Can You Choose to Be Happy?
How can you be happy by choice? Is it an illusion made up by the personal development gurus attempting to sell more seminars and boost their book sales? Or is there something really in it?
To be happy because you decide to be implies that happiness is a state of mind you can control. Right at that point a whole lot of people will want to put their hand up and say, “But isn’t being happy a lot more than that?” “Doesn’t reducing happiness down to an act of will shrink its meaning?” I tend to agree.
There is so much more to happiness than gritting your teeth and willing it to be. To be happy implies layers and a depth of experience that goes well beyond a smile, a laugh, and good feelings. So what if you deliberately sliced a bit of happiness off the round and savored just that part? Would this piece of happiness still be worth relishing?
An octogenarian friend said something to me once (I love octogenarians for their incredible perspective on life). As a widow with health problems, Nance had a wonderful manner. Even in her eighties, her upbeat way of seeing things was nothing less than infectious. So it felt natural to be happy and feel content in her presence.
One day, I asked her about her thoughts on life, given she lost her husband six years previously and was rattling around by herself in her big house. A wave of earnestness crossed her face and she sighed. “Christian, life is a choice. I’ve got every reason to mope and feel sorry for myself. I miss my husband so much. But what can I do? So I choose to be happy. Every day, when I get out of bed, I tell myself at least I can create a little happiness. So I do. And you know what? It helps me feel young and it cheers me up too.”
Nance showed you can be happy by deciding. There’s no need to be hysterically phony, pretending to like everything and faking a plastic smile to impress. Just giving happiness priority is enough to make things change.
Choosing to be happy won’t make you fulfilled. Yet this small aspect of how to be happy still has impact. Nance accepted her difficulties and knew that bad things happen. But by choosing to take a slice of deliberate happiness, she was still able to make her life something beautiful.