Happiness is not a choice – contrary to what many on the spiritual path may tell you. I acknowledge that happiness may at some point be on the menu of choice, but you cannot flip a switch and suddenly be happy. To suggest that to someone who is unhappy is ignorant and unhelpful, at best. And yet, here are four steps you can use to create a happy life…
LESSON #1: WHAT HAPPINESS IS NOT…
Happiness is an inside job, we can all agree with that. Practicing compassion, allowing time for new perspectives, awareness, growth, and most importantly love of self is essential personal work when you are in the grips of hopelessness and despair, which is par for the course especially when your life seems to be falling apart.
Rediscovering your joy while you are in the midst of chaos is not as simple as many would have you believe.
You have a big range of emotions. If you are not willing to embrace all of them, you remain trapped in your stories of self-judgment, “I’m not good enough,” and, “There must be something wrong with me,” which does not allow you to feel what you feel, or you punish yourself for what you do feel, which creates more shame.
I have found that people who are the first to tell you that “Happiness is a Choice” have adopted this philosophy as a form of spiritual elitism (“I am more spiritual than you”), or use spiritual bypassing (“rather than diving deep into what is really bothering me, I prefer to use ‘spiritual truisms’ to avoid what needs to be looked at.”)
“Happiness is not a choice. Even if attaining a state of happiness was as simple as making a choice, telling someone who isn’t happy that “happiness is a choice” is about as helpful as teaching someone how to fish by telling them there are fish in the sea.” – Zero Dean, Author of “Lessons from the Path Less Traveled”
The false representation that happiness is a choice is dismissive to someone in pain, and that someone oftentimes is you! If you believe that you can just decide to be happy and you are not, that leaves so much room for feelings of “I am less then,” and “there is something wrong with me.” Choosing compassion and allowing forgiveness is the most self–loving thing you can do.
“Not everyone will understand your journey. That’s Fine, it’s not their journey to make sense of, it’s yours.” – Zero Dean
Why would you want to deny your feelings? Because the truth scares you. It may mean making necessary changes to your life. You dislike being uncomfortable (it doesn’t feel good), so you avoid listening to your heart – at much cost to your sense of aliveness, and to the possibility of having new, beneficial experiences in your life.
As humans, we cling to that which makes us feel secure – the known and the familiar. Most people do not like the feeling of free-falling with no clear direction or plan, so it is avoided at all costs. So, when events shake up our life, we respond with fear and anxiety, which casts a big shadow on our happiness.
LESSON #2: LEARNING TO ACCEPT LIFE KNOWING THAT YOU ARE NOT IN CONTROL IS ESSENTIAL TO HAPPINESS
In my world, it is not kind, loving, nor compassionate to yourself, or anyone else for that matter, to suggest happiness is as simple as a choice. It takes time, patience, and a committed willingness to embrace your fears (which is very difficult… as you just want your fear to go away) when you are experiencing dark times in your life. Acceptance that you are not happy without self–judgment and guilt are two very important components to emotional wellbeing.
You have a unique journey. Your soul knows what it needs to grow and evolve, and sometimes that requires you to experience less than happy times as you rediscover your evolving needs and values, which is crucial to your happiness.
Allowing life to take you where you need to go, surrendering and accepting the mystery, not fighting with reality, and knowing that you are not in control are big components to rediscovering happiness.
What does it mean to not be in control? Life has a way of shaping you to where your soul is calling for growth. Outer events in the world and your response to them is crucial to your sense of joy.
Shit happens and sudden changes shake up our lives, but if you can allow the idea that life is working for you, not against you, it will free you up to allow new awakenings and greater faith in your life. Accepting that you are not in control is so very important in dealing with life’s challenges. This doesn’t mean it is fun, only necessary.
LESSON #3: ATTITUDE MATTERS
Bear with me as I repeat myself in an effort to make this really clear:
The idea that happiness is a choice is spiritual rhetoric. Quite frankly, it really annoys me! The concept that I can just choose happiness is a big one in the spiritual circles, and encourages a holier than thou attitude that just reeks of “I have got all the answers.”
What is spirituality if not compassion, love, and the ability to support those who have lost their joy? Life is not in our control (we have already established that), but we can decide to surrender to the flow of events in our life with trust and faith… choosing to have the best attitude possible to invite happiness to return. That takes time to develop within yourself after you have been thrown into the pits of hell. Surrender does not mean giving up, it means recognizing that there are forces beyond your control. Sometimes, feeling like a victim is part of the journey, but don’t get stuck there.
LESSON #4: WE CREATE OUR LIFE WITH SOURCE…GOD, SPIRIT, UNIVERSE… (whatever word works for you) INTENTION, INTENTION, INTENTION IS KEY
We can CREATE our happiness, but how do we do that? We can, and hopefully will, take responsibility for our attitudes, intentions, and choose actions that will be supportive, which are essential to bringing forth a new life. Allow me to explain further.
I had no clue who I was anymore, like so many people before me that hurt. Leaving my entire life caused me to question everything I believed to be true. My entire life changed as I dissolved into nothingness (akin to the caterpillar turning into the butterfly), waiting for the hope of a good life to return.
I had no idea the journey would be so filled with self–doubt and disillusionment. I learned trust and faith (still learning), and decided that my life was a co–creation with my source. My heart and soul are leading me to a new life, and I feel I have NO CHOICE but to listen if I want to remain true to myself.
When it is time to follow the calling of your soul, you can ask a lot of questions, but the answers are unclear and confusing… until they are not. You know in your heart that surrendering to the deep inner voice inside of you is the only way you can live once you have made the decision with intention to become more of who you truly are.
When happiness and self-love become your priority, the fear cannot live where there is a strong intention and commitment to truth.
Commitment to your path is a key element when you have made the decision to reinvent your life. Life responds in ways we cannot understand logically when we set our intentions to be more than we have been and rediscover our inner happiness genie… who is awaiting our decision to bring about a new life.
This extract first appeared on the author’s [email protected]RobinJillian.com and is used with permission. Her memoir “Hugging Trees in the Dark… Finding the Courage to Free the Heart” is now available on Amazon and her podcasts and blogs can be found at www.robinjillian.com and awakenradio.net.