Can we choose to be happier?
Many of us pay attention to big choices in our lives: “What will I do for work? Will I get married? Will I have children? Where will I make my home? What is my calling?” These are all very important and have a significant impact on where we find ourselves physically and emotionally.
Today, though, I want to explore the smaller choices we face in every moment of every day. Most likely we think little about them, often making small choices without mindfulness or deliberation…sometimes even without the awareness we are choosing. Yet psychological research has shown us that these small choices are just as important as the big ones.
Our well-being and happiness very much depend our momentary choices. To choose is to create. Our choices create our reality. Small choices can make a world of difference!
In her book The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want, best-selling author and prize-winning psychology professor Sonja Lyubomirsky explains that, on average, our well-being can be seen as three parts of a pie:
- 50% of our well-being is determined by our genes or very early experiences (things we don’t really have control over); this is our Genetic Set Point.
- Another 10% is determined by demographic variables such as where you live, marital status, income, health, etc.—our Life Circumstances. Many people pursue goals here, mistakenly thinking better life circumstances will have a large impact on their level of happiness and well-being.
- The remaining 40% is determined by our thoughts, actions, choices, attitudes—our Intentional Activities. We can/should focus here. “Will I exercise? Will I play with my children? Do I strive to achieve goals?
Am I grateful? Do I look on the bright side? Do I have/seek nurturing relationships? Do I experience and savor joyful moments?”
Think about this third slice of the pie for a moment…our small everyday choices have a large impact on our overall life happiness. Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar, a leading educator in the field of Positive Psychology, reminds us: “At every moment in your life you have a choice. Moments add up to a lifetime; choices add up to a life.”
So choice really is a game changer!
We can choose…
to focus on faults OR
to find benefits
to take things for granted OR
to appreciate the good around us
to perceive failure as a catastrophe OR
to understand failure is a learning opportunity
to run away from challenges OR
to courageously face challenges
to be cynical and sarcastic OR
to be open and sincere
to reject/suppress difficult emotions OR
to accept and fully experience emotions
to be mean and dismissive OR
to be kind and understanding
to gloss over the world around us OR
to be mindful of life’s treasures and wonders
Why not begin now? Take a moment to think about these powerful choices, then decide how you will face the next small decision you make today.
Repeat and practice.
Choose to be happier.