Happiness is less about what life is and more about what you do with it.
There will be a time in everyone’s life where we think we are at the lowest point of our lives. We think to ourselves how we will never be able to succeed and achieve what we set out to do. We pity ourselves about how miserable or unfortunate our lives have become. We see ourselves as failures, losers, and etc. The list goes on.
However, the secret to happiness is not what life is to us but what we do with it. Only those are able to accept the reality for what it is and continue to move forward or those who are able to keep their heads up even in the bleakest moment of life knows the secret to happiness.
Viktor Frankl, a famous psychologist and a Holocaust survivor who observed and analyzed how prisoners in concentration camps lived, posted the following questions in one of his most well-known books, Man’s Search for Meaning:
“Is there no spiritual freedom in regard to behavior and reaction to any given surroundings? Is that theory true which would have us believe that man is no more than a product of many conditional and environmental factors—be they of a biological, psychological or sociological nature? … Most important, do the prisoners’ reactions to the singular world of the concentration camp prove that man cannot escape the influences of his surroundings? Does man have no choice of action in the face of such circumstances?”
Here, he questioned if life or our circumstance is what entirely determines the quality of our life. His answer was plain and simple: no.
“In the final analysis it becomes clear that the sort of person the prisoner became was the result of an inner decision, and not the result of camp influences alone. Fundamentally, therefore, any man can, even under such circumstances, decide what shall become of him–mentally and spiritually.”
Man’s attitude to his existence is what determines life meaning and purpose. We can’t always choose our circumstance but we can choose is how we react to it. Frankl went on,
“And there were always choices to make. Every day, every hour, offered the opportunity to make a decision, a decision which determined whether you would or would not submit to those powers which threatened to rob you of your very self, your inner freedom; which determined whether or not you would become the plaything of circumstance, …”
If we are miserable, drowning ourselves in our sorrow or in our fate will not improve the situation instead we become what Viktor described as “the plaything of circumstance.”
Randy Pausch, author of the book, The Last Lecture, told the lessons he learned in his last few months of his life after he has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Here is what he has to said:
I can’t do anything about the fact that I am going to die. I’ve been fighting pancreatic cancer. It has now come back after surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation and the doctor told me there is nothing more to do. And I have months to live. I don’t like this. I have three little kids. Let’s be clear. This stinks. But I can’t control the cards I am dealt. Just how I played the hands. Now, if I am not morose enough for you, I’m sorry to disappoint, but I don’t choose to be an object of pity. … I am dying soon, and I am choosing to have fun today, tomorrow, and every day I have left. … You can choose to take your finite time, and energy, and effort, and you can spend it complaining, or you can spend it playing the game hard.
Our negative and depressive thoughts are not going to get us out of our misery what will is our choice to live above it and do what is necessary to make changes.
Taking Action to Change.
Happiness requires action. It doesn’t have to be THE right action. It does not have to be drastic. It might even be an extremely small action which aims at changing yourself or the circumstance or both. However, it has to be something which allows us to at the end of the day look back and feel proud that we did not succumb to our fate but actually did something to improve and take charge of our lives.
This, in short, is growth or progress. It is a key ingredient to turning our life around. And it is something we all need to do every day to cultivate hope and keep ourselves out of depression–the feeling/belief that we can’t or that we are not in control of our own lives which naturally leads us to take no action which in turn create a self-fulfilling prophecy of how we can’t.
For this very reason, even if you don’t feel like taking any action, you should challenge yourself to take it. Even if it entails you to step outside of your comfort zone, you should still do it. Even if the action does not give you any immediate joy or benefit, you should persevere it. The key is to adapt.
Remember, you can’t always control the circumstance in life. But what you can control is what you do with it. This is what determines your happiness. So get out there and take massive actions to change and grow!