On a scale of -10 to +10, how satisfied are you with your life?
Now ask yourself, what would help you move up one or two points right now?
Not when you can afford a vacation… not when your partner apologizes… but right here in this moment?
Last week, I spoke to 150 leaders at Progressive Insurance and we talked about the moment by moment, day by day, year by year choices we can make to be our happiest selves. The research is clear: Our happiness is in our control.
I know how hard this is to internalize. Just this week, we got challenging news with our fertility journey. After 2 miscarriages, 4 years, and countless heartbreaks, we thought that we are finally on the path to baby. And we are, but “life” happens and we need some testing that may delay us.
A small part of my brain panicked: “What if…?” Then I felt sorry for myself: “Why me…?” “Haven’t I suffered enough?” But within a few minutes, I realized that those questions weren’t helpful. They were just making me spin and feel like a miserable victim. But my happiness, my well-being, is my choice. So I took a deep breath, gave myself a LOT of self-compassion, and then I asked new questions, “How can we move forward?” “What is possible?” “What can I do in this moment to be ok?” Taking action made me feel better.
Happiness is a choice.
It wasn’t my choice to have miscarriages and it’s not my choice to have complications, but it is my choice how I think about it.
Positive psychology tells us that we have control over what we think, where we focus our attention, how we feel, and what we do. Positive psychology isn’t about being “happy dappy yellow smiley face all the time” – it’s about living the most meaningful, fulfilling, alive life possible. In cases of challenge and trauma (which we will all have), it’s about struggling in a healthy way. Get out your anger, feel your grief, allow yourself your pain. AND, don’t get stuck in it.
My grandparents taught me that we are the Creators of our lives, not Victims to it. They were Holocaust survivors who never complained about what they had experienced. Rather, they focused on their family, giving back to their community, and doing work in public service – mental health for my grandfather, and education for my grandmother. They were the people who brought soup to someone who was sick. They lived on purpose. They chose happiness.
In today’s world, we have a million distractions vying for our attention and too many of them are negative – the news screams blame and hate, co-workers complain, and kids resist chores and homework. Sometimes, we just want to run away.
But our opportunity is to realize that we have a choice about what we do about it all.
We also have a choice about how we spend our time.
At Progressive last week, I asked this question: “If there were a gun pointed at your head, what would you regret never having done?” The room fell silent.
Would you regret not spending time with people you love? Would you regret not starting that non-profit you’ve been thinking about? Or that you never visited your family’s roots in Poland? It’s your choice how you spend your time.
A recent episode of The PurposeGirl Podcast addresses the issue of how to choose happiness, including some of the neuroscience to help you understand your brain, why you make the choices you do, and how to change those choices.
The good news is that happiness (and struggling in a healthy way) are in our control. And research shows that you can make a million small (or big) choices every day to get there. From whether you order the fries at lunch to how long you stew on your mother-in-law’s critical comment, to finally taking one teeny tiny small step to fulfilling your dream of singing on stage, it’s all your choice.
So here are 3 inquiries for you to make Happiness your choice.
1. Where do you spend your time and energy currently? (Be honest)
2. What is most meaningful to you? What do you want to make sure you do, feel and have by the time you die?
3. What’s one small step to move yourself up on the “Happiness Temperature” above?
Choose Happy! Be Purposeful! Choose You!
About the Author: Carin Rockind is a leading happiness expert and the creator of PurposeGirl, a movement to empower purpose-driven living. She has taught thousands of people to reclaim their happiness and live to their fullest potential of success and well-being. Carin launched the Women’s Happiness Summit online where she interviews 24 experts to learn how to get unstuck, create meaningful work, have joyful relationships, love your body, and live with intention and zest.
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