We usually think of the causes for both our happiness and unhappiness as something outside of ourselves.
We are unhappy because we’re having car troubles or we’re so broke that we can’t afford a car, we’ve got relationship problems or we’re between relationships, we’re out of work or we don’t like our work, we don’t seem to have any choice in life or we have too many choices and we can’t decide.
With life’s ups and downs, there’s always something to make us unhappy.
And when we’re unhappy, we often look to the world or someone else to blame.
Life will never be perfect, but does that mean that we are all destined to be unhappy?
Rick Foster and Greg Hicks studied the characteristics of ordinary people who enjoyed a consistently high level of happiness defined by their own self-assessment of a sense of well-being. In their book, “How We Choose To Be Happy: The Nine Choices Of Extremely Happy People: Their Secrets, Their Stories,” they describe happiness as a set of attitudes, beginning with the intention to be happy.
We all want to be happy, but most of the time, we go about it the wrong way. We consume a lot of time and energy pursuing things we think will bring us happiness: the dream job, a perfect mate, more money, more things. When we don’t get them, we remain frustrated. When we do get them, we can be disappointed to discover that our happiness is fleeting.
Foster and Hicks discovered two overarching themes in their research with extremely happy people. The first was that happiness comes from within. It doesn’t come from something outside of yourself. The second was that you can choose to be happy. You don’t have to wait for the bluebird of happiness to land on your windowsill.
That’s not to say that we are responsible for misfortune, ill health or the catastrophes in our lives. In fact, Foster and Hicks’ book is filled with examples of people who chose to be happy in spite of terrible circumstances. We can’t choose what life throws at us, but with awareness and courage, we can choose how we will catch and respond to whatever we get.
Foster and Hicks identified the nine choices of extremely happy people: intention, accountability, identification, centrality, recasting, options, appreciation, giving and truthfulness.
This week, I’ll elaborate on each of these attitudes and how we all can apply them in our daily lives to enjoy greater personal happiness. It all begins with the intention to be happy.