg, you can’t just make up your mind to be happy. Sometimes, bad things happen and you feel sad. Sometimes your whole life sucks, and you feel sad.
Yes, I agree with that. We all have bad things, bad people, and bad jobs happen to us at times in our lives.
My point isn’t that these circumstances don’t impact our lives, it’s that we get to choose how much, and for how long, they impact us.
My youngest daughter, Summer, is in 10th grade. She has a lot she wants to do. She’s almost finished writing her second book. She plays piano and sings, and she’s working on a set list to play gigs at local restaurants. (I have no idea where Summer gets this ambition and drive from. When I was 15, I spent all my time working on my jump shot and trying to get girls to notice me.)
The other day, Summer said to me, “I’m really frustrated at school. It’s taking all my time. I want to write what I want to write. I want to play what I want to play. Instead I have to do what my teachers want me to do. By the time I get all my schoolwork done, I don’t have time for what I want to do. Some of my classes are really boring. And, little things are getting me down, too. Somebody asked me today if I had straightened my hair. When I said, yes, she told me I missed a spot in the back. Was that nice?”
Ah, high school. Fun, right?
It would be easy to dismiss Summer’s complaints because we think our situations are so much more serious and so much worse, but I think it’s all relative.
I know people who get depressed when their favorite football team loses and I know quadriplegics who are living very happy lives.
What makes the difference? How we choose to respond.
I wanted to help Summer so I started out by giving her advice. I explained to her how we can choose our responses. I told her all about Rational Emotive Therapy and gave her examples. (I know, don’t you wish I were your dad?)
Then, as her eyes started to glaze over, I realized lecture time wasn’t helping. So, I started asking her questions. The same ones we should all ask ourselves.
- What could you do today to find moments of happiness in your routine?
- How can you create more time for the things you love to do?
- How can you use your daily activity to live out your passionate purpose?
- How can you reframe your circumstances in the best possible light?
- How can you help someone who is feeling down today?
- Are you going to give someone else the power to make you feel bad today?
“The greatest discovery of any generation is that a human can alter his life by altering his attitude.”
– William James
It’s not always easy to choose to be happy.
I took my Mac out into nature today to write this blog post and was bombarded by bugs. They weren’t biting bugs, they were just annoying. I tried several different spots and they persisted. They were really ticking me off. I had a decision to make. I could let the bugs ruin my outing, or I could choose to ignore them, flick them away when they got too bad, and enjoy myself anyway.
I had to remind myself, you are in control of how you choose to respond to what happens to you today.
It took a little effort, but I went with the second option and I’m glad I got out of the house to work on my blog post. It was one of the yays in my day.
What about you? Are you going to let circumstances determine how happy you are, or are you going give someone or something the power to determine your mood and happiness?
- Make creating happiness a priority and a goal. Focus on it and think about it. What we think about and focus on, we get more of.
- Take action on three things today to create moments of happiness today.
- When something good happens, linger on it and enjoy the moment. Maybe it’s a good conversation with a co-worker, or a great dish at lunch. How about a good walk in the evening with your spouse or reading a bedtime story to your child? Don’t let these moments of happiness slip buy. Savor them.
- Focus on the parts of your work that challenge and fulfill you. This is a kind of happiness that is often overlooked.
- Plan out how to change at least one recurring situation that hinders your happiness.
- List three things everyday that you’re grateful for. Try not to name the same things day after day – list different things each day.
- Act as if you’re happy. Research has shown that it’s hard to be sad when you are expressing happy body language – standing tall, smiling, etc.
- Ask yourself these 3 questions and answer them today.
- Choose to frame your day and your life in the best possible way. Take a look at your self-talk – is it negative or positive? Are you taking your circumstances and looking for the worst or best way to frame them? (Read this for more information.)
- Find someone to serve or help. Helping someone else will almost always increase your happiness.
- Email a friend, colleague, or customer, a positive message.
- Do an exercise you enjoy, even if you can only sneak in 10 or 20 minutes.
- Pray or meditate daily.
- If you haven’t yet, use my free eBook, 5 Steps to Finding Your Purpose, to find a meaningful purpose that fulfills you.
(I now offer one to one coaching and an online coaching program for various budgets. Click here for more details.)