Last week at work, conversation came up about this topic. I was telling some of my colleagues in the office about a recent decision me and my wife took in relation to her career. All of a sudden, one of my colleagues looks at me and asks the million-dollar question:
How do you be happy, do you think, John?
Now, me being a very sociable and grounded – as described by another colleague some months ago – person, falling for this type of conversation is something I can never help. (I don’t mind small-talk, don’t get me wrong. But well, read my Mission Statement! This whole website if built upon it). I took a deep breathe, and well… answered the question.
I won’t go into my firm belief of how our human brains are like a lab of chemical reactions. And how the results are often a bunch of fumes and explosions, as chaotic and confusing as the emotions they produce. Happiness, depression, anger, envy, fear… Anyway, that was not my answer in the office.
‘Happiness is accepting your current life situations, whatever they are,’ was my initial answer.
To which my colleague promptly replied, ‘So you don’t think one should work on getting better?’
Well, I’m not a journalist… going into the 30-minute conversation line by line is beyond the scope of this blog.
So, no. Of course not! Accepting your current life situation doesn’t mean you don’t try to change it. There’s a fine line between knowing the difference, however. A famous prayer I really like goes something like this:
God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the Courage to change the ones I can, and the Wisdom to know the difference.
See, simple, no? Yes, yes, ok fine. Some examples:
- For the last five years or so, I have been playing football every Monday with my friends. I love it, I enjoy it, I… well, just read this. I cannot say I haven’t improved my tactical and physical skills in the sport. To put it into perspective, however, I went from a 4/10 to a 5/10. Yes, I just happen to suck at majorly all kind of sports (though I’m a 7/10 when it comes to table-tennis). Am I sad about this fact? No. Did I work hard on changing it? Yes. Did i improve, considering the amount of time (weekly for about five years) I spent working on improving it? Of course not. Does it make me sad? Not really. Why? Because I have accepted my limitation.
- ‘My father died when I was 18 years old,’ I told the same colleague, when she asked me: ‘What have you accepted in your life, for example?’ And that’s true. I could try everything to bring my father back, but I don’t want to. Does that mean I do not miss him? Hell yea I do! I still listen to this and cry, sometimes. Yet I have accepted the limitation, the fact that I cannot change this experience and all its repercussions. Denying it, or escaping from its reality, never brought any solace. (I could go on forever telling you how crucial a part my relationship with God played in helping me accepting it… but let us leave that for another time, okay?)
- A few paragraphs above, and also here, I said I’m a people person, and very sociable. Some have described me as quite an extrovert character. That’s a fact. Another fact is: I was not always like this. To the contrary, my first 16 years of life were spent being very introvert and shy. As I left secondary school, I started to change. Not overnight, of course. There were a lot of encouraging friends and family members behind this change, to be sure; and a lot of help from the great G upstairs. What surely was not lacking, however, was my decision to change. So, did I work on becoming less shy? Yes. Why? Because I wasn’t too happy about how I was, and because the more I changed the happier I became. Granted. Did I manage to change, in the end? Well, suffice to quote my younger sister who still says something on these lines, nowadays:
“People used to call you my brother. Now, when people meet me – sometimes for the first time – they often tell me ‘You’re John’s sister, aha!’ “
There are other things I have failed in changing, and others which I have succeeded. So, look, do try. But don’t waste a lot of your precious time trying too hard. If it’s do-able, it won’t be too hard and it will only keep getting easier – trust me. You’ll start feeling you are not changing into somebody else, but into a new you (and there’s a big difference between those two, be very very careful). On the other hand, if it feels too hard, then it most probably isn’t do-able.
Happiness is not whether you fail or succeed to change a situation, reach a goal, or pass an exam. Happiness is in accepting the result, irrelevant of whether it’s success or failure. One last thing: I cannot close this blog without recommending the best helper I’ve had in life: Jesus Christ as God. But then again, it’s a free world and your life is yours.
Don’t waste it!