Who Controls Your Happiness?

This week's blog is a reprint of my column, “Making Sense of Life,” from the November/December issue of "Central Voice" newspaper. I hope it will provide you some peace of mind now and in the coming year.

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How are you feeling about your future? Your answer may be greatly influenced by whether you are reading this article before or after the Presidential Election! As I write my column for this issue we are still several weeks away from that event. What will the future bring?

What the coming decades hold for us are partially tied to this country’s selection of its new Commander in Chief. More important than that, however, is how we will choose to act or react to the possibilities for us in the next four years. We exist as victims if we live our lives in reactive mode, allowing events and circumstances outside our control to determine our mood, our attitude or our future.

It was Eleanor Roosevelt who admonished us that no one has the power to makes us feel inferior unless we give them that right. The active, empowered person reviews the situation and takes action to the best of her or his ability given the circumstances.

For some people in the U.S., particularly the LGBTQ communities among so many others, that could mean drastic change. Depending on the outcome of the Presidential Election, some might find Canada, Costa Rica, New Zealand or other countries to be safer for the near future. Those are certainly options, should one feel so inclined. However, would a new president be enough reason to make such a drastic change?

For a moment, step back from any political changes in government that will or have occurred, and think instead about your everyday life. What constitutes a “good” day from a “bad” day? It is good because you got your way, everyone agreed with you and all the lights were green? Does a bad day happen your plans imploded, someone challenged you or you hit every red light [on the way to work]?

This is not about whether or not we have a positive attitude or are constantly “looking on the bright side” of life. It’s about our priorities. Road rage is apparently on the uptick in recent years. Some driver cuts us off and we take it personally, not knowing that they are rushing to the hospital because their child was just admitted to surgery.

Even if something that dramatic isn’t the case and the guy’s just a total jerk, well, SO WHAT?!? Do we really want to give away our power to be happy to some inconsiderate, nincompoop who we’ll probably never see again? The same is true for those of us who have been attacked – physically or emotionally. By staying in the trauma of a mugging, rape or passive-aggressive behavior and refusing to get help to move beyond the pain to the healing, we are victimizing ourselves all over again, while the perpetrator fails to receive any of our angst.

Would you be willing to stop and take at least three very deep breaths the next time you feel totally annoyed? I’ve been literally run over by another shopper [at the grocery store], who then apologized most profusely. I might have liked to have let loose a slew of superlatives she’d not ever heard in public, but there’s a standard response I prefer to use:  “No worries, but thank you for saying so. I mean, compared to world peace, how important is this?”

This is not to minimize horrible situations in our lives or deride people for scars we all carry from the past. It is, however, a call-to-action for us to get our priorities straight (relatively speaking for some of us…ahem) with how happy we want to be. If we live our lives seeking to prove how victimized, sorrowful or inept we are (and people do … you know who they are!), then we need professional help. Life is too long to be lived in sadness, depression, anxiety and want, particularly when we believe that it’s all because of forces outside ourselves we can’t control.

Truthfully, there’s a lot in our lives that is out of our control:  the weather, my husband’s smoking, people who don’t R.S.V.P to a party and the woman with the Hummer who takes up three spaces [in the parking lot]. So will we choose to concentrate our focus on that over which we have no control?

Or, will we decide to take empowered action to live each day to the fullest, being responsible for our own happiness, success, prosperity and fulfillment. Either way the choice is ours. We have freedom of choice – but not of consequence – so choose wisely!

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