Happiness. The ultimate, and sometimes elusive, goal of almost every human. Of course there are exceptions to every rule and I know a couple of misanthropes who only like it when it rains, but for the most part, every person I know just wants to be happy. There are a million ways to get to Happytown USA [insert sex joke here], and we’ve all heard that happiness is a choice, but sometimes it can seem like those choices are being made for us. Like when that person in traffic “deliberately” cut you off only to slow down because they secretly have a conspiracy against you and everyone is somehow involved and helping to try and make you late. Then you roll up next to them ready to throw hands or at least honk your displeasure just to find out it’s a sweet, geriatric lady who doesn’t even know you’re alive, much less has an agenda against you. But before you knew the context, you thought for sure this person was trying to kill your joy. Spoiler alert: they were not. Bonus spoiler alert: context is really important.
I believe professional joy killers do exist, but those people are much fewer and much farther between than we might think. I reckon everyone is just doing their best, trying to put one foot in front of the other without tripping. But sometimes people do trip and fall right into your path and the easy thing to do is blame them for how that makes you feel. I realized a long time ago that placing blame on others is an expressway to misery. Sure it might feel good to pass the buck for a bit but eventually the dark thoughts become constant companions, and the light no longer feels welcomed. This is where those choices really start to matter. The choices that might seem like they’re up to someone else really lie firmly in your hands. Let that be an empowering thought. Take ownership of your stuff and make shit happen. Imagine if we all did this. I’m the first to admit that sometimes I’d rather binge cake and Netflix than be responsible, and I definitely consider myself more “adult-adjacent” than an actual adult, but I can honestly say that this shift in my perspective has been life altering.
If being happy is a choice, then being UNhappy is an equal choice. I believe there are three major components that help a person live in a state of misery and sadness. I call it the trinity of an unhappy life:
- Unwavering/Unchanging Opinions
Expectations: When you do something nice for someone, is there an expectation of their reaction? When you give a gift to someone, is there an expectation of how excited you think they should be? When you have children, is there an expectation of how it’s going to go? When you get married, is there an expectation for your partner to all of a sudden step up in new and exciting ways? So how are those expectations working out? If someone doesn’t have the reaction you expected, are you upset or angry? Just nod your head, I already know the answer. We all fall into the expectation trap but it’s a hole you can crawl out of by letting go of what you think others “should” do. Stop shoulding all over other people and definitely stop shoulding on yourself.
Assumptions: I get myself into the most trouble with this one. I assume that someone is thinking a certain thing. I assume that I’m being clear and understood. I assume that the person taking my food order gets that the twinkle in my eye should translate into “extra hummus no charge” duh. And it makes me very sad when I assume that my mind is being read properly only to find out that the person I’m speaking to is not a mind reader at all. This is where Captain Communication saves the day and everyone is much happier in the long run for saying what they’re thinking out loud. Never assume to know what someone is thinking, feeling, hearing, etc. If there’s ANY question, it’s ok to just ask.
Unwavering/unchanging opinions: How many people state their opinions as absolute fact? A lot. How many opinions are absolute fact? Not a lot. I’m not great at math but something doesn’t add up. It’s great to have opinions and it’s great to share them in a kind way, but to settle on an idea and then not question it anymore is doing a disservice to your brain. It’s imperative that we keep questioning and searching. Critical thinking seems to have flown the coop but I think it’s so important for our health to do mental gymnastics as often as possible. It’s ok to change your mind, it’s ok to change your beliefs, it’s ok to change your priorities, and because opinions aren’t facts, it’s ok to change those, too.
Damn this is long as hell but I hope it’s helpful in some way…or at least entertaining.