It is obvious if you pay attention to the world at large, that great numbers of people are unhappy. Maybe you are unhappy. All the negative things we see happening all around us prove this out. According to one website, people change jobs an average of 12 times over the course of their working career. Another website shows the 2018 divorce rate in the U.S. to be at 50%. Out of 195 countries in the world the U.S. ranks 18th on the World happiness scale so you would think that overall, we’re a pretty happy bunch. But are we? Every time I look at any news media I see unhappiness. Shootings, robberies, war, a 50% divorce rate, and crimes of all kinds. Our prisons hold more prisoners than any other country. Are we happy?
I know I’ve written about this before but it bares repeating. Happiness has little to do with outside circumstances and almost everything to do with how we react to those circumstances. I’ve had some pretty crappy jobs over the years. One job had me shoveling carbon that was used as a filter material for chemical laden water. It was a dirty, toxic, hot, all around miserable job. I had to dress in a hazmat type suit which was horribly hot, crawl inside a metal tank through a tube which I could barely fit and shovel this filtering material out and into barrels for processing. It was not what I thought of when a grade school teacher asked my class what we wanted to be when we grew up. Not even close. One day in the middle of shoveling I contemplated the work. It was good hard labor. It kept me in the best physical shape of my life. I was lean and strong. The pay was good. And I needed that job to pay the bills and hopefully work toward a day when I didn’t have to do it any more. There were actually a lot of positive aspects for doing something Mike Rowe calls, a dirty job. While my co-workers bitched and complained about it all day long, I kept my mouth shut. While a cleaner, easier job that payed as well would be desirable, there were a lot of reasons to appreciate what I was doing. (It was at this point when I meant to click the preview button to check my writing here and I actually clicked the publish button instead. I reacted very negatively, with much swearing, and fist pounding. I was unhappy.)
An example: My wife Ann had depression and anxiety. There were many times she felt the crushing weight of these illnesses and yet she was a happy person. Because she chose to be happy. Now I’m not an expert or even know much about mental illness. So I’m sure that I can’t speak to those issues. But I did know my wife, rather well at that. We talked about these things. She wanted me to be as informed about her depression and anxiety as I could be. And I wanted that as well. Not only were we married but we were best friends. I was the one she turned to in her darkest hours. In spite of all the things that could have gotten in the way of her happiness she decided to be happy. To enjoy her life to the fullest extent possible. Mental illness aside, she was a lot happier than many people I knew. And it was due mostly to her attitude.
There is a story that goes like this: When John Lennon was a child, one of his teachers asked his class what they wanted to be when they grew up. He answered that he wanted to be happy. His teacher suggested that he didn’t understand the question and he replied that she didn’t understand life. Whether or not this is true, I can’t say. But it does say something about life. Whatever you “do” in life, happiness is the foundation of all of it. Maybe you clean toilets for a living, and maybe you’re the CEO of a successful company. But if you’re not happy, what difference does it make what you do? Success cannot be measured by how much prestige, or wealth you gain. It can only be measured in what it brings to you in personal satisfaction. Happiness. How you see the world around you, whether or not you look for the positive aspects, can mean all the difference between misery and happiness.
I know I sound like a self help guru here but it really is up to us to make ourselves happy. Outside circumstances have an affect on us, this is true. How we react to those circumstances makes all the difference.