Wednesday, January 23, 2008

On Being Happy

I have read in multiple places over the years that you can choose to be happy. I supposed it must be true, since so many people said it, but it also seemed rather far-fetched to me. If hard things are going on in your life, how can you be happy anyway?

So! I'm currently reading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The very first habit in the book is "Be Proactive." Essentially what this boils down to, is become someone who is truly independent of other people and circumstances. You make the decisions - others don't get to make them for you. This involves what he calls "re-scripting" yourself - changing the patterns you have played out your entire life, and in many cases, the patterns your parents and others taught you to play out. If "A" happens, you have always responded with "B", but what you would really like to do is "C", so you decide to do "C" instead of "B". As humans, we have this ability.

The book goes into detail on this, telling the story of a man in a German concentration camp. He realized during his inprisonment, that the only freedom the Nazis could not take from him, was the freedom to choose his own response. He began to imagine himself speaking to thousands about his experiences in the concentration camp, bascially creating a reality for himself that he had no guarantee would ever happen in his life. However, it helped him survive with his soul intact. And he did get out. And he did speak to thousands.

My point is: if a guy in a concentration camp can do this, so can someone stuck in a job they don't like. Or a mom at home with kids, doing dishes and laundry and wiping noses all day. We can decide - we have that ability.

As I considered this, I realized something. The biggest hurdle keeping me from deciding to be happy, is my sense of "rights." For example, today. Audrey was in bed with me all night because she had fever. Hannah is cranky. My nose is running nonstop. Don't I have a right to be frustrated? Don't I have a right to feel like this day is a waste? Well, maybe. But what would be the purpose? To make it worse for myself? To make myself and the kids MORE miserable? To prove to Nick how hard I worked today and get his sympathy, when he comes home and I'm fried? Sounds like a good time.

Obviously we're human - we're going to get tired. But we all know there's a huge difference between happy-tired and cranky-tired. :)

This is too hard to do in my own strength, but when I feel myself start to get off track, I can stop, take a deep breath, pray, and make my decision. New habits are hard to form, but not impossible. So, this is where I'm at.


  1. Yes, I have been struggling with this concept this week, too.

    The boys are so tuned to me. Yes, they might be cranky, and yes, things might be off the usual schedule, but I - as their nearly all powerful (in their estimation) mother - can choose to reset the tone of the house at any time.

    I can choose to deal with my stresses after they go to bed. We can relax and dance and sing, or snuggle and read lovely stories, or whatever. I have really noticed this week how my attitude (i.e. my *chosen* response) effects my boys, and then myself and my husband, either creating a dangerous whirlpool to sink us, or creating a burst of wind to blow us out of the danger zone.

    Carpe Diem.

  2. When I was in the corporate world, the last place I worked used the FISH! Philosophy. Which is:
    --Make their day
    --Be there
    --choose your attitude.

    I find that these concepts apply at home. I tell Chris all the time to choose his attitude. He will be wallowing in the grumpy. It really is a choice, I can wake up and be grumpy or I can wake up and choose to be positive and loving with the children. Which one feels better?

  3. I think I need to read this book. I've heard so much about it. It sounds like a great life tool.

  4. It is an excellent book. It's funny though - I've been thinking lately that the only thing that limits a person's ability to apply the concepts, is their own blindness to their issues. Like, what if I have habits I'm not even aware of? You can take it too far and drive yourself nuts.