What Choosing Happiness Really Means

“The whole world, from the least to the greatest, must know the truth, so that man may understand the great laws that govern his life.  He must learn to control his own destiny, to heal his own body and bring happiness to his own soul.”

Ernest Holmes

I remember the first time someone said to me, “Happiness is a choice.”  To be quite honest, it made me angry.

At that time in my life, I was about as far away from happiness as a person can get . . . so far away that I could not even imagine what it would be like to be happy for even one day, much less as a way of life.  There were too many obstacles to my happiness – too many people who were doing this or that “to me” or to people I loved; too many responsibilities that I had to uphold; too many memories that would not fade; too much pain; and too much sorrow.  It was all just too much . . . too much for me to be happy.

All this being the case, surely you can imagine how it would make me angry for someone to say to me that “Happiness is a choice.”  It was as though they were saying that I was somehow responsible for it all — that the circumstances of my life and the thoughts that haunted me were of my own doing . . . that the hell I found myself living in was of my own creation.  “How absurd!,” I thought.

While I have not always had high self-esteem or confidence, what I have had (for as long as I can remember) is the ability to look inside myself and to know my own heart.  I knew that I had a good heart; that my intentions were always (or almost always) “good” intentions; and that I cared much more about the happiness of the people around me than my own.  While my moral fiber might not have always been thick enough for the stone casters’ approval, I felt comfortable that my heart was almost always in the right place.  No, my unhappiness and sorrow had to come from somewhere else.

So, I looked somewhere else.  I looked everywhere else but inside myself for the cause of my suffering and for the origin of my circumstances.  It was easy to do – to look outside myself for the sources of my unhappiness.  There were people in my life who embraced misery as their most reliable companion; and, as we all know, misery is contagious. There were plenty of “takers” in my life; there were plenty of unfortunate circumstances that were ostensibly beyond my control; and, of course, there was always the memories of my childhood.  With so many barriers standing between me and happiness, how in the world could anyone believe that I was simply not choosing to be happy?  Absurd!

Photo by Scott Liddell

It was a way of thinking . . . a belief system . . . that had become my way of Being.  I had come to identify myself with the idea that I could not choose to be happy because there were too many things that made me unhappy; and they were all beyond my control.

It was a heavy load, this way of thinking . . . this way of Being.  And it was a load that became too heavy for me to carry.  There came a day when the pain and sorrow of my unhappiness consumed me; and I made the decision that I could not live that way another day.   By all accounts, the consequence of that decision should have been fatal; but for reasons I can only speculate about, it was not.  And that experience . . . the experience of being given one more chance to choose happiness. . . has made all the difference.

In the stillness of slumbering consciousness, something was awakened within me; and, when I returned to my life, I knew —  from a place deep in my heart — that I did not have to live that way another day; and the choice had been mine all along.  As Percival once recognized, the effect does not always follow the cause immediately and the harvest comes well after the seed is planted.  But I planted the seed that day. I made the choice to be happy . . . to be the person I wanted to be . . . and to live the life I could still live.

In my case, choosing to be happy was the beginning of what would become a long and, at times, arduous journey that led me through the cold, dark night of the soul.  In the course of it all, the dragon was awakened from within my unconscious; and it is a dragon that nearly destroyed me.  I continue the process of taming it, even today.  But the dragon’s fury has subsided, and I see it for what it is . . . more with each passing day.

I emerged, quite some time ago, into the dawn of happiness; and I have never regretted the choice I made . . . the choice to be happy.

There are those people who will always prefer to be certain that they are miserable, rather than to risk being happy.  And the process of making the changes that need to be made within them and in their lives will be changes they cannot bring themselves to make.  My heart goes out to these people with deep compassion.

Fear is a powerful force – one that cannot be overcome by courage alone.  To face our greatest fears requires faith and trust in a higher power . . . something greater than our humanity.  It requires strength and wisdom; and, often, it requires surrender.  Not everyone will be prepared to surrender when surrender is what is necessary.  Others surrendered long ago, but it was a surrender to suffering.  I, of all people, can empathize with these lonely souls.  If you come upon one of them (and you surely will) try your best to show them compassion.  Try to understand them.

