Reality Check: Barriers to Happiness

To start this New Year, I’m choosing to focus on happiness.

For some time now, I’ve been interested in the question of why some people are happy while others are not. As I’ve studied this question, I’ve found books, articles, videos, and courses that have been created to help people increase their happiness. I thought I’d share some of that information with you.

Before we get started though, there’s a barrier to happiness that is worth looking at.

Some folks seem to believe that they must not be happy unless everything is right with the world. For them, “How can I be happy when children are starving? When there is war? When there is disease and pain and heartache? Isn’t it wrong to be happy when others are not?”

That’s a serious question and it’s worth serious consideration.

If you choose your criterion for happiness as “everything must first be right with the world,” then I’m pretty safe in suggesting that you are not going to experience happiness in this lifetime!

Everything will not be “right” with the world. And even if everything in the world was right according to your perception, it wouldn’t be right according to someone else’s.

You may recognize that you have much to be happy about. But life is unfair, and when you perceive that others are not as favored as you are, you may choose to feel guilt rather than happiness.

If you find yourself choosing guilt, ask, “Does my choice to feel guilt rather than happiness help anyone or anything in any way?”

Perhaps you believe that it is somehow more virtuous to be unhappy rather than happy. That if you show too much happiness, you might be perceived as shallow, not empathetic, or uncaring. If you choose those beliefs, of course, that’s up to you.

However, here’s a question to consider: Which is better? A society of happy, satisfied people? Or one filled with unhappy, guilty-feeling people?

I believe that communities, workplaces, families, and society in general work better when people choose happiness. Or at least, when each of us recognizes that we have some control over the level of our own happiness.

Is guilt in the way of your choosing happiness? If you want to change that, you could try recognizing that it’s actually more helpful for others if you choose to be happy rather than guilty! (This isn’t an attempt to “make” you feel guilty if you aren’t happy, by the way.)

So, what do you need to be happy? Is it achievable?

If what you believe you need to be happy is not under your control and unlikely to be achieved (peace everywhere and always, for example) then what?

You can either choose unhappiness, or you can change your belief about what you need to be happy.

Rather than allowing your happiness to be dependent on things you can’t control, look again at your perceptions of happiness. Can you connect it to what you can control?

If that’s a possibility, then let’s go! How’s your life now? Perhaps you are despairing, resenting, criticizing, complaining. Or perhaps you are delighting, “happy-ing” or satisfy-ing! Either way, my goal for these next few columns is to provide information to help us increase our level of satisfaction and yes, our happiness.

What do you think? Do you perceive that to be a worthwhile goal?

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