Happiness. If you’re waiting for it, you’ve missed the point.
The idea that we have to work at happiness comes as news to many people. We assume it’s a feeling that comes as a result of good things that just happen to us, or from the way others treat us, things over which we have little or no control, but actually the opposite is true; happiness is under our own control. It is a battle to be waged, not a feeling to be awaited. Happiness requires discipline.
We owe it to our partner, our children, our friends, and our co-workers to be as happy as we can be. Subjecting others to our unhappiness is unkind and hurtful. If you don’t believe it, ask a child what it’s like to grow up with an unhappy parent, or ask parents what pain they suffer if they have an unhappy child.
Anyone can be unhappy; it takes no courage or effort. True achievement lies in struggling to be happy.
There is little correlation between the circumstances of people’s lives and how happy they are. We all know people who have had a relatively easy life, yet are essentially unhappy. We also know people who have suffered a great deal but generally remain happy.
One key is gratitude. All happy people are grateful. Ungrateful people cannot be happy. We tend to think that being unhappy leads people to complain, but it’s truer to say that complaining leads to people becoming unhappy.
Another key is realizing that happiness becomes much easier when we keep ourselves busy pursuing our interests, pursuits that give our lives purpose—anything from gardening to continuing our education to volunteering. Idleness leads to loneliness, and loneliness leads to unhappiness. The busier we are with our passions, the more happiness we’re likely to experience.
Also, the belief that our existence has a significance or purpose larger than our self helps us to be happier. Happy people possess a spirituality, or a philosophy of life.
Finally, choosing to be optimistic rather than pessimistic is a requirement. Whatever your life philosophy, it should encompass this truism: if you choose to look for the negative in situations, you will find the negative, and if you choose to seek out the positive in situations—all situations—the positive is what you will find. As with happiness itself, this is entirely your choice to make.
—adapted from “Happiness is a Serious Problem” by Dennis Prager