Is Happiness A Choice?
I have heard that events that happen to us in life are neither “good” nor “bad”. These are only titles we choose to assign to how we feel about things that happen to us. Further, I have learned that our happiness depends on our assignment of the “good”or “bad” titles we apply to these events in our lives. Do you believe that?
It is my opinion and experience that our happiness absolutely depends on how we decide to feel about the events in our lives and consequently the actions we take or don’t take in response to those feelings. This is not to say that I do not believe in good or bad, I do. I believe there is great good in the world and I believe there is terrible evil. What I have learned is that our happiness does not depend upon only good things happening to us all the time. Thank goodness for that, because I do not know of a single person that has what most would interpret as good things happen to them all the time. Since we all don’t have good things happen to us all the time, why are there happy people in the world? Why aren’t we all unhappy since bad things happen to all of us? The answer is choice!
Let me illustrate by using one personal example: My father had a very successful business. He provided a specialized color separation service for the printing industry for over 20 years. He was looking for a new accountant. At the time, I was seventeen and I knew that one of my church leaders was an accountant. I told my dad that this man was an accountant and he must be a good man because he was a member of our church. It turned out that this man saw an opportunity in my father’s trust and worked to take control of the company. Because of the stress of the situation, my father had a massive stroke at age 59. He was in intensive care for a month. He lost his business, his home, his wife and almost all his earthly possessions. We were devastated as a family. There were some members of the family that criticized my father for his poor decision to hire this accountant after he began recovering from the stroke. Personally, I was devastated because I lost the father I knew who loved life and loved being active. I lost the future opportunity to run the business and reap the rewards of family succession. Our family felt by all accounts, these events were bad and we had reason to be unhappy. My father certainly had reason to be depressed and feel sorry for himself. Instead, he taught me a very valuable lesson.
My father chose to look at these events as good. He recognized that he could be angry at the person who defrauded him. However, that would just make him miserable. Instead, he decided to forgive the person. This took a huge burden off his shoulders. No longer did he waste precious thoughts on revenge or anger. My father had worked very hard his entire life. He rarely took time for himself. Now, he had time to study and learn. He took time to do much of what he had not done up until now. After these events, my father was almost always happy friendly and outgoing to people he met. Even though he was partially paralyzed from the stroke, he chose to laugh at his awkwardness and slurred speech. He chose to look at every day as a gift.
I believe this is an example of an event that could definitely be interpreted as bad. However, since my father decided to look at the event in a positive light, he took the opportunity to use his time in ways that he never did before his stroke and loss off business. Because of his choice, he was happy until the day he died at age 79 on February 16, 2008. I miss my father, and I am grateful for the valuable lesson he taught me about choosing happiness. There are some members of my family who have decided to look at these events as negative. To this day, they hold resentment and frustration that robs them of happiness. How can the same event produce such different attitudes and feelings of happiness? It has nothing to do with whether the events are good or bad and 100 percent to do with how we choose to interpret if events are good or bad. In fact, I believe that events that many would interpret as bad can have the biggest opportunity for good and even happiness in our life. The choice is ours.