We talk often of choosing happiness. Countless blog articles, podcasts, and other resources exist on the subject, but what does choosing happiness really look like? How can you actually do it?
It sounds so easy: Just choose to be happy! Just choose. That’s it. No further explanation—as if merely deciding to be happy is all it takes. It’s no wonder we get frustrated when it doesn’t work out like that—at least, not for long.
The Root of Happiness
All happiness has a source; a root. These roots often form in our subconscious, and we don’t even realize they’re there, affecting our joy. Some of the places we plant happiness are:
- In the future. If we can only make it to the next destination, we’ll find happiness.
- In expectations. If this thing happens, we’ll be able to relax and be happy.
- In other people. If so-and-so behaves this way, we’ll be happy.
We expect things of the future, of circumstance, and of other people, and too often feel entitled to the outcome we desire. The problem is, these things are beyond our control. When we attach our happiness to them, our ability to “choose” falters.
William Shakespeare said, “Expectation is the root of all heartache.” When things don’t go as we expect, we fall apart, along with our resolution to “just be happy”.
It’s time to let go. Realize that you are not entitled to a specific outcome. When you release your expectations of future events, others, and even sometimes yourself, a weight lifts from your shoulders: you’re no longer attempting to harness something you can’t control.
And you’re free. Free to choose not only to be happy, but also where the source of your happiness lies.
The Real Secret to Choosing Happiness
Paul wrote that he’d learned to “be content in all things” because his focus was not on the future, other people, or even on himself—it was on what he’d already been able to accomplish and how God had continually taken care of him.
When you learn to attach your happiness to blessings you already have and things you’ve already accomplished, rather than constantly looking elsewhere, you’ll find the act of “choosing happiness” becomes easier. It’s simply a shift of focus.
Instead of looking at your to-do list and thinking, “I’ll be so happy when I’m finally done”, focus on the fact that you’ve already accomplished a quarter of the things you’ve set out to do. Rather than relying on your friend’s behavior to dictate your happiness, be thankful for the friends you have in your life.
The practice of choosing happiness is a continual process of letting go, over and over again; of deliberately changing your focus until it becomes a second nature.
Today I want you to start by being conscious of where you root your happiness. Then look around and make a list of ten things you’re grateful for: things you have right now. Choose to focus on those things and watch your joy increase.
- Do you struggle with “choosing happiness” on a regular basis?
- Have you been attaching your source of joy to the wrong things?
- How has letting go of expectation and shifting your focus helped you be more joyful?