The Pursuit of Happiness Is Not Just Your Right, It's Your Responsibility!
By Ricky Powell
You may think the pursuit of happiness, as our forefathers mentioned in the Declaration of Independence, is that of a selfish search. However, quite to the contrary, I believe it is one of the most selfless quests an individual can undertake.
Although you may not realize it, being happy, or at the very least acting happy, are the ultimate win-win behaviors you can assume. Why? Think about it. When you reflect on all of the people in your life, which folks tend to make you feel good? The miserable ones? Of course not, happy people tend to make us feel better. When you are at work, do you like being around others who do nothing but criticize, complain and belittle others? Most likely, you enjoy working side by side with people who have a positive outlook on life and are able to find the good in others and in most situations.
By the same token, guess what... most everyone else feels the same! So, ask yourself, "Am I a joy to be around?" "Do I present an aurora of happiness and well being for my kids, parents, spouse, friends, and co-workers?" If not, I strongly recommend you take a good, long, deep look within. If you haven't heard it yet, "Life is 5% what happens to you and 95% how you react to it."
On my website, one lady took my happiness survey and wrote some rather critical words about this topic. I only wish she would have left her contact information so that I could have written her back and started a dialogue about her comments. Although I was unable to do that, I am pleased to be able to respond in this article instead.
Allow me to paraphrase. First, she wrote that life is never this simplistic. She claimed that criminals are happy when they are committing their crimes. I have to disagree. While I am no expert on the criminal mind, my guess is that most of them are actually miserable. I dare say that the evil forces in the world, murderers, rapists, even terrorists, are actually not happy. This may be a generalization but I would bet in the majority of cases, it's true. Overall, I would say that happy people do not rape, pillage and murder.
Next, she wrote that happiness may well be a choice for some people, but not for everyone. She continued, "Environment, genetics and a number of other things have to be factored in and it appears you, (meaning me), ignored them. Perhaps it is because you have never known unhappiness, stress, genes with glitches, etc. If everyone were always happy, we would still be living in caves. Unhappiness with something or someone is a great motivator for change." She went on to talk about the state of the world and how we should all be unhappy with it.
I am actually so grateful she took the time to submit the survey because until I read it, quite frankly I was completely remiss in addressing these extremely important points that need to be tackled.
First, let me just say that I have had plenty of sadness and stress in my life. Haven't we all? Yet, I believe there is a difference between feeling sad over particular events taking place, versus an overall attitude of unhappiness.
At age 4, I had an older brother who ran away from home and disappeared for the next 18 years, only to show up years later for just a few fleeting moments until he left again for good. Unfortunately for my family, he was a very unhappy person.
At age 23, I lost my very best friend to a sudden genetic heart defect. We had gone through High School and College together, and I actually attribute my entire post graduate career in Entertainment to him as he was responsible for helping me land my first job out of school where we worked together side by side. He was such a powerful, positive force in my life, and touched so many others' lives, that to this day, 21 years later, not a day goes by when I don't think about and miss him terribly. He was one of the happiest people I knew and was a great inspiration in my creating a website about happiness.
Five years ago, I lost my mother prematurely. She was just 73. We were so close my entire life and after my kids came along, she was absolutely overjoyed to spoil them as much and for as long as she could. I felt horrible about losing her, and even worse that my kids would never again be able to spend time with her. As young as they were when she passed, fortunately they have nothing but wonderful memories of her and thank goodness we captured many happy events on video so that her memory can live on for generations to come. My mom, despite a very difficult life, was also one of the happiest people I have ever known.
I share all of this for no other reason than to help my anonymous visitor understand that we all have bad things happen to us. The world is full of horrible people, places and things that go on each and every day. For one to choose happiness does not mean that they are ignoring or condoning all of these atrocities. Imagine what doctors and lawyers and morticians go through every day. If they let what they see each and every day affect their ability to be happy, none of them would stand a chance.
I believe also, that she may have misunderstood the difference between 'unhappiness' and 'dissatisfied'. Human nature itself is insatiable. From the moment we are born, we are never satisfied. Radio talk show host, Dennis Prager recalled that his son's third word was "more". His order of speaking was mama, dada and more! I am sure that is something to which all of us can relate. It is this dissatisfaction that drives us to constantly improve. The caveman was not satisfied with the way things were, and thus invented the wheel. Then came the discovery of fire, and so on it goes. Did Bill Gates stop with Windows XP? No, here comes Vista. Today, the i-phone... tomorrow, the i-world! None of this has anything to do with being unhappy. That is an entirely different animal. We can be dissatisfied with the way things are and strive to make them better, but we can enjoy an inner peace and happiness while working on making the world a better place.
Genetics is a completely separate issue. There are people who suffer from chemical imbalances and other physiological anomalies, which can lead to depression, anxiety and other problems, all possible contributors to unhappiness, (some members of my family included... remember my brother?)
Thankfully, there are medications that can help people in these situations. Drugs are only part of the answer though. From what I understand, these medications are only meant to enable the patient to feel better.
It is up to each individual to go the extra step and decide that they can indeed feel happy once they have that capability of doing so through medication. This really is a topic for another discussion though. I am not a doctor. This is just my laymen's take on the subject. My point is not to minimize any of this. Clearly, there is much more that can be written and in fact, will be written for the website in the days, months and years to come.
To summarize for now though, I emphatically believe that happiness is absolutely a choice. It is the very reason that I created i-choose-happiness.com. It is truly your personal responsibility to be as happy as you possibly can. The world will be a much better place .