Moving Beyond ‘Happiness is a Choice’
March 28, 2012
By Jim Rettew
Every happiness author keeps saying, ‘happiness is a choice.’ OK, I choose happiness. Really and truly. However, I find my disposition relatively unchanged. Is it my mental and physical habits? Yes. The foods I eat. Probably. The exercise, or lack there of? Likely.
I wish it were as easy as all the pontificators made it out to be. “Ummm, should I choose a main order of happiness with a side of fries, or should I go with unhappiness?” I choose happiness, but it doesn’t choose me. I choose to be 20 pounds lighter, but my choice doesn’t make it easier to obtain.
Once you make the choice, what’s the hard work that has to done to make it a reality? That’s the real question. And it can’t be just will power. We know how that works over time.
The real slog, the real choice, is whether your willing to day after day, thought after thought, train your mind to think differently.
Cognitive behavior theory say you think, then you feel. For example, say you didn’t get a promotion. The moment you hear the news, there is a flash of a thought that goes by so fast that you don’t even recognize it. That thought might say, “Now I’ll be destitute. Now I’ll never amount to anything.” Once that thought hits the frying pan, you feel a wash of fear, regret, sadness, and panic.
So, your ‘choice’ is do you want to put in the hard work to change this thought process? To do so, you’ll need to:
1) Recognize the thoughts (i.e. don’t let them go by unnoticed, but don’t buy into them either.) I like the analogy that you are a huge granite mountain and a thought is a wispy cloud. Another analogy – think of your thoughts like a stock ticker. They come up but go away just as quickly. However, you won’t be able to analogize your way to success here. You’ll need to train yourself to recognize thoughts, and not just recognize them, but not buy into them either. The best, most effective way I know to actually accomplish this is through meditation.
2) Assess your thoughts better. Just because you think it, doesn’t make it true. In fact, a lot of our thoughts are as intelligent as a five year old having a tantrum. How do you assess your thoughts better? Through thought record practice. A thought record is a process to take negative thoughts, analyze them objectively, and come up with a better, more realistic thought. It’s a seven step process where you’ll actually fill out a worksheet until you habituate the process.
In the next week, I’ll post detailed descriptions on 1) how to get better of recognizing, and not buying into, your thoughts through meditation, and 2) how to do a thought record.
It’s not easy, nor is it hard. It is work, persistent work, but it does make a difference. Your choice then is whether you want to do the work. I hope you’ll try.