Happiness is a Choice

Life often presents us with a number of challenges. I believe we have chosen our particular life experience due to specific areas of soul-growth we want to further.  Although our experience in this place and time serves as our training ground, our classroom in the school of life so to speak, we often find ourselves in a place of frustration and pain. Once we realize that pain is an inevitable part of being alive, it will lead to a place of acceptance, which leads to a feeling of peace.

We have shown up in this particular life experience to heal and be healed, to view the places in ourselves that need acceptance, forgiveness and compassion, as well as the places in others that need the same. Our relationships serve as the primary teachers in this classroom.  All of our relationships contain the potential for transformation, particularly those of our family members, partners, and friends. Within these relationships, we either learn to love and grant compassion and understanding or we choose not to. We have free will and within every interaction there is a choice to either give love or withhold love, for ourselves and others.  The more difficult the process is, the more important the lesson is for both parties.

The relationships in our lives that cause us the most angst lend themselves to the perfect opportunity for growth. This place is a sacred opportunity for both parties to move beyond ways of interacting that do not serve either. This pain often serves to  precipitate an area of growth we desperately need. These are the old patterns we have held onto and our old wounds that need to be healed.  It is important to view these parts of us with love and understanding; from there we can move on to make healthier choices. This challenge is a gift because without this troubled relationship, we would have no need to become stronger. It is now time to move beyond the feelings of anger, resentment, fear, shame and guilt that have become a familiar part of these relationships and have held us hostage.

Our growth comes form the shadow moments in our lives. It is easy to bestow love upon our infant as they gurgle contentedly in our arms. But what about when their cry interrupts our desperately needed sleep for the fourth time in one night? We look on with pride when our toddler plays cooperatively with another, but what happens when they have a melt-down at the checkout counter of the supermarket? We admire our teenager when they receive accolades in school, but what about if they are suspended for bullying another student? It is easy to share our love with a parent who supports us at a difficult time. What occurs though, when they experience depression or become irritable and difficult as they age? This concept applies to us as well; it is easy to love ourselves when we succeed at a goal we strive for, but what about when we screw up again, repeating destructive patterns for the zillionth time? These moments are painful if we resist them, but they are to be treasured; here is where our growth lies whether in the development of patience, compassion, tolerance, acceptance or authenticity.

When we accept our difficult relationships and view them as an opportunity for growth, for ourselves and  another, we experience a feeling of peace that comes from relinquishing control. Our pain comes from believing that someone else in our lives should make different choices and take different action, often to meet our own needs. This judgment keeps our happiness captive. Our happiness is a choice and it comes from the realization that the experiences we are having are presented for our benefit. Our soul experiences these difficult times at a much deeper level and when we view them as an opportunity to love ourselves and others more, we find the peace we seek.

Acceptance vs. Expectation

Most of our disappointment comes from the belief that our experience should be other than it actually is. We proceed through our days, trying to control what happens to ensure our happiness, but unfortunately life does not always cooperate. Along the way, we encounter pain, loss, illness, and adversity.

It is hard to find someone for whom life has not thrown some curveballs. Even those whose lives look uncomplicated  have their share of discomfort and pain.  These difficult times are part of all of our lives and serve to foster our growth as well as force us to examine our choices. They often lead to our maturation and they help us develop strength and fortitude. We have a choice about how to approach these difficult times. We can choose to learn from them and make different choices, but if
we resist them, we cause more suffering for ourselves.

Imagine would happen if we decided to approach each circumstance, no matter how devastating, with acceptance. What if we decided not to fight for our perception of what should be and instead accepted what was? Here is where we would find the peace, relief, and happiness we seek.

Expectation of what we think will lead to our happiness places our power outside of ourselves and that is where our problem lies. It is not an easy concept to understand and even harder to practice on a regular basis. However, it is possible to do, even a little at a time.

Pick an experience in your day, whether it be at work, in a difficult relationship, regarding your finances or your health and decide to practice acceptance. View the situation objectively, without shame, guilt, or anger, and accept what is. Try to release feelings of blame, powerlessness, or disappointment. If you encounter a traffic jam on the way to an important appointment, accept it. If a friend disappoints you, try not to take it personally. If you receive an unexpected bill in the mail, view it with detachment.

Attachment to outcome creates unhappiness. Try not to let outside events control how you feel about yourself and you will be able to view these events from a new perspective, one that you typically have not noticed in the past.