We are frequently asked two questions:
- Are you always happy?
- Are you a cheerful person by nature?
These are heavy questions, but the responses are actually rather simple: I am not always happy. Indeed, I am certain that real, true happiness is defined by our ability to experience a whole spectrum of emotions while savoring and appreciating the wonderful things in our life. (Here’s why you shouldn’t feel obligated to be thankful all of the time.)
According to science, roughly half of our natural happiness is genetically determined. And, while this may come as a surprise to some, my natural happy set point isn’t particularly high. I, like many others, need to focus on being more upbeat. It’s a never-ending endeavor, and it’s not something that comes easily.
Most people who know me as a normal person are surprised by my final response, but friends and family who know me personally are not. But here’s the thing: I believe it’s precisely this aspect of happiness that we get incorrect, and it’s also one of the largest roadblocks to living a happier life:
Our belief that happiness is something that happens to us rather than something we must strive for, persistently, continually, and with much intention, effort, and care
That’s correct. Here’s the key to happiness: it takes work to be happy. You must dedicate yourself to it, focus on it, prioritize it, and be rigorous about it.
I’ve done hundreds of presentations, speeches, and workshops, and I believe this is the portion that the audience dislikes the least. When I speak this statement, I can see the disappointment on the faces of those who are listening. They came to hear me lecture on how to be happier, and the last thing they want to hear is that there is no magic pill, no quick answers, and that happiness, like most important things in life, involves dedication and hard effort.
I completely understand your reaction. It would be fantastic if we could all be happier by doing a few simple tasks and then enjoying the results. But, much like being in shape, it requires effort to maintain your mind and spirit in form and more cheerful.
However, there is some good news:
While it is not easy to become cheerful and keep a positive attitude — it does not just happen and remain that way — it IS simple. Anyone can do it; it does not need major life adjustments or a change in identity, and it does not take a long time to see benefits
I spent a few years immersed in happiness studies before deciding to give