Choosing Happiness (and why it’s not as easy as it sounds)

posted by Russ, July 10 in uncategorized with tags , ,


When personal development and self help gurus talk about choosing happiness, they make it sound easy. The conventional wisdom typically goes something like this: If you’re not happy, well then start doing what makes you happy. Start making changes to improve your happiness right now.

But happiness is not black and white, there is plenty of grey area in there. Happiness is not an absolute. There is not a point you get to and find out you’re suddenly happy, and most likely, if you’re unhappy, it didn’t happen suddenly – it’s probably been brewing a while. Happiness is a constant, living, breathing work in progress.

I have spent more time that I would like lately thinking about this topic. And I have questions… How much happiness is “enough”? At what point does being “mostly happy” become not enough that you need to make a change? Should you suffer through periods of unhappiness if they are circumstancial, if there is a possibility that it will be better in the long term? If so, for how long? And perhaps the most difficult question to answer: How do you decide to improve your own happiness when it negatively affects another’s happiness, especially when it’s someone you care deeply about?

All the self help out there seems to focus on I. Am I happy? But what happens when I is really us? Where is the line drawn, and how do you negotiate that? Is it ever noble to sacrifice your own happiness for someone else, or for the benefit of us? And if it is, then how long is it fair to prolong a degree of your own happiness in the present, while waiting for our happiness tomorrow?

I do believe that it is acceptable to prolong your own happiness or suffer for a bit if it will come around in the end both people. I believe that is what compromise is all about, and I’ve done it often. But I have often wondered if perhaps too much. Knowing that a part of you is suffering to make someone you care deeply about be a better or happier person can be a powerful thing. Knowing you are making a sacrifice to hopefully create a stronger us is something that everyone who’s ever been in a relationship knows something about.

But that sacrifice can be a fine line. It is slippery and needs to be carefully monitored. At some point you need to step back and consider I again.

And that is a very difficult thing to do.

Originally posted on Sunday, July 10th, 2011 at 2:26 PM .

2 Responses to “Choosing Happiness (and why it’s not as easy as it sounds)”

  1. Hajra says:


    The “gurus” do make it sound all easy. When I see patients who are telling me that they are looking for “happiness”, they are confused in the first step in the sense that they have not “defined” happiness for themselves.

    What does the word happiness mean for one, what state will bring you happiness, when and where do you consider yourself happy…you see where I am going with this. The whole point is to define happiness for yourself, in whatever terms it might be and then go out and seek it or give it a try, make it a choice.

    For many, just spending a day with family will be happiness and that will be a choice they will have to make for themselves whenever they choose to. Now, the extent of any act that makes them happy is something purely subjective. The gurus all around will speak out of their personal challenges and experiences, maybe it might be very helpful, but their aim is to motivate and inspire us and show us what worked, now what works for an individual is a choice they have to make for themselves.

    Loved reading this! Made me “happy”!

    Hope you have a lovely day!

    • Russ says:

      Wow Hajra, what a great comment! I think you really made an excellent point, and one that I am just starting to learn myself. Being confused or not having a clear definition of what will make you happy is an almost certain way to keep yourself from finding that “happiness”.

      But I also do think there is a point where you may know what you want to be happy, and may be pursuing that, but circumstances may be hindering that pursuit.

      Another great point you made about the gurus simply being there to serve as an example, “I did it and you can do it too.” And that may be what trips people up, they look to these self help people for answers, when really they need to draw inspiration from them, but then seek their own path and take action on their own.

      Thank you for stopping by, and nice to meet you!

What do you think? Add your two cents below!


Subscribe to comments