Reality Check: A Look at Happiness

What does it mean to be happy? Is it selfish to want to be happy? Do some people seek happiness in a bad way? Is there a formula for happiness?
So many questions; so few answers. But as we come to the end of this strange year, it seems appropriate to revisit fundamental questions about happiness.
Choice Theory literature tends to use the term “satisfaction” more than “happiness.” Maybe we have a better shared understanding of what satisfaction means. At the end of a meal, for example, it’s easy to answer the question, “Are you satisfied?” The question, “Are you happy?” is open to wider interpretation.
Dr. Glasser defines happiness as “pleasurable relationships with happy people.” He says, “To be happy, I believe we need to be close to other happy people.”
In Glasser’s focus on good relationships as the source of satisfaction, he observed that there are more words for destructive relationship habits—such as compel, punish, nag, manipulate—than there are for positive relationship habits—such as listen and trust.
In “Choice Theory,” Glasser says, “Since our language is a mirror of our culture, there is strong evidence that we live in a world that is attuned more to destroying relationships than to preserving them.”
Granted, “Choice Theory” appeared around 1998. Has our culture turned more toward relationship-building and away from relationship damage over the last couple of decades? What would you say?
Even though we are influenced by culture, we do have internal control. If you would like to be happier, it’ll be helpful to clarify what happiness means for you.
Your picture of “happy” is almost certainly different from mine. Some folks want to be surrounded by people; others want few relationships. Some people want to be busy; others want calm. Some want security; others freedom.
Pay attention to moments—even brief moments—of relative happiness, contentment, or satisfaction. Be aware when they occur.
For example, do you know the feeling you have when a threat has been removed? Or learning that a worrisome event isn’t going to happen? When your loved one gets safely home through the snowstorm? When the news from the doctor is good rather than bad?
Those moments may not describe perfect happiness, but they are moments in a happy direction. If you develop the habit of paying attention to those moments, perhaps you can stretch them and reduce the less happy times.
Does happiness, and seeking happiness, matter? Think back. When have you been inclined to be more generous to others? When you’re happy? Or not happy? Generosity of course, isn’t just financial; it include being generous with your time, your good-will and your empathy.
Whether you agree with Glasser’s definition that happiness is relationship based is your choice. But it is definitely harder to be close to happy people if there are few happy people around, isn’t it?
What’s your picture of happiness? Are you living it?

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