I was asked by Bob Clubbs of “every, every minute” to participate in the Desiderata Series. I have chosen to write an article on “Strive to be Happy.” Since choosing this topic, “Be Cheerful” has been added. Now in my opinion “cheerful” and “happy” do not necessarily go hand-in-hand. However, they will be connected in this article. This article can also be found on Bob Clubb's site: every, every minute.
For those of you have read my blog “Attitude, the Ultimate Power,’ aka “Monday Morning Power,” know that I have spent a lot of time discussing happiness and I have some very definite opinions on the subject.
Let’s start with the requested premise of “Strive to be Happy.” This statement conjures up a journey (a quest) with happiness as the end reward for a successful journey’s end; in other words a successful result. If happiness is the reward for successfully completing the journey then that journey, will more times than not, end in disaster. After all, not every journey is successful. I talk at length about this in Happiness Vs. Human Nature. The journey, or the “striving for,” is far closer related to one of the basic tenant of human nature, which is “not being satisfied,” than it is to “happiness.”
On the surface, not being satisfied seems to be selfish; a negative connotation. However, not being satisfied, which fuels the “striving” in human nature is actually a good thing, a very good thing. If it wasn’t for our basic dissatisfaction with what we have, the constant desire to have “more”, where would we be today? Without the desire for “more” there would never have been any inventions, discoveries, cures, art, etc. Where we usually go wrong is when we tie this concept of “more” to happiness.
Happiness must never be tied to human nature or else we are destined to be unhappy. I also wrote a piece on this subject “Happiness Made Simple”. We must learn to never qualify happiness. I am an absolute firm believer that happiness is a decision; that we can choose to be happy. I absolutely believe that anyone, anywhere, in any economic condition, in any health condition, with few exceptions, can choose to be happy. Why should the billionaire be any happier than the pauper? In fact, I bet there are, in relative terms, more happy paupers than happy billionaires. Sometimes it just get’s down to “I’m happy to be alive.”
Now, to get back to the differences and ties between “happiness” and “human nature;” I have tried to sum this up in an original quote, “Human nature is what drives us; happiness is what sustains us.” Think of two perpendicular lines, one vertical (pointing up) and the other horizontal (pointing sideways.) The one pointing up represents human nature, a constant up-hill battle to achieve. The one pointing sideways represents happiness. We have the ability to maximize happiness no matter where we are on the vertical line, by the simple process of choice. What makes choosing happiness simple is another very important concept called “Gratitude.”
By simply being grateful for what we have, no matter how much or how little, the choice to be happy comes so much easier. “Gratitude” is probably an entire article in itself. So for now, let’s just accept gratitude on face value. One of my favorite posts is the “Gratitude Dance.”
As a species, we have an innate ability to over complicate everything. Unfortunately, not everyone has the ability to understand the simplicity of choice; now that’s not to say that choice is simple. We all have those inner voices that keep trying to drag us down, to influence us to make the wrong choices. Without getting to far off topic, I am posting an entire series on how to quiet your inner demons called “The Process - "Are You Prepared for Success?".” I am also a huge fan of the song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” (Music Videos - Positive Attitude / Feel Good.) Don’t worry, be happy is a choice. One has to have to right internal frame of mind to be able to make that choice; the choice between “worrying” and “happiness.” Again, I have written an entire series on that frame of mind; The Process - "Are You Prepared for Success?"
In order for me to best understand what my real choices are, my constant companion is Reinhold Niebuhr’s Serenity Pledge: “God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change; Courage to change the things I can; and the Wisdom to know the difference.” If we can apply this in everything we do, the ability to choose happiness becomes a lot easier.
As I said in the beginning of this article I was going to connect “cheerful” with “happy.” I see “cheerful” as an outward manifestation of being happy. This brings me to another important concept: “Happiness is a Moral Obligation.” With few exceptions, happy people make this world a better place and unhappy people make it worse. Let me ask you; how do you feel when you are around a happy person? How do you feel when you are around an unhappy person? See what happens around you if you choose to be happy, expressing cheerfulness. Even if you fake it, it becomes contagious and before you know it, you are actually feeling happy. Why are you feeling happy? You are happy, because you have made the choice to be living in the moment.
Let’s see if I can tie all of this together into a clear bullet-point summary/conclusion.
- Happiness should never be connected to a result or a condition.
- Happiness is a choice.
- Happiness comes easier when it is based in “gratitude.”
- Happiness is also living in the moment.
- Happiness is a moral obligation.