I recently came across a slogan that I think makes a lot of sense, namely: “Happiness is a choice.” When I heard it, I was reminded of a conversation I had with a friend of mine. We were discussing a common acquaintance who seemed to be perennially unhappy. Granted, she did not have the easiest life. I commented to my friend, “I think each of us is responsible for our own happiness.” He replied, “Yes, it may be somewhat cruel, but I think you’re right.”
We’ve all had disappointments in life, some of us more than others. Our lives are in a sense driven by our dreams and wishes. Many times our dreams lie beyond what can possibly be achieved. This leads to disappointment. What we often forget are the unexpected joys and successes that usually more than compensate for the disappointments.
Perhaps we were heading down the wrong path or looking for the wrong things. I can recall a number of disappointments that I later recognized as defining moments in my life. Because of these disappointments, I experienced joys far beyond those that I had anticipated.
So, we might ask the question, “What is happiness?” My dictionary defines it as “–the general word, applying to a feeling of contentment coming from being and doing well or of satisfaction at having got what one wanted.” I think that is too narrow a definition. It leaves out the notion of grace entirely. Grace is a free gift that is given us despite our own failures. We may be completely unsuccessful in some endeavor, and yet receive the gift of grace from those we love or from God himself.
Happiness doesn’t always come to us because of success. It can come from knowing that we have been faithful to a cause or to another person. In the process we may have lost everything. Yet the satisfaction of knowing that we did our best and were true to our principles can bring enormous happiness.
In the end, our happiness is a state of mind that comes from our own worldview. It involves a spirit of thankfulness for the graces that have been bestowed upon us. It involves being open to new directions that come as a result of the failure to achieve our own goals. It comes by living in a state of love with those around us. Ultimately it comes from our total reliance on God and the acceptance of the grace that he constantly bestows upon us.
Dwell on those gifts that come to you unexpectedly rather than on those things that you wanted but did not get. This is a response that is learned as we mature. Children whine for those things they want but can’t have. We all need to get beyond that. Yes, I think each of us is responsible for our own happiness. Happiness is a choice.
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