A must for harnessing your Happiness is taking responsibility for it.
In Happiness 101, we have four rules: no blame, no shame, no guilt and no complaining. These were dubbed the Happiness Robbers but Marci Shimoff in her book Happy For No Reason. The earmark of a Happiness Robber is avoidance of full responsibility, opting instead to be mired down in victim hood. It is important to clarify that there IS a time and place for blame, shame, guilt and complaining. But when they are used as excuses to avoid taking responsibility for your life and your Happiness. This can be easier said than done. On the one hand, taking full responsibility means that you have the power to make changes and that can feel VERY empowering. However, this also means that IT’S ALL ON YOU to make choices that will make you happy. Let’s face it: it is easier and more convenient to blame our spouse, our boss or our friends for our predicament. The price we pay, however, is remaining stuck and feeling helpless – a victim.
You might say “Oh, but I REALLY do not have control over this situation. I am stuck and there is nothing I can do.” The answer is the serenity prayer. If you have never heard it, I offer it to you now:
“Grant me the serenity, to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” So, if I am blaming my unhappiness on the recession, then I am powerless to be happy because the economic state of the nation is beyond my control. However, I AM in control of my personal finances and I am in control of my attitude. Sometimes what we have control over may be in question. Do you have control over your spouse, your boss or your friends? No. Our sphere of direct control is really quite limited. Of course we can help or hinder various processes through our behavior, but do we honestly have control? For instance, I can work hard, always show up for work and laugh at all of the bosses jokes, but does that mean I will get the promotion? Maybe but maybe not. We can do things in hopes of achieving a certain result, but many times that hoped-for result is out of our control.
I know. This can be very challenging to think about how limited your control really is. However, in my practice as a therapist, I see people frustrated and feeling depressed because they are attempting to control something that is not within their control while ignoring the things that truly ARE within their control (Disclaimer: I am not thinking of anyone specific as I write this – promise!). If we take control of our thoughts, beliefs and behaviors, WE control our happiness.
A wonderful example of this is Nelson Mandela (see recent movie review of Invictus). Here was a man wrongly imprisoned for 27 years. I don’t think anyone would have blamed him for being bitter and/or hateful. But Nelson Mandela refused to be a victim of his oppressors. He recognized that though he was imprisoned that he was the master of his fate, the captain of his soul.
Now that you have this knowledge, I challenge you to take full responsibility for your life -AND your Happiness.
~Frank Clayton, Licensed Professional Counselor