We were made for greatness, yet it is incredible how many of us go through life feeling extremely unhappy. Observing our friends and our environment, we wonder; “can I ever be really happy?” You see, because like attracts like, those around us are often just as unhappy as we are. The discussion at Dunkin’ is seldom about how much people like their job. The candid talk between us and our friends reveals why nobody seems to have a good marriage, and our Facebook pages are filled with hopeless friends looking for fellow travelers in their journey of misery.
Just as we can never be happy surrounded by negative, miserable people, our friends, co-workers, and family will never be influenced toward greatness if we are always unhappy.
We may have spent a lot of our lives trying to live up to the expectations of others. We reason; “If I just get good grades I will be happy. If I only have a good job, then I will be happy. If I live in a great house, then I will be happy. If I marry the right person, then that will make me happy.” The difficulty is that all of these measuring sticks for happiness require the approval of what “they” think success or happiness is. It is not based on what we want or think.
Unfortunately, our own success and the achievement of our own goals and dreams do not lead to long-term happiness either. These are often fleeting and as soon as the applause fades or the trophy gets dusty we come to realize that the feelings of euphoria we had thought were true happiness were instead, based on external measures of achievement and now we are once again unhappy.
Happiness is not based on these external parameters. Happiness is a decision about “being” as opposed “doing or achieving”. We control the level of our emotional cheerfulness. Just like the reality that no one else can make us angry (we decide to be angry ourselves), so it is with happiness. We make a choice to be happy or not..
Now, you may say “Ed, you don’t understand my circumstances, my car died, I ruined the meatloaf, Little Edgar is flunking out of daycare, and the dog just threw up on our new couch.” “How can you expect me to be happy given these conditions?” Let me assure you that I have been there, (except for the dog puking on the couch), and there were not many times where I was happy. In those days, my focus was tied to having the right stuff, being in a relationship with the right people, and living up to my own faulty expectations. But then I realized that I would always be faced with situations that had the potential, to keep me depressed, frustrated, and miserable.
I came to understand that we will always be surrounded by events and people that can steal our happiness…if we allow it to happen.
Matt Hearnden in an article entitled: “This Is the One Reason Why You Aren’t Happy,” made the following observation;
“A nurse who worked in a hospice conducted a study on the regrets of the dying and came out with a top 5 (look it up; it’s extremely powerful). One of the regrets, which really hit me at the time I read it, was: “I wish that I had let myself be happier.” To reiterate: this is one of the top 5 regrets of people who are at the end of their lives. I think that’s very telling. Perhaps they finally realized that happiness was a choice. Do you let yourself be happy? If you died tomorrow, would you have the same regret?”
I want to encourage each of you to make a choice to be happy. Remember this is a choice we will make every day and quite possibly many times a day. Ask yourself,’ “In spite of my circumstances, what would happen if I just decided to focus on the positive and be happy?” Also, “What would my life look like if, (in spite of my job, friends or family), I decided to be happy anyway?”
I made a promise to myself a while ago, that I would make the decision to be happy each day. I have reasoned that life is too short to do otherwise. I set this up by reciting a scripture every day as my feet hit the floor; “This is the day that the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.” It is the first step to greatness. Jump in…you can do this.