Happiness is a decision, not a destination

Over the last year, I’ve been watching problems just solve themselves. It’s kind of eerie. I just mind my own business as much as I can and let the rest go. I take care of business by working, paying bills and I enjoy the simple pleasures when I can. And the problems that used to vex me, well, they come and they go.

I write about happiness here and there because it is something that I have found that I want, but there is an aspect to happiness that isn’t easily divined from the culture I live in. Happiness turns on a decision to be happy. That decision to be happy is based on a decision to accept what I have right now as enough.

In moments of doubt or disturbance, I have used prayer and affirmation to find happiness. I can clearly recall one day where that worked well. I was driving to work one morning on the 405 in California, heading northbound towards the 605 interchange. Upon passing that interchange, I met the wall of cars resulting from 20 years of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors having no plan for how to manage traffic. I was going very slow, feeling very bored and was playing whack-a-lane, where I try to guess which lane will go faster than the other lanes. I fancy myself as being pretty good at reading traffic.

And I was stuck while watching 30 or 40 cars go by me on both sides of me. I was furious for a few minutes. Then a voice came to me, ‘This isn’t working for me”. So as I sat there, waiting for the cars in front of me to move again, I said to myself:

I accept everything exactly as it is, without reservation.

I still felt frustrated. So I said that again.

I accept everything exactly as it is, without reservation.

And again. And again and again and again, like a mantra. Traffic continued to move glacially, but my attitude was changing as I said my mantra. A few minutes later, I seemed to have forgotten what I was so furious about and then I found my offramp and got off the freeway.

I felt liberated and I felt happy. It was weird because nothing else had changed. It was only me that changed. I made a decision to accept everything without reservation. And when I did that, the storm left my mind. I got to work and was ready to do what came to me. And that was in 2008.

Since then, I’ve been making a conscious decision to be happy. I’m not avoiding or denying discomfort. I’m just finding the good in everything. I’m learning how to make lemonade out of lemons. I have been taking every challenge before me and turning it into an opportunity to grow precisely because I know that happiness turns on a decision.

Happiness is a state of mind. But achieving that state of mind requires only a small effort. That effort is to make a decision to be happy, to be content with what one already has. Multiplied hundreds or thousands of times over years, those decisions become the foundation for true contentment and peace.

If I can decide to be happy, I need not try to change anyone else to my liking. I only live the example, thinking that people will notice that I’m happy and ask why. This isn’t to say that I don’t take notice of the suffering in the world. I do. I see the suffering. I see the chaos. I see the sorrow. But I know that of all the ways I can work to change that, the best way is to live the example and let others follow if they want to.

If happiness turns on a decision, then it must be a skill, too. I have over the years, developed routines and practices for happiness. I write a gratitude list every morning. I write a morning page where I fill out a page on my word processor, with whatever is on my mind. I make a conscious effort every minute of every day, to err on the side of peace. I don’t apply force to change other people, for I know how frustrating that can be from past experience. I just let everyone else be. In peace.

I am aware also, that what I think, feel and do, is reflected back at me by the people in my life, by the universe and everything in it. If I want to be happy, I will model that behavior for others so that they can reflect it back to me with their own happiness. Happiness is like light. Light wants to propagate, it wants to be free, it wants to bounce everywhere off of everything. But unless I decide to notice that happiness, and accept it, happiness is hard to find.

All of this comes to me after decades of internal struggle, introspection, and reflection. For dogs and cats, happiness comes easily. I use them for models. They don’t worry about the mistakes they made last week, or yesterday, and I have to wonder if they even know what a mistake is. They take pleasure in a nap, a meal, the morning and a human hand to pet them. For myself, I’ve learned to take pleasure in simple things just like dogs and cats do.

While I do have some ambitions, I don’t let them get in the way of my happiness. Happiness comes first for me and my family. I’m middle aged, still working, still earning, still learning. And because I’ve made a decision to be happy, to accept everything exactly as it is, right now, without reservation, I can avail myself to others.

I can be there for my kids. I can be there for my wife. I can help my neighbors. I can help the world by applying my talent for writing by sharing my experience, strength and hope. I can do these things because I do them for myself, too. And when my bucket is full, I can share anything else I have to share, with you, the world.

Write on.

Originally published at steemit.com on September 14, 2018.

Husband, father, worker, philosopher, and observer. Plumbing the depths of consciousness to find the spring of happiness. Write on.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store