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On Being Happy

I have read in multiple places over the years that you can choose to be happy. I supposed it must be true, since so many people said it, but it also seemed rather far-fetched to me. If hard things are going on in your life, how can you be happy anyway?

So! I’m currently reading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The very first habit in the book is “Be Proactive.” Essentially what this boils down to, is become someone who is truly independent of other people and circumstances. You make the decisions – others don’t get to make them for you. This involves what he calls “re-scripting” yourself – changing the patterns you have played out your entire life, and in many cases, the patterns your parents and others taught you to play out. If “A” happens, you have always responded with “B”, but what you would really like to do is “C”, so you decide to do “C” instead of “B”. As humans, we have this ability.

The book goes into detail on this, telling the story of a man in a German concentration camp. He realized during his inprisonment, that the only freedom the Nazis could not take from him, was the freedom to choose his own response. He began to imagine himself speaking to thousands about his experiences in the concentration camp, bascially creating a reality for himself that he had no guarantee would ever happen in his life. However, it helped him survive with his soul intact. And he did get out. And he did speak to thousands.

My point is: if a guy in a concentration camp can do this, so can someone stuck in a job they don’t like. Or a mom at home with kids, doing dishes and laundry and wiping noses all day. We can decide – we have that ability.

As I considered this, I realized something. The biggest hurdle keeping me from deciding to be happy, is my sense of “rights.” For example, today. Audrey was in bed with me all night because she had fever. Hannah is cranky. My nose is running nonstop. Don’t I have a right to be frustrated? Don’t I have a right to feel like this day is a waste? Well, maybe. But what would be the purpose? To make it worse for myself? To make myself and the kids MORE miserable? To prove to Nick how hard I worked today and get his sympathy, when he comes home and I’m fried? Sounds like a good time.

Obviously we’re human – we’re going to get tired. But we all know there’s a huge difference between happy-tired and cranky-tired. 🙂

This is too hard to do in my own strength, but when I feel myself start to get off track, I can stop, take a deep breath, pray, and make my decision. New habits are hard to form, but not impossible. So, this is where I’m at.

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