Is Happiness A Choice?

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If happiness is a choice, why do so many people not “choose” to be happy?

We have all heard it before; first be happy & grateful for what you have and the rest will come. I admit, I have heard this many times before and even read books on this topic; “Happiness Is A Choice”, “The Happiness Advantage” and even watched a documentary titled “Happy” (which I highly recommend!)

But can you be grateful without the possibility or fear of losing something? Do you have to scare yourself to appreciate the gift of the present because it could disappear? Is that why grateful lists are powerful – they remind you of everything you have to lose?

Great perspective has not come from trying to scare myself into what it would be like to lose something. It has actually come from packing up all of my belongings and moving from my surroundings. I have done this a lot  in the last 10 years. I have moved across Canada and to the other side of the world and it has reaffirmed what is important because it reminds me that time is limited.

My first BIG move to Ho Chi Minh City provided me with perspective on Canada’s health care, government and how great we have it here. In Canada, I have never been worried that I may not receive top of the line medical care or that the police would wipe away a crime if I paid them off. I remember several times we were pulled over and asked for a bribe vs being written a ticket. We also got into a motorbike accident and went to the hospital and iodine was put on all of my wounds (I am not sure how old this technique is but it seems ancient!). When these basic “rights”  were being taken away, it became that much easier to appreciate and be grateful for what I had in Canada.

More recently, I made the move from the Maritimes to the West Coast;  5,733km away from my partner and our 11 year old dog, our friends and life as I knew it. Going back to visit always gives me a glimpse of how great we really had it in the East Coast; the cost of living, the pace of life, family values and all of the things I had taken for granted. Don’t get me wrong, I love the West Coast now and can’t imagine being anywhere else but I have a much deeper appreciation for the East Coast now that I have left.

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For some reason, it gets real when you pack up everything you know and love and you leave it behind. So the question I have been pondering is how do you appreciate what you have without losing or leaving it?

My whole life, I have been in a state of wanderlust. I had gone through  phases where I had a deep sense of restlessness because I felt something was missing. As soon as I got to my new destination, my perspective would shift, I would beat ease and see the world in a different light again. I was hungry & foolish to see different parts of the world because it brought euphoria to my past and a childlike sense of wonder for the future. Now that I have made this realization, I have discovered what happiness is really about.

What I have discovered about my happiness is that, ultimately, it is a balancing act of values. If I can see how my values align with my adventure, I feel very fulfilled. Our values are the driving forces behind each decision we make. If a decision gets us closer to the values we hold, it becomes an easier decision to make and easier to be at peace with it. When these values get out of balance, this is when we realize we need to create zen again. Maybe this is why looking back or at the past is easier to find places we want to go back, because we can see what really existed and how it aligned with our values. As Steve Jobs says, the dots always connect looking backwards but never forwards.

Perhaps the lesson is to determine the RIGHT priority of things you value. Ultimately, if these are in line and in the right order, all will fall in line and maybe this is the sweet spot where true happiness comes. It is the true harmony of all values – the harmony of feeling you are in the right place at the right time that I creates lasting happiness.

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