Happiness or Misery? It’s Your Choice

I want to be happy. You want to be happy. We all want to be happy, right? And by happiness I don’t mean going to parties and joking around with friends or getting excited by rides at an amusement park. I’m talking about feeling satisfied with living a meaningful, purposeful life. You’d think it’d be a simple thing to accomplish, but so many of us get depressed, or feel frustrated, or we get that feeling that we are lacking something. And if we just had a little more money, or a slightly better job, or we had the right partner, that happiness would appear. As if happiness were always just around the corner, waiting for us.

The point here is that we make the mistake that happiness depends on circumstances around us, rather than on the way we look at those circumstances and respond to them. In other words, happiness or its opposite, misery, is actually a choice rather than a circumstance for most people.

To illustrate this point, Dr. Joel Wade, a psychotherapist, made a three-step list on how to be miserable:

1. Be as self-absorbed as possible. Make sure every situation at work or at home is primarily about your thoughts, your feelings, your welfare. Talk about yourself. Think about yourself. Make sure the point of every action is to get some kind of personal benefit.

2. See yourself as a victim. See the world as being against you. View others as the source of your problems. Blame them for your frustrations and setbacks. Tell yourself that you are helpless in your life circumstances.

3. Spend a lot of time ruminating (or worrying). Go over past negative events again and again in your mind. Think about things that make you angry or bitter. Remember how you were hurt in the past and who was responsible for your pain. Spend a lot of time re-living and re-experiencing these events in your mind.

So that is how to be a miserable, unhappy person. Are you doing any of these things? Well, if so, it could be the main cause of your feelings of dissatisfaction with life. The good news is, doing the exact opposite can move you in a more positive, happy direction. Those things are:

1. Absorb yourself in your work, friends, family relationships and outside interests. Move your focus outside. Become absorbed in what you’re doing. Remind yourself what you are trying to achieve. And if you don’t have personal goals – dreams with deadlines – set some.

2. See yourself as in control of your destiny. We all have problems and setbacks, but things only begin to turn around when you take ownership of your situation. Then you can begin to move forward.

3. Focus on what’s right with your life. This is not easy in some cases. Many of us are dealing with unfortunate economic or personal circumstances. Still, you make it worse by lying in the mud. Accept that the past is past. Forgive any people who have harmed you, not for their sake but for yours. Start imagining how things could improve. This is the first step toward action.

There is no doubt that life is difficult enough as it is, but the point here is that we make a difficult situation worse by our response to it. With the exception of perhaps extreme poverty and starvation, happiness and misery are states of mind that we give birth to through our response to the world around us. They are choices available to us every moment of the day. Which do you choose?

This post was adapted from an article written by the investment guru, Alexander Green.

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