Have you ever said the phrase, “I just want to be happy?”
While many people think (at one time or another) that “being attractive,” “being powerful,” “being famous,” or even “being rich” is the key to being happy, the overwhelming majority of people discover (usually later, rather than sooner) that “being happy” isn’t a destination. Whether we are in a desperate situation or going through a goal setting exercise, this desire to “be happy” is almost always stated as if “happiness” were some sort of gift that came only from a genie and had to be wished for. While “happiness” can be an abstract emotion that simply comes and goes, I believe that happiness is also a state of being that can be influenced and thus controlled.
Often times, our emotions are triggered as impulsive reactions to the events that are happening in our surrounding environments. Every time something happens around us, we respond with some combination of joy, anger, sadness, fear, or disgust (like in Pixar’s Inside Out). In this reactionary mode of operation, we are not in control of our emotions, and if we’re not “in control” then we must be “out of control.”
If being “out of control” sounds like a negative state, that is because it is a negative state. Though it is unrealistic and even unhealthy to try to control all aspects of our lives, it is completely possible to control our reactions and thus directly and specifically influence our emotions. We’ve all heard the cliché that “happiness is a choice”, but rarely is the act of making this choice ever spelled out in detail. For if happiness could be obtained simply by saying “I choose happiness”, then why is it that so many people are unhappy?
The truth is that there is more to being happy than just wishing for it and choosing to be happy is more of a lifestyle than a single decision.
Attitude of Gratitude
At the foundation of every lifestyle is an attitude. In my experience, high achievers overwhelmingly have what would be considered a positive attitude, while below-average performers regularly have negative attitudes and victim mentalities. So, before we are able to choose happiness, we must first establish a foundation of positivity in our lives that stems from focusing on giving thanks and being grateful.
While negative people spend their time focusing on what they don’t have, the things that aren’t going their way, and who is to blame for their unhappiness, positive people focus on the good things in their lives, regardless of how small. Given the exact same situation, a positive person will find reasons to give thanks while a negative person will find reasons to complain.
This is the true secret to being happy: You must first choose to be grateful before you can be capable of being happy.
Given any situation, no matter how negative it appears at first glance (like suffering a broken leg), a person with an Attitude of Gratitude will choose to focus on the good things that they have and recognize that no matter how bad things might be, things could always be worse. In the example of a broken leg, they will focus on the good fortune they experienced by only breaking one leg, because they could have broken both legs. They will rejoice that they still have one strong leg to get around on and they will be thankful that they will be able to get around on crutches, because they could be bound to a wheelchair during their recovery. The more a grateful person examines all of the positive things they have in their life, the more grateful and positive they become.
This Attitude of Gratitude will slowly, but surely seep into all aspects of a grateful person’s life. Though it may start by seeing the good in seemingly negative situations, they will eventually start seeing the good in more common situations as well. When they go to check the mail, they will give thanks for the weather, be it sunshine or rain, because the environment needs both. When they are stopped at a traffic light, they take time to appreciate their car that makes commuting so comfortable, because they could be standing at a bus stop in the cold without a coat. When they are waiting in line at the grocery store, they are grateful for the farm workers who labored so that they could have fresh fruit in the middle of the winter, rather than complaining about the lady writing a check in front of them. When you start looking for things to be grateful for, you’ll see them everywhere.
As a person’s Attitude of Gratitude grows, so too does their optimism. Before long, they are not only seeing the good in every situation, but they are also expecting that they will find good in every situation. This positive perspective leads them to look forward in anticipation to the upcoming events in their lives. They no longer dread Monday mornings, but instead look forward to Monday mornings because they believe that good can and will come from every situation they encounter.
So, I guess the cliché “happiness is a choice” isn’t as accurate as it could be.
Instead of directly “choosing to be happy”, you “choose to be grateful”. This creates a snowball effect that leads to having an overwhelmingly positive and optimistic perspective towards everything you do, which will in turn result in a perpetually happy state of existence.
This is why the first section in the Posifocus Perspective App is “Gratitudes”. By specifically listing out at least one thing that you are grateful for every single day, your Attitude of Gratitude will become more powerful. Just like a physical muscle, your attitude must be exercised in order for it to become stronger. A strong, positive attitude empowers a lifestyle of meaningful priorities, which leads to peak productivity and authentic relationships. Nothing can make you happier than working towards, and accomplishing, tasks that positively impact the most important people and aspects in your life.
In short, a grateful attitude not only makes you relaxed, confident, peaceful, and easy to be around, but it is the foundation upon which all productive and fruitful lives are built.
That said, be grateful. Grateful people are happy.
Posifocus Mantra #2
Grateful People are Happy.
Do others consider you an optimist or a pessimist? Do you regularly feel like you are in control of your emotions? What would your life be like if you could find joy in every situation?
Write down ten things you are grateful for right now. Then write down fifteen more. Use the Posifocus app to keep track and see if you can list 100 things you are grateful for in the next week and log how your emotional state shifts.
Join the Posifocus Group and share your thoughts and experiences with the Posifocus Community! Use the hashtag #gratefulpeoplearehappy.