What if our happiness is not at all dependent upon others and external circumstances? What if instead, happiness is a simple choice?
When I was a kid, people would ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” My response was, “Happy!” “No,” they would say, “What do you want to do? You know like being a doctor? A lawyer?” My response was still, “Be happy!”
Apparently, this was not the correct response — even though it made total sense to me.
As I grew up, I tried to get to that place of happiness by doing all the things that others said I should do. Beautiful fiancé. Check. Successful career. Check. Living in a nice place. Check. I had ticked the boxes of what others told me was valuable and would make me happy and yet I was deeply, deeply miserable. Happiness seemed to escape me…over and over again.
So, if happiness was not the result of getting where others say you should go, then what was it? More importantly, how could I find it? I made a demand to the universe that either everything change, or I am out of here.
That is when I came across a whole different way of creating my life, based on asking questions. Today, after many years of traveling the globe, facilitating classes, and meeting lots of unhappy and happy people, I have come to realize that happy or not happy is a choice.
Everyone has a story, everyone has things that are tough and when it comes to being happy and living a satisfying life, those things are strangely irrelevant. You either choose happy or you don’t.
If you have been waiting for Mr. or Mrs. Right to show up or counting on winning the lottery or hoping for the stars to somehow align and deliver you the perfect life so you can be happy, happiness will always be in the future, and dependent on outside sources.
What if happiness has nothing to do with what is going on around us? What if it’s literally a choice we individually make, moment to moment?
Regardless of what anyone has told you about what it takes to be happy and no matter what you have decided you must have to be happy, if you would like to have joy in your life, you are the (only) one with the power to choose it!
Below are four ways you could start choosing happy today. There are many more, and this can get you going if you choose to!
This may be a bit different than what you’ve heard before — but that’s because if we’re going to be truly happy, we actually have to give up on the idea that the road to get there is within the realms of normal.
1) Permit yourself to be happy — even when no one else is!
Sometimes it can feel as if we have an obligation to be miserable, because people around us are or because of what is going on in the world. (Like a pandemic!)
I grew up in an environment full of trauma and was shown early on by the people around me that I was wrong for being happy. I began to think that if everyone else was unhappy, that meant I should be too, otherwise, I was uncaring, un-empathic, and unfeeling.
What if that is a lie? And what if it doesn’t help the people or the world?
In fact, what if that is one of the biggest lies around us being happy that sticks us — the idea that our happiness when others are not choosing it is somehow hurtful to them? What if your happiness might be the one thing that would inspire others to know that happiness is possible in any situation?
The first step to choosing happiness is giving yourself permission to be happy, regardless of how everyone else may feel. And realize that your happiness is a contribution even though no one else realizes it.
It is not considered normal, and you will not necessarily be appreciated or validated for choosing to be happy with no reason or justification.
You may even be…judged for it.
That leads us to number 2.
2) Don’t take on other people’s unhappiness!
One of the most effective tools that I use every single day is “Who does this belong to?”
Many of us are what is nowadays called a highly-sensitive-person. Sensitive people are like psychic sponges — we soak up the feelings of the world around us, including the feelings of people we have never met.
What if I told you that 98% of the thoughts, feelings, and emotions that we experience are not actually ours? We are just aware. We pick up on the unhappiness of others and buy into the lie that we must be unhappy too.
The next time you feel unhappy, try it. Ask, “Who does this belong to?” or “Does this feeling belong to me?”
If you get even the slightest sense of a weight lifting off your shoulders, guess what? The feeling doesn’t belong to you. You are actually not the unhappy one. Let that unhappy go and find the joy of you.
So, what is that joy for you?
That leads us to number 3!
3) What do you truly desire?
A big part of choosing happiness is getting clear on what’s true for you. Funnily enough, we are not taught how to discover that for ourselves. We only learn how to look for it in others.
This is a big thing on the road to happiness: to find out what you desire as your life and your living and going for it.
Begin by asking questions such as: “If I let go of everyone else’s opinions of who I should be and what I should choose, what would I choose?” and “What things are fun for me?” and “What makes me come alive?”
Most of our unhappiness comes from trying to live someone else’s vision of life, and often we do that because no one tells us we actually have a different choice.
But we do have a choice and that choice changes everything.
And with that, on to number 4.
4) What is right about this that we’re not getting?
You have a choice in how you approach everything that crosses your path. The good, the bad, and the ugly. And the point of view you choose to take creates the reality you live in.
A happy or unhappy one.
And yes, there is a question for that too! (Many actually — and here is a great one: “What’s right about this?” or “What’s right about me that I’m not getting?”
Try asking that for every problem, hardship, misfortune, and DISASTER that you come across in life instead of concluding “this is just the way it is, I have to accept it.”
I realize that asking what is right about something that may seem like the worst thing that has ever happened, may feel like a slap in the face for some!
Yet, what if it has the power to reveal possibilities, outcomes, and solutions we may not have considered before? What happiness would be created for you if you were willing to ask, discover and have gratitude for what is right in every situation?
Finally, I would also like to point out that you will not necessarily get happier by reading this article.
However, you may…if you start instituting some of these tools and practicing the art of living your life as the question.
Next time you start spiraling down into those all-too-familiar feelings of doom, here are some go-to ones that you may even want to copy and save on your phone:
- What can I be, do or choose differently today to change this?
- What is right about this that I am not getting yet?
- Who does this belong to? Is it mine?
- If I were being me, would I be happy right now?
- What else is possible here that I’ve never considered?
When you ask a question, even a seemingly simple one such as, “What else is possible here that I’ve never considered?” you open the door to an infinite corridor of new possibilities that you couldn’t even see before.
That is the path to happiness. I’ll see you there!
Learn more about Dr. Dain Heer and his approach to happiness.
You may also enjoy reading The Most Common Happiness Mistake and the Secret to Greater Joy, by Sara Fabian