“You’re responsible for your own happiness.” This mantra, though not new to me, hit me anew when Adriene said it recently during the Dedicate: 30-Days of Yoga series. It struck me that although I knew better, I had been trying to push the responsibility for my happiness somewhere else.
But the thing is, we’re all responsible for our own happiness. No one else is.
Not a job. Not a person. Not a house. Not a location. Not a food or drink or possession. Nothing else can carry that weight because ultimately, it’s up to us to choose happiness.
Dave said something about “choosing to be happy” a couple of years ago when I was struggling through a season of depression, and it stung. On top of how low I felt, I now had to swallow that it was my fault?
That’s not what he meant, and after a brief exercise in missing the point, I finally got it. It’s not about fault or blame. It’s about accepting responsibility for how and who you will be in the world.
We can’t always choose our circumstances or the things that happen to us, but we can always choose how we will respond.
We say that to our kids all the time, but I had been failing to take my own advice. Sigh.
Side Note: Depression is real and some people benefit from therapy and medication. My intent is neither to diagnose nor dismiss. With or without therapy or medication, we can all benefit from taking responsibility for our own happiness in a healthy way. We can practice gratitude on the regular, recognize all that is within our control, and let go of what’s not.
Find joy and happiness by cultivating gratitude for where you are, when you are, who you are, and how you are. This doesn’t mean you don’t have hopes and dreams that extend beyond your current time and space—of course you do! Just don’t put your happiness (or contentment, sense of accomplishment, success, etc.) out there in the future and wait for it to arrive. Don’t fall into the deadly trap that begins with “I’ll be happy when…”
I once heard of a person who did this. She was unhappy. Depressed, before that label was so pervasive. She said to herself and her fiancee, “I’m tired of living at home. I’ll be happy when we’re married and living together…” Then once they were married, “I can’t wait for the day when we grow our family. I’ll be happy when we have children.” And then with children, “I’m sick of this little apartment. I’ll be happy when we have a house, a home to call our own.”
It starts out with innocent dreams but turns toxic when happiness gets tangled up in dreams and can’t find its way back to the present. When all we can think about is how happy we’ll be in the future, we’re robbed of the happiness of the present moment.
And all of a sudden, we can’t be happy now. We’re so focused on an imagined happy future that we’re dissatisfied with our present.
Don’t put your happiness in another time or space—you’ll never get there.
Practice gratitude. Daily. For all manner of things, big and small.
Dream big dreams and pursue them with tenacity.
Choose happiness now (and trust that you’ll choose it in the future too).
And if, like me, you seem magnetically drawn to the “I’ll be happy when” trap, catch yourself early and double-down on the gratitude practice. Be present. Don’t make yourself wait to be happy. Choose it today.