Sometimes I forget who’s in charge. It doesn’t matter who I’m with, who I’m married to, who my children are, who my friends are, who I work for, what’s happening around me, how much money I have or don’t have, how fat or thin I am . . . or whatever. I am in charge of how I feel! I am in charge of my own happiness. No one can make me unhappy except me. So when I ask, “Who’s in charge here?” The answer is, “I am.”
You ask, “Are you kidding me?”
No. I’m absolutely serious.
I cannot control what happens around me. I cannot control what other people do or what they say. But I can control how I react to it and I can control, to some extent, who I spend my time with. I can control what I accept or reject and what I think about.
It is easy to fall into the trap of complaining, over reacting, gossiping, playing the blame-game, and playing “can you top this” in terms of who has it the worst. With practice, you can learn to avoid that and to to shut out much of the negativity that is spewing around you.
Have you ever heard the little saying some children use now and then, “You’re not the boss of me?” Well, I have no boss when it comes to how I feel. So if I feel bad, sad, down or indifferent, I’m responsible.
I’m not saying that there are never circumstances that cause you to react in the moment and create sadness, grief, fear—a negative reaction in the present. It’s hard to sing and be joyful when you’ve lost your job or your child is ill or you just smashed your finger with the hammer or crashed your car. You deal with what’s at hand the best you can and return yourself to a happy frame of mind as soon as you can.
Happiness is a state of being, a state of mind, a way of thinking and feeling over the long term and it gets easier to sustain the more you practice it. Notice the word “practice.”
So what are the steps to creating and maintaining a state of happiness? How do I learn to choose to be happy on a regular basis?
1. Be aware—pay attention to your thoughts. If you are always expecting the worse thing to happen, that is what you will notice and that is what you will react to. If you are expecting the best things to happen, you will notice those. If you are thinking “poor me” you will feel put upon and less-than (like Eeyore in Winnie the Pooh). If you are thinking, “lucky me” you will become “lucky you.” You set the tone for how you react by the thoughts you think. Pay attention.
2. Make a decision—In most situations you have a chance to make a decision about how you will react. (Even in disasters you can make a decision) Are you going to over react and pitch a fit? Or are you going to pull yourself together and remain on the high road? Are you going to remain calm and gather all the facts and see all sides before you jump in with both feet. Many people are injured every year by jumping to conclusions. Don’t be one of them
3. See the big picture—The moment may be tough but the total hour/day/week/month/year/life may be fabulous. Don’t get lost in the bad moment.
4. Shut out as much negativity as possible—Choose your friends well. Monitor what comes in over the radio, TV, phone, etc. Don’t buy in to the negative. Yes, there are troubles in the world. Letting them infect and affect you will not solve the world’s problem.
You’re in charge here. The payoff of choosing happiness is really big.
Note: This article has been revised since it was first posted in October of 2013.