But, understand this, as well – for it applies to each and every one of us alike.  If we can have faith, if we can trust, and if we so choose, we can be happy.  Happiness IS a choice!

It is a choice that requires much of us; but it is, nonetheless, a choice.  Choosing happiness requires us to, first, know ourselves – to discover why we feel the things we feel, why we believe the thoughts we believe, and why we have been accepting unhappiness.  It requires us to accept responsibility for the choices we make and to change those aspects of our lives that clearly cause us pain.

Sometimes, it means letting go of relationships that are toxic, regardless of who is to “blame” for the toxicity of the relationship.  It might mean changing jobs, changing locations, and changing friends.  It will always mean changing our attitude and this will not happen overnight.

Choosing happiness means establishing healthy boundaries; confronting those aspects of our unconscious that demand our attention, including our shadow; choosing our words more carefully; taking action where action is needed and being still when stillness is required; and it means turning to our higher power for the strength and wisdom to meet our destinies.  And, more than anything, choosing happiness means understanding what happiness truly entails and what it does not.

Choosing to be happy does not mean that we always get exactly what we want.  It means trusting that our lives are unfolding in ways that will always contribute to our overall, long term happiness and giving Life room to move.  Choosing to be happy does not mean that everyone we come into contact with will love and respect us.  It means that we love and respect ourselves, and we understand that we simply cannot please all of the people, all of the time; which is okay.

Happiness means having gratitude for all that we have in our lives at this moment because all of it means something . . . all of it has value.  Life is a gift, a treasure of  incalculable worth; and it is a treasure that is ours to do with what we will.

Photo by Michaela Kobyakov

Choosing to be happy is a choice we make, not once in a lifetime, but over and over again.  With each word we speak, with each action we take and when we refrain from action all together, with each thought we let take root in our mind and each emotion we feed with those thoughts . . . with all these things, we shape our minds and mold the circumstances of our lives.

We are all artists, and Life is our canvas. 

What we choose to create is up to us. 

While we are never alone in the endeavor, it is a choice – this thing we call happiness, a choice that each of us has to make.  It is a choice that I finally made in my own life and that I continue to make every single day of my life.  It is not always easy; and I am not always wise in how I go about it.  But I listen . . . and I am guided back on to the right path when I find myself lost and afraid.

Happiness is a choice that belongs to us all – the privilege that accompanies free will.  It is a privilege, however, that comes with responsibility.

I hope, with all of my heart, that you will choose happiness; and that, once you do, you will make it your business to share as much of that happiness with those around you as possible.

I hope, with all of my heart, that you will find within yourself the spark of divinity that shines eternally and that you will let your Glow Flow wherever you go.

© 08/25/12

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  1. Gosh, it’s funny, I got offended the first time I heard that about choosing to be happy too. Once I realized it was true, I felt guilty for causing my own unhappiness. Heh. Eventually, I came to accept that there may be times that I’m unhappy, but to embrace it instead of feeling guilty about it. And, in the midst of being unhappy, to remind myself that there is always something to be grateful for. Then, I try to focus on gratitude. Thanks for this thoughtful post.

    • Lori, thank you for reading and commenting. Gratitude is, indeed, such an important part of the happiness equation. In fact, I attribute the fullness in my heart (the core of my happiness) to gratitude. Have a beautiful week and keep letting your Glow Flow. Blessings, love & light, Sloan

  2. Well, you know I love this, right.

    It’s a gorgeous post, Sloan!

  3. I remember surprising someone with my words – most of us choose to be unhappy even when happiness is just another choice.
    If had read this post 6 months ago I would have taken it for granted. But now I do believe because I have started experiencing bliss. The surprising fact is that I am going through the toughest times in my life, but I have never been so peaceful! Instead of complaining about what I don’t have I am just grateful for the blessings which many others lack.

    • Thank you for sharing your wonderful personal experience. Gratitude is, indeed, one of the most important aspects of happiness. Keep letting your Glow Flow! Blessings, love, & light, Sloan


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