You say, “how can she possibly know what’s wrong in my life? She doesn’t know me. She doesn’t know what’s going on in my life. She has no clue!” You’re right, I don’t have a clue as to what’s going on in your life. But I do know something about happiness and the reasons we don’t have it.
Most of the time, if we’re unhappy, it means that our expectations have not been met.
Someone or something has let us down. Things didn’t turn out the way we thought they would or hoped or prayed that they would. Certain people aren’t treating us the way we want to be treated. Others are making bad choices, and we’re worried about them and/or disappointed in them.
We’re disappointed when we don’t get the job, when we are passed over for promotion, when we don’t qualify for the loan, can’t get the house of our dreams or the new car, or our kid doesn’t make the honor roll or the sports team.
Of course, there are legitimate reasons for profound sadness. Someone is sick or has died. A loved one leaves the relationship. And then there’s the general knowledge of the evil that goes on around us like the fact that children are being abused, people are being sold for labor or sex against their will, somebody somewhere is selling drugs to teenagers. There are myriad things that grieve us and steal our happiness. Of course, no one expects us to be happy in the face of real reasons for sadness. But for the most part, our unhappiness stems from disappointment.
So, what’s to be done?
It sounds insensitive to say, “Be happy,” but like Abraham Lincoln said, “people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”
We get to decide what we’re going to think. We may be the only species on earth that has that capability. Rather than focusing on all the reasons for our sadness, anger, or disappointment, we can choose to live like our animal counterparts who live in the moment, with no concern for the future, no ruminating on the past, and no heavy weight of disappointment, regret, or any of the other negativity that steals our happiness. That is easier said than done.
The other thing we can do is adjust our expectations. We don’t want to go so far as to expect bad things to happen so that we’re delighted when they don’t. But there is a middle ground.
Rather than being unhappy because we didn’t get that job, we can choose to believe it’s probably the best thing for us. Maybe there would have been added stress in our lives that wasn’t worth the pay. Instead of being distraught because we can’t live where we want to live, we can be grateful for having a roof over our head and food to eat. Choosing to be grateful for what we have rather than discouraged by what we lack is, perhaps, the single most powerful thing we can do to gain and maintain our happiness.
We can guard our happiness by being grateful—grateful that we can see, we can walk, we can communicate, we can think, and we can breathe. We still have a pulse, so we still have a purpose. Let’s choose to be happy. Find something to laugh about today.