January 16, 2019

Happiness Mindset: Make It A Happy New Year

By Brigit Atkin


I once listened to a stand-up comedian joke about a burglary scheme he wanted to try. He wanted to break into houses in a neighborhood and steal, but instead of taking valuable televisions and electronics, he just wanted to steal the remote controls. Afterward, he planned to drive around that neighborhood and look in the windows so he could laugh at everyone’s frustration at not being able to change the channel—a real prankster! There is actually some truth for each of us in this comic routine: We often give others the remote control to our happiness.


“Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be,” said Abraham Lincoln. It isn’t what happens to us in life that determines our happiness so much as how we react to what happens. There are many things that are outside our control; however, we can always control our thoughts about those things. If, for example, you lose your job, you get to choose how you respond. You may view the circumstance as the opportunity to start that new business you’ve been contemplating, or you might decide that you must be stupid, incompetent, or unneeded. If these unhealthy thoughts continue, the result will be drastically different and completely unhappy.

Carolyn Cooper, founder of SimplyHealed™, often refers to the following sequence that determines a person’s happiness: A) an event takes place; B) a person has a belief about what just occurred; C) a consequential result occurs based on that belief. She uses the example of a football game where one team loses and one team wins. It is the same event, but there are two very different outcomes. Your reaction will vary, depending on which team you are on.


Choosing to be happy can be one of the greatest challenges of life. Maturity means taking responsibility for your own happiness and choosing to be grateful for what you have instead of focusing on what you lack. There is always a reason to be grateful for what we have right now, even if it’s nothing more than knowing you are learning an important life lesson. Gratitude is key to happiness. Always start right where you are, and be truly thankful in your circumstance. Remember that on the other side of this problem is an undoubtedly more resilient and wise person of strength.

Watch your thoughts vigilantly, knowing what to keep and what to discard. It seems to be human nature to remember an insult for years and forget a compliment we received just yesterday. If we aren’t careful, this mindset will train us to become garbage collectors, carrying around trash that was thrown at us years ago. Being happy can be hard work. It’s like maintaining a nice home—you’ve got to keep your treasures and toss the junk.


This new year, may we all maintain full ownership of the remote control to our own joy. Thieves may try to break in and steal, but we have the power to keep our happiness safe. Remember, there’s a lesson in everything—if you’re looking for it.


“Happiness is a direction, not a place.”

Sydney J. Harris


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