“A happy person is not a person in a certain set of circumstances, but rather a person with a certain set of attitudes.” (Hugh Downs)
Have you ever seen someone who was in a situation that you thought was just awful, and they were smiling? Not a fake, forced smile, but actually smiling from ear to ear. And have you ever seen someone that you thought had it all, and they look sad like they just lost their best friend? There can be a million reasons to explain one or the other, but I think one that comes up a lot is the difference in the person’s state of mind.
I really do believe that happiness is a state of mind, not a state of being. I have had times in my life when things around me weren’t going well, when I had financial hardship, or other problems, but I was still happy. And I have had times when the sun shone brightly in my life, and yet I was miserable.
Earlier this week I wrote about my own need to choose happiness more, and to be less of a miserable curmudgeon. My daughter commented on that post by saying that admitting a problem is the first step to solving it. I don’t know if she was giving me a bit of good natured ribbing or just being supportive, but either way it added to my thoughts on the matter.
As Hugh Downs reminds me in today’s quote, happiness isn’t about circumstance, but it is about attitude. When my attitude about life is in the right place, I am happier. It doesn’t matter what my circumstances may be, I will be happier because I am aligned with my own reality.
That isn’t to say that I can be happy ONLY because I choose to. There have been times in my life, and will be again, when I was quite sad or upset. Those situations are inevitable, and it takes time to process through them. But, they are also the exception. Generally speaking, in my everyday life, I am as happy as I choose to be. If I choose an attitude of happiness and contentment, then I will be content and happy. If I choose another attitude, then I will be in some other state of mind.
The other day the quote was about the “pursuit of happiness”. I sometimes think that the pursuit of happiness can be a paradox. The more that one finds themselves deep in the pursuit of happiness, the less happy they find themselves. If I spend my time and energy trying to reach for some elusive state of happiness, then I miss the opportunity to be happy in the present.
I once worked with a guy named Bob. Bob was in the last years of his work, and was coming close to retirement. I was just at the dawn of my 30s, and he was well into his late 50s. When the time came for him to announce his retirement date, I stopped by his office and told him that I was jealous of him. He was so close to the freedom of retirement, and I still had such a long way to go. As we were talking he leaned in a bit, looked me square in the eye and said “Bobby, don’t wish your life away.” Those words, and the ensuing conversation have stuck with me. Yes, I do look forward to a day when I am retired and can do all of the things I want to do, but I also value today.
Last summer I wrote about a commitment to make every day count, and this summer I renewed that commitment. As I was thinking about this post, a notion came to me that might just be an important aphorism in my life. Spend your life making every day count, don’t waste your life counting every day.
With the conclusion of this post my wife and family are off for a fun, family weekend. My attitude is renewed and fresh, and happiness is on my mind. Hope you all have a great weekend as well!