Hello, my friends.
You probably feel like you have a pretty good grasp of what happiness is, and I don’t doubt that you do. It is that sense of fulfillment, contentment, joy, and satisfaction about ourselves, our families, our lives, our achievements, and about the world around us and how we show up in that world. The more positively we view ourselves and our surroundings, the happier we are said to be.
My message to you is that happiness has nothing to do with your outside circumstances; it has everything to do with what’s inside.
Happiness is an inside job.
For a good long while, I didn’t believe that. When I was fifteen years old, we lost my dad unexpectedly and tragically. As the oldest of three sons, I took the mantle as the man of the house, which was foolish. But you could not have told me that, because if happiness was a choice, then anger was also a choice; and that was, more often than not, my choice. It was not a happy time.
Thank goodness, a dear friend of the family gave me a book. It was The Diary of Anne Frank. As a fifteen-year-old Southie kid, I was not about to read a book by a twelve-year-old girl. But this was a dear friend, and he told me to read it, so I did. I liked it so much that I read another book that was quite popular in that genre of personal development. It was called Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl.
You have probably heard of these books, but I suspect you have not read both of them. They are powerful. Both are written about World War II, concentration camps, and people in the most horrendous outside circumstances. They are about two people who were able to maintain control of their emotions and can honestly be said to have remained truly happy in the direst of circumstances.
There was no denying after I read those books that I had a choice to make. I could live an angry life, or I could live a happy life.
I remember it like I remember dinner last night…the point at which I had to make a conscious choice to be happy. There are many other people who have made that deliberate choice as well.
How can you be happy?
1. Frame It
I’ve had this conversation with many people, where I’ve said, “Well, what do you mean you can’t be happy all the time?”
The criticisms of people who are optimistic and happy are broad, and there are many. No it’s not about being happy every moment of the day, but even during times that are less than ideal, it is about recognizing the big picture and putting things in their proper perspective.
2. Own It
More than anything else, it is taking ownership for your attitude and your sense of well-being and happiness. It is acknowledging that it is not your boss’ fault; it’s not your spouse’s fault, it’s not the President’s fault, or the economy, or anyone else’s fault.
You own it.
Another big criticism I hear is, “What do you mean you own it?”
They may add, “Sometimes bad things happen to good people, Ed, and they can’t be held responsible for that.”
Correct. What I am saying is that it is a mindset that says, “In spite of the outside circumstances that are negative, I retain ownership and control over my own emotions – all of my emotions – including the one we commonly call happiness.”
You do own it. Read these books, and you’ll read about people in circumstances that are unbelievable. I have had experiences with people in my own life who prove to me that you can, in fact, maintain a happy outlook in the face of dire circumstances…because they do.
It is absolutely possible.
3. Support It
It is possible, but it is not easy. What makes it easier to change your mindset is to choose who you surround yourself with. If you’re the nicest, most ambitious, happy-go-luckiest person in your crowd – in your inner circle – get a new crowd, get a new inner circle. Surround yourself with people who are sources of positivity. You have to be ambitious. Get out there and take a chance. You have to take a chance for success, knowing that you might fail. You might have pain; in fact, there will be pain. But pain is part of the process to get you where you need to be.
The single biggest change that people can make to get themselves to be happier is to make a change in their inner circle. I am not taking anything away from the fact that you own it, but you are absolutely influenced by the people you spend the most time with.
4. Give It
Another enormous component of happiness is to help other people, to give of yourself. It is showing your love, kindness, and beneficial thoughts for others by acting on those thoughts and feelings. It is about doing works of service and works of kindness for others. One of my favorite speakers was Zig Ziglar. He said that to get what you want out of life, you have to help enough people get what they want. When you’re a giver, you’ll also be a receiver.
Like me, you have a choice. You can choose to be angry, or you can choose to be happy. If you’re asking my advice, I will tell you from experience…happy is a good choice.