I’ll be happy when…
Today we’re asking the question, are you happy?
Are you happy doing this challenge? Are you happy with your workouts in the gym?
Are you waiting on happiness to arrive once you achieve your goals in this challenge?
Happiness is a unique animal, and to some it seems more like a mythical unicorn. Some people seem to always have it, while others can’t seem to figure out the formula to achieve it. We have completely different things that make us happy in this world, but we can all agree that we all share the goal of “being happy” in our lives.
The biggest difference I see between the happy and those longing for it, is the simple realization that happiness is a choice you choose each day.
Viktor Frankl, the renowned psychiatrist and Nazi death camp survivor who wrote one of the greatest books ever, “Man’s Search For Meaning,” says it best, “Happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue. One must have a reason to be happy.” His message is that happiness occurs when your attitude decides it does. When you decide your life has meaning through purposeful work, love, and courage through difficulty, you will live a fulfilled, happy life.
So here’s the spoiler alert for Day 40 of our challenge… if you’re looking for a specific result to make you happy, you’ll most likely be let down and unhappy. This isn’t to say you’ll fall short of your goals, it’s to say true happiness doesn’t like ultimatums.
This week the 2022 Winter Olympics begin in Beijing, China. There was a compelling article written in 1995 by Dr. Victoria Medvec who studied and surveyed athletes at the 1992 Summer Olympics. She found that Olympians who won a bronze medal showed significantly higher levels of happiness than those who won a silver medal.
Our simple minds think the more we achieve, the happier we will be. Our minds objectively rationalize that happiness should follow the levels of an Olympic podium. It should decrease in a defined trend line as you go from top to bottom of final placement in the field.
But happiness is 100% subjective and in the eye of the beholder. Happiness does not come from external results but instead from our internal attitudes about an event.
This is what Dr. Medvec’s study showed. She showed that silver medalists had thoughts of “what if” and questioned whether or not they could have been the gold medal winner. While the bronze medalists were mostly grateful just to make the podium spot. Bronze medalists reported higher levels of happiness because they had an attitude of gratitude.
Our happiness can’t rely on external circumstances like the money we make or the weight we lose. Happiness begins each day with our attitude and perception.
Shawn Achor wrote a great book on happiness, called “The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work.” He says, “Instead of allowing success to determine our happiness, we should first focus our energy on being happy, and success will almost always follow.” He adds, “If we look to success to make us happy then we set ourselves up to fail.”
Now don’t get this message mixed up. I, and the great minds quoted here, aren’t saying to expect less out of yourself or to temper your expectations to keep yourself happy. We’re saying there is ALWAYS something to be grateful for, in EVERY situation, if you can find it.
As it’s been said before, you can shoot for the moon, miss, and still be grateful you landed among the stars. And as Achor says, “Happiness is not the belief that we don’t need to change; it is the realization that we can.”
Similar to Dr. Frankl circumstances, Paul the Apostle faced imprisonment and impending death, yet found a way to praise God in the darkest of times. In the book of Philippians, chapter 4, verses 11-13, Paul writes,
11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through Him who gives me strength. (NIV)
“Be content whatever the circumstances,” says Paul. Paul knew that his happiness was something he could create within himself each day. He had a way of obtaining his happiness by spending time in prayer and being close to God.
It’s ok if you laughed a little at “whether well fed or hungry” and you’ve been hungry these past two weeks. But let’s get hungry for happiness. Let’s realize that happiness comes from within us and actively do something about it.
You can follow Paul’s plan of praise, or you can do what Shawn Achor taught me in 2010. Every day write down 3 things that you’re grateful for. 3 positive things that happened in your life that day. The more positive things you look for in your life, the more you will see.
It’s up to you to create the happiness you feel in your life. An external circumstance can’t grant you the true happiness that you’re seeking. It’s also not the job of your coach, your spouse, friends, co-workers, etc., to make you happy.
Two athletes can walk into the same exact workout, have the same exact physical performance for the day, have the same interaction with others, and yet one leaves happier than the other. One focuses on the positive, while the other regrets the negative. Be the athlete who finds the good in everything, and more good will come to you.