March 27, 2019
Happiness is often described as a fleeting, subjective feeling that we experience only if we get something or somewhere. An implicit consequence of this definition is that it makes happiness unattainable for a lot of people. Considering it’s not possible to always get what we want, does that mean we have no choice but to be unhappy a lot of the time?
William Ury, author and international negotiation expert, writes in his book Saying Yes To Yourself, that happiness is actually inside of us.
…happiness is not something to be pursued outside us, but it is actually something that we make inside.
Micaly Csikszentmihalyi, psychologist and author of Flow concluded, after researching and interviewing hundreds of people for years, that happiness seems to be more about how you interpret things than about you experience them:
What I discovered was that happiness is not something that happens. It is not the result of good fortune or random chance. It is not something that money can buy or power command. It does not depend on outside events, but, rather, on how we interpret them.
Shawn Achor, author, researcher, and psychologist, in his book The Happiness Advantage concurs with Csikszentmihalyi on the interpretation of happiness:
I started to realize how much our interpretation of reality changes our experience of that reality. The mental construction of our daily activities, more than the activity itself, defines our reality.
Even in extreme circumstances, this approach of choosing to be happy can be extremely powerful. Viktor Frankl, a neurologist, psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, wrote in his book Man’s Search for Meaning:
Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.
Perhaps this idea makes happiness more attainable for everyone. If unhappiness is but an option, maybe we can figure out a way to not choose it. How will you try to create happiness?
Hi. My name is Xavier. I'm a software engineer living in NYC. I currently lead engineering at Heroic and previously worked at startups like Codecademy and Venmo. I write about my experience in the software industry, happiness, and productivity.
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