woman smiling and holding a bunch of flowers

The Choice of Happiness

True happiness is a form of wisdom. When you are happy, you have true knowledge of yourself and the world around you. We’re supposed to be happy. It’s our innate gift to the world and ourselves to have a smile on our faces. The illusions of the world make it not so possible. Just looking at the perceptive pain we see in the world, one could say no one has a reason to be happy. How are we happy when earthquakes are demolishing cities, or homeless people are making their way through poverty? How can happiness be attainable when we have a job to work and a mortgage to pay? I think we have a hard time finding happiness because we put our concentration on the wrong things.

The problem with literature on happiness, in my opinion, is that it feels like happiness comes from the accumulation of things. If it’s not making sure you have the best job, house, spouse, and car, it’s about finding happiness in the habits you create. Some of us think we can find happiness in the vacations that we take. Everything feels like happiness comes from an external source. When we put this power into external factors, we miss out on the opportunity to go on a journey within ourselves to find true happiness. I can understand why we want to put the onus on ourselves to find happiness. The road to it is a pretty difficult one mentally. It is a journey worth taking.

Outside Happiness

When we look for happiness outside of ourselves, bad things happen. I could tell you from my experience of trying to find happiness in my work. I jumped from job to job trying to find something I never could find. Other examples of trying to find love outside ourselves could be getting into a toxic relationship because of the fear of loneliness, having a child in said relationship, or turning to substances like alcohol and drugs to numb the pain. In the words of the great Ms. Lauryn Hill, “How you gonna win when you ain’t right within?”

Happiness cannot come from anything outside ourselves, but a commitment that we make with ourselves regardless of what is going on outside. In this way, we cannot react negatively to what we perceive to be negative, not because we are overlooking our true feelings, but because the negativity isn’t real. Our reaction is a perception that we have toward a certain outcome. A perception that, when dedicated to seeing the good, we can change. Happiness is not something that just happens. We love it when it does, but to consistently be happy, it has to be a practice. It comes from how we think, how we talk, and how we behave around other people. 

It took me four job hops to realize that it wasn’t going to take a job to make me happy. I put too much value on the job and not on happiness itself. I went from job to job wondering when I would find a place that would fit with my values. Wondering when I’d find a manager that would fit with my working style. I had a great manager, but then it felt like I belonged. I belonged, but I couldn’t get along with my new manager. There was always something wrong with the job and it wasn’t until now that I realized the job isn’t what is going to make me happy. I have to change my perspective and make happiness happen rather than put the power into my job situation. 

If you want more happiness in your life, you must give more happiness. We give what we receive. We teach what we learn. Happiness has nothing to do with things going well, but with our ability to forgive, overlook the situation, and reach for happiness regardless. If we want happiness, we smile in the face of what we perceive is bringing us unhappiness.

Money Doesn’t Buy You Happiness

The world tells us that happiness is dependent on something or someone else. We see commercials all the time showing how much we lack and how its products are guaranteed to fill that void. It never works. Before my two-year adventure through jobs, I also found myself trying to work on my body. I grew up as a pretty chubby kid, and with hard work lost that weight in my 20s.

As I was reaching my 30s, I was gaining weight back. I found myself buying expensive supplements and exercise equipment in hopes that I regain my former glory. I just got bigger. With so much money invested in what I thought would make me happy regarding my physique, I ended up gaining 40 pounds over the pandemic. At that point, I didn’t know my body didn’t matter. My entire focus was on my body. Even with that focus, I failed to both lose weight and be happy.

I’m going to get even more vulnerable with you. I’ve had a losing battle with my hair. When I was young, I was applauded for my curly hair. Being an African American male, I had what you called good hair. Being mixed with Native American genes, I had naturally curly hair that I could do just about anything with. I could cut it low or I can let my curly fro go. I had a buzzcut, a mohawk, and cornrows.

When I got to about 24, my hair started to fade. I tried to do everything I could to keep it from going bald. Anything you can think of. I tried Rogaine. I spent $200 a month on haircare products to only see my hair completely go at around 32 years old. You could only imagine the grief I had when I lost my hair. It’s not until now that I’m realizing that I am not my hair, as I am not my body. My hair doesn’t make me the person that I am. It’s my spirit within that I express in my everyday life and these words to you make me happy. 

As a marketer, I can tell you that these companies are not looking out for your best interest. The best marketers use human psychology to convince us into buying products that we don’t need. There is nothing wrong with buying these products, but it does become a problem when we think these products are going to be a cure for our apathy.

Where Does Happiness Come From?

Happiness comes when we are free to live our values. There’s happiness when we know who we are and how we want to live our lives. From there, we work towards being the best version of ourselves possible. That involves choosing to be happy. Happiness, much like love, is an action. The more we are able to do the things that make us happy, the more we will be happy. We can’t think our way to happiness.