The key to human happiness lies within our own state of mind, and so too do the primary obstacles to that happiness. – Dalai Lama
What does that mean?
This quote says it’s all in your mind. To be happy, or to not be happy. Happiness already exists within you, in your state of mind and in your attitude. If you decide you are going to be happy, are you more likely to find things that make you happy? If you have decided you are not happy, will you find more things that make you not happy? The mind is a very powerful tool, be careful how you use it.
The obstacles to your happiness are also largely in your mind. Even in areas where those of us from the “first world” would call abject poverty, there is happiness. I imagine it would be hard for us to be happy, but somehow, the residents manage to be happy. Our obstacles might include a certain minimum wealth, or certain level of amenities to qualify as happy. Aren’t those requirements purely in our mind?
Why is attitude important?
There are plenty of stories about groups of people, subjected to the same experience. Some survive and do well, others give up and die. Plane crashes, shipwrecks, the horrors of war; all give a group of people the exact same stimulus, yet somehow, the results are very different.
Our attitude, the saying goes, determines our altitude. Do we want to be happy, to be high on life? That requires an up, or positive, attitude. If we want to feel down in the dumps, it requires a down, or negative attitude, right? If you feel everyone is out to get you, you start seeing everything in your life through that filter. Not a pleasant place to be, is it?
Where can I apply this in my life?
Over the years, my attitude towards life has changed. When I was younger, my attitude often changed rapidly, even hourly, which is to be expected in the hormonally driven stages of youth. Now, I mostly try to keep an even keel and allow the waves of emotion to break over me, instead of breaking me.
Sometimes, we mistake emotional state for attitude. Sometimes an emotional state can take over and become our attitude for a brief while, but that usually doesn’t last. Allow the emotion to exist, but remember that you are separate from your emotions, and that you can feel sad without having to become sad.
Like any other habit, we will go to a ‘natural’ state by default. Some people seem to be naturally gloomy, while others seem to be naturally happy, exuberant even. I wonder how they got to be that way? What states do you normally have? Are you normally grumpy, happy, or are you something else? Have you ever thought of this before?
Take a moment and consider what you would have to believe to be constantly unhappy, gloomy, sad or some other negative state. What would you have to think about other people? What would you have to assume are their motivations and intentions are, in order to feel that way?
What would you have to think about others to have a naturally happy state? What would you have to believe about their motivations and intentions? Now consider how self-centered both the gloomy and great scenarios were. Do you think that anyone, outside your closest friends (and enemies) really think about how their actions impact you?
What I’m getting at is this: most people tend to take things far more personally than they were meant. While you were driving, did that person cut you off because they hate you and wanted to wreck you, or were they just too stupid to check their mirror and clear their blind spot?
As a rule of thumb, I try not to attribute to malice those behaviors which can be explained by carelessness, ignorance or stupidity. I hope that brought at least a little bit of a smile to your face. To me, that shows that you have identified an incident or two in your past where you might have over-personalized an event, and can now see another explanation.
Again, we’re back to your state, your attitude, and your mind being the key to how happy you are or are not. I would start on a journey towards more happiness by not taking everything as personally as you have in the past.
Even when it appears obvious to you that something was done on purpose, try not to assign motivations to the act. They might not even have considered how much their actions might impact you. In this case, I would take a deep breath and forgive them for their thoughtless actions, and go on with my life, bearing no grudge, forgetting the hurt, and releasing the anger.
Your happiness is in your hands and yours alone. And by that, I mean it’s all in your mind. It’s mind over matter; if you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter. Don’t let the little stuff get you down. Keep smiling. 8)