Choosing the Happy

This hawk was in the tree across the road. Love my new telephoto lens!

David and I were talking yesterday about the value of happiness and making choices to be happy. Now, not everyone really values happiness as a top priority. Sure – people say they want to be happy, but often they value other things above that. Being admired or respected, making our families happy, fitting in with the crowd. If we look critically at our daily choices, we can see that we often choose to do something that doesn’t make us happy because we think the other thing is more important.

For example, a lot of us woke up this morning earlier than we wanted to. It might have made us happy to sleep longer, but maybe there are children who need to be cared for and that’s more important. Or we have to get to that job on time, so we can be paid, which can be a factor in long-term happiness. So, sometimes we make a considered choice to put someone else’s needs above our own happiness or we sacrifice the short term in favor of the long term.

But we can also get in the habit of capitulating to the “shoulds.” All those things that we think we should do, whether they make us happy or not. It’s easy to fall into that pattern of all the little responsibilities and debts that drive our daily decisions.

David mentioned it because he’s been reading Anthony de Mello, who made a deliberate decision to be happy. That’s what he wanted out of life. For every choice he encountered, he weighed whether it would lead to happiness.

This is harder than it sounds. For instance, he ultimately told his best friend they could no longer spend time together, because the friend didn’t make him happy. It’s a hard, strong line to draw and many of us would flinch at such a decision because of all the voices whispering that it’s selfish. Choosing one’s own happiness over someone else’s will always be labeled selfish. It’s up to us to decide which we value more: being happy or being thought an unselfish person.

It got me thinking though, that it doesn’t always have to be huge, life-changing decisions. In everything I do all day, I can choose those things that lead to happiness for me. Throughout my day, there are many opportunities to read rants and encounter unpleasant news and thoughts. I don’t have to look at them. I can focus instead on those things that I believe do make me happy. I can create a tesseract of happiness.

By little, incremental choices, I think I can find ways to have a happy life. Which I do think is the most important thing for me.

Now I’m picturing what a tesseract of happiness would look like.

11 Replies to “Choosing the Happy”

  1. Good post. I try to be conscious of the “shoulds” and not automatically fall into doing things..try to weigh what I really want to do, so I’m aware when I pick something to do that is a “should”. Know I REALLY want to do it! And why.

  2. Great post!
    People often ask me why I work part-time because I don’t have children. Well: because I want to have lots of time to do those things that make me happy. We might not have tons of money or a car or any of the other things people think you need, but we’re happy with our life and that’s more important than tons of money.

    1. No wonder you get so much reading and blogging done! I truly envy you the part-time thing. I’m trying to work my way back to that, as soon as finances allow. However I did go for big happiness bid with the pretty house to live in. That takes some exchange.

  3. Jeffe, I owe you a hug! I picked up a stray book by deMello years ago, “Sadhana. A Way to Go” that was on meditating. I didn’t realise there was an institute around his thinking. Thank you for the link!

    Choosing happiness and the whole question of selfishness is fascinating. I just loved this post!

  4. Great post, the search for happiness has been on the mind of philosophers since time began, “there is nothing new under the sun”.

    I have a lot of sympathy with the view that we should seek happiness and often think that we are held captive by materialism and ego that destroys our happiness BUT I can’t help thinking that the more we chase happiness the more elusive it becomes. Many religious and philosophical traditions onder this and come to the conclusion that we will only be contented when we seek to stop gratifying ourselves. Buddhism articulates this clearly, as does Jesus when He says that in order to find our life we must lose it and it is less overt but still there in the message that we must love others before ourselves. The book of Ecclesiastes (ipart of the Judo-Christian bible) is all about the search for happiness, it makes a really interesting read and is amazingly modern despite being written about 3,000 years ago. Similalry the Greek schools of philosophy of the Stoics and the hedonists etc, although there stuff is harder to access.

    1. That’s an interesting point, Melinda, and takes this deeper than I did. I suspect the difference is in chasing false happiness. That is, if I buy these pretty shoes, I’ll be happy. Or if I just go to the family dinner and please everyone, it will be so much easier and I’ll be happy. I do think it takes a tremendous amount of introspection and ruthless self-examination to identify what happiness means to each of us. That said, Ecclesiastes was my favorite book in the bible – I’ve written several papers on it. 🙂

  5. Great post. Choosing happiness is important. And sometimes you have to look ahead and choose long-term happiness over something that might make you happy in the moment – like reminding myself that a doughnut might make me happy right now, but the ever-widening butt is making me unhappy in the long term. ;o)

    1. Yes, good example, B.E. I don’t always want to go exercise, but I know I’ll feel good later and it will make me happier in the long term. Parsing that stuff out is what takes the most effort.

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