Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Happiness is a Choice

Happiness is a choice. Its mild profundity makes me wonder whether this phrase was taken from a fortune cookie. In this present age, it often seems that people are getting unhappier and unhappier. How do I know? Well, look at the rising number of psychiatrists. What makes us happy? When we are happy for the moment, can we stay happy? Is it a choice I make, or is it a decision life made for me?

It's very interesting how some people go through life as if they have no care in the world. At the same time, they are those who act as if the world's ending tomorrow. Maybe it's a gift, like a talent to be happy. After all, how can these people be so sickeningly cheerful when there's nothing to be happy about? Let me tell you that nothing gives me happiness except the weather (and even then, I wouldn't bet on it). Call me a pessimist but I would like to believe I'm realistic. Why try when we're bound to fail? Sometimes, I feel so exhausted with life that I don't know what makes me happy anymore. Then I wonder, could it be that I MADE myself unhappy?

You see, I never really understood why people place such importance on feeling happy. After all, the job gets done whether the mouth is upside down or right side up. Some chase it, crave it, write books about it (last I check, there is now Happiness for Dummies). They go around thinking, If I had a million dollars, was married to Brad Pitt, had 10 children and STILL look like a pencil, I'd be happy. To that I say - good luck. An economist once said that the formula of happiness is simple. Happiness is reality divided by expectations. To improve happiness, either improve your reality or lower your expectations. I sincerely wished it was that easy to get a solution to happiness. It's funny how I've been trying it out but find no increase in happiness.

So, how do we go about getting our daily dose of happiness? Some pig out (which is very valid as some types of food provides endorphins, a natural high). Some try smiling, looking for something good to focus on, looking for the silver lining so to speak. And that's when it hit me. Happiness is not something you can earn neither is it something life owes you. Life owes me nothing as I came with nothing, I return with nothing. I always thought that there was something wrong with my life if I had nothing to be happy about. I had gotten the short straw, I never had this, never had that. I thought that to be happy, I must change my life. I always thought that I had no role to play in the circumstances surrounding me. Well, guess what?

To be happy, I have to change myself.

Not my life, but how I view it. Remember what I said about how a job gets done whether I smile about it or not? While it's true that it does get done, where does it leave the doer? My dad always said that like it or not, life's not fair. It's up to you how you want to view it. It's my choice to either look at the big picture, or focus on the small minor parts. I recall one story I read a few years back. There was a professor who pulled up a piece of paper and stuck it on the board. He then took a black marker pen and placed a small dot on it. He turned around and asked, "What do you see?" All his students readily replied that there was a dot. When he pressed them to look carefully, they remained adamant and said the same thing. Finally, he took it down and said, "It's funny how all of you mentioned the dot and not the paper. You all saw it, but none of you decided that it was more important that the dot". I guessed that was my perspective too.

Don't magnify the problem, magnify life. If we really open our eyes, we can see that there is so much more which awaits us. All this while we've been content to stay under a rock, silently cursing our darkness but yet not willing to step out. God has granted us the will to choose our lives. Happiness, or joy rather is a gift from Him to mankind. It is up to us to receive it with open arms. I wonder then, why have I refused it for so long? Why have I not realised that I have the power to change my life. I can change my outlook and not wake up from the wrong side of bed - and be happy as a reward. I won't laugh scornfully when reading Daddy Long Legs. The part where Judy Abbott says that even if her husband and twelve kids were swallowed in a earthquake, she would bob up smilingly the next day to make a new set.

I know that life can never be perfect, after all, it's life. We can choose to be unhappy about so many things, things which in our opinion should have made us happy. A lady whose daily routine of eating chocolate ice cream was disrupted by the closing of the shop should count her blessings that her blood sugar level will remain normal that day. A student who failed his exam should be thankful that he did not resort to cheating to pass. A person who grumbles about the way the country is being run should look up and say a prayer that he has a country to complain about. It's all a matter of perspective. I used to say that the glass is half empty but now, it seems more pleasing to say it's half full. Both are true, but one makes life more bearable, enjoyable even. Now I know what Isaac Asimov, a famous philosopher said that the surest way to be unhappy in life is to keep deflating it with a sigh.

To be happy, I have to change myself.

Because happiness... is a choice.

Note: While the author may not be happy all the time as feeling happy is just that, an emotion, she certainly feels joyful ALL THE TIME. Joy is the quiet assurance that God will take care even in the midst of the most troubling circumstances. And trust her, happiness does not last, but joy does.


debbeh woo! said...

sometimes, its really just about seeing things from God's eyes and trying to see His big picture in our life.

i would say time to stop looking at ourselves and our misery but look at the lives of others and count our blessings.


p.s: don't degrade others of course! and yes, happiness is definitely a choice.

Tze Quan said...

Yeah, I agree with what you said... If we're not careful, we might focus too much on us and end up thinking life revolves around us. That's dangerous thinking...

P.S Just to let you know, this was actually my exam essay question. Seriously, it was option 5, 'Happiness Is A Choice'. =) Cool huh?