Happiness is yours to choose. No, really.

standard August 24, 2010 6 responses

The other day a tweet flashed by in my Twitter stream. I can’t remember the exact wording, but it said something to the tune of “I was having a fantastic day until someone said something that ruined it.” I barely hesitated before firing off what could have been construed as a flippant answer.

“You can’t control what someone says to you, but you can control how it makes you feel. You can choose to not let that person ruin your day.”

The person replied a bit later, thanking me for reminding her that that was true.

As I was telling an old friend the story a few days later she said something that resonated in the same way I hope what I said resonated with that online friend.

“You can’t always control how something someone says makes you feel, but you can control how long you let it make you feel that way.”

Both of those statements essentially say the same thing. You’re in control. It’s your life. It’s your head. It’s your heart.

Do you want to be angry all day? Do you want to stew and gripe about every little incident and infraction that happens during the course of the day?

Happiness is not just an emotion, it’s also a state of mind.

When someone cuts you off on the road and you spend the whole day irate about his bad driving, the only person you’re hurting is you. When you let someone’s innocent and possibly uninformed statement put you in a bad mood, the only person you’re hurting is you. And when you spend your days looking for all the negative around you, once again, the only person you’re hurting is you.

The way I see it, there’s equal bad and good in the world, but there’s only a finite amount of time in each day. How are you going to spend it? By focusing on the bad or noticing the wonders that are all around?

Next time someone does or says something that makes you grit your teeth, acknowledge what just happened, notice that it’s annoying/hurtful/whatever, then let. it. go. If you’re struggling to let it go, look around you and see if you can find five reasons to smile.

I guarantee the quality of your day will greatly improve.

Disclaimer: if you spend your days with toddlers or preschoolers none of this applies. While you’re busy noticing five things that make you glad to be alive, they’ll be busy destroying five other things, thus rendering the whole exercise completely and utterly moot. Take advantage of naps and night time to see how cute they are while they sleep. It makes the rest of the stuff more or less bearable.

And if you want to think more about ways you can be in control of your life and your emotions, take a look at the book Be the Hero. When I try to explain to people why I think this way I always come back to how Noah Blumenthal puts it. It’s succinct, beautiful, and I guarantee it’ll change your life. (And no, he didn’t pay me to say that. So there.)

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6 responses

  • A very good reminder, and very true. I try hard to remind myself of this when I let someone gets to me, but I think it takes practice.

  • This reminds me of two important things I’ve learned in the past few years:

    (1) A friend of mine told me the following – You can’t drink poison and expect for the other person to die. So very true!

    (2) The book Zen Shorts by John J. Muth has a story in it that lives with me each day. About an old man who carries a rude woman across the river and the young man that yammers on for hours about how rude she was. Then the only man simply says “I put that woman down hours ago, why are you still carrying her.” I hear that daily when I’m being overcome with negativity.

    Thank you for the reminder!

  • I like that you said to acknowledge how it makes you feel and then move on. I used to move on and be happy without the acknowledgement part, and all the unhappy just built up and was never dealt with!

  • I am a firm believer that we make a choice to allow others to make us feel a certain way. If we choose to be happy then we will be happy regardless of what happens and I am a person who runs around with a 4 and 2 year old all day. I still know that I choose to be happy therefore I am 🙂

  • A great reminder. My first exposure to the concept was in a management class. I was told that we can’t change other people, but we can control and change the way we react to them. It was a revelation to me and I live it every day and try, without being condescending, to spread the word

  • So true. Its like laughter being the best medicine. Sometimes you have to fake happiness for a while to make it actually happen.

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