The Origins of Happiness

Happiness. We all love to feel happy. When we are happy, life feels good. So where does happiness come from, and how can we get it and keep it with us?

The feeling of happiness comes to us in many different ways. It comes while we are watching the changing expressions of our sleeping infant, rocking out with a crowd of others to our favorite band, enjoying dinner and laughs with our best friends, flying down the soccer field toward the goal, sharing a chocolate sundae with our loved one. The list of things that can make us happy is endless.

And so, it certainly appears that happiness is the product of outer events. But if outer events and things really bring us happiness, why is it then that some people who we deem are living the best of times are miserable? And why are some people in far worse circumstances joyful and happy? When we finally understand that happiness is an inside job, we are empowered to create our own happiness.

When we are very young and learning to maneuver our way in this world, it seems simple. We want something. We don’t get it. The not-having-of-it appears to be the direct cause of our unhappiness. And occasionally our unhappiness is accompanied by one of parents’ biggest nightmares–the dreaded supermarket tantrum. While most of us outgrow the outright stomping, screaming, and frothing dynamics of a truly bodacious and entertaining public tantrum, as adults most of us still believe that there is a tangible and definitive cause to our unhappiness.

Let me give you some examples. In our adulthood, the cause of our unhappiness may take on a myriad of changing faces. The cause of our unhappiness is our boss’s fault, our spouse’s, our neighbor’s. We can come up with a limitless number of causes for our discontent. If only our spouse were more loving. If only our kids applied themselves. If only our boss would give us that raise we deserve. If only we could relocate. It seems fairly straightforward. If only this, that or the other would just change, then we could finally be happy!

How problematic this can be. Do we feel powerless in a world where happiness or unhappiness is at the mercy of others or outer events? So many things to change, fight for, or fight against. Life from this perspective can most definitely be a struggle–arduous, hard, and downright disheartening. Assigning a cause to our unhappiness is a well-traveled habit of thought for many of us. What if there is more to happiness than simple cause and effect?

A Matter of Perspective
Could it be possible that happiness or unhappiness on every level is a matter of perspective? And that we have a choice in the matter? If that is true, then we might realize that happiness is not directly caused by a person, place, situation, or event. Happiness, we may realize, might actually boil down to an individual and personal perspective and choice.

As firefighters, we have a unique window seat in which we may humbly witness humanity. Any firefighter can attest that there are a wide variety of reactions to many situations. Did you know that for one thousand people, there are one thousand different reactions to being in a car accident? Reactions to being in a car accident are as varied as the people in them. I have seen people angry, belligerent, terrified, shaken, shocked, relieved, grateful, and thankful in very similar situations.

As we observe others and ourselves, we might see something interesting emerge. We will see how truly wide ranging reactions can be to very similar situations. We might realize that situations in and of themselves do not automatically dictate happiness or unhappiness. There might actually appear to be a choice in the matter.

The Event Occurs, You Give It Meaning
As we become more aware in our search for the origins of happiness, we may begin to notice in our observations of reactions, that the events of our lives that precipitate those reactions, simply are.

Become the observer, for a moment, when it comes to happiness. Notice that there are hundreds of different reactions to similar situations. Notice your own reactions to events and circumstances. Are you able to recognize that you are choosing these perspectives? That the situations are not good or bad in and of themselves?

Certainly many different factors contribute to the way a person decides to react to something or someone. And here is the key. The situation is not inherently “good” or “bad.” You and I are the powerful creators that bestow the situation with the perspective of our choice.

When we are aware that we are choosing the meanings we give to events and circumstances, our lives take a major shift. As adults we can realize that we are the masters of our own perspectives, and therefore we are actually the creators of our happiness or unhappiness.

Your Happiness Does Not Depend on Others
When we understand this secret to happiness–that happiness is, in fact, a choice–we also have the chance to improve our every relationship. When we know happiness comes from within us, we will not look to others to make us happy. When we do not depend on others to make us happy, we take our power back. We release our victim role.

We become empowered as we create our own happiness. We learn to cultivate and be our authentic selves. Perhaps we learn that loving ourselves fully, and not depending on someone else’s love, is really where our happiness resides. When we do not depend on others to make us happy, our lives will improve in many ways. When we do not depend on others to make us happy, we will lift the burden from our spouse, our children, our lover, our neighbor. From whom can you lift this burden?

We are on our way to mastery if we can do this. Sometimes we will succeed, and sometimes we won’t. But even being conscious of the origins of our happiness, is a huge step in a positive direction.

Happiness Comes From Within
On the surface this may seem like a quibble about semantics–happiness coming from the inside or the outside. But, really, defining the origins of happiness for yourself may be the huge difference in being powerless or empowered in your life. When you rely on the world to make you happy, you have given your power away. You are at the mercy of people, circumstances, and events.

But when you acknowledge to yourself that, regardless of what events occur, you have a choice in the matter, then, you become the master conductor of your life.

We will still face difficult situations, to be sure. However, we may catch ourselves if we unconsciously fall into the old pattern of believing in cause and effect. We may pause, consider, and reconsider that we have a choice in the matter. We may do it in baby steps.

Finally, when we realize that we are the Source of our own happiness, we will begin to live a truly positive life experience. When we finally realize that we are choosing our happiness, we are empowered. When we consciously choose our perspectives on life, we are free.

Come, fly with me friends! And feel the thrill, as you stand on the wings of creating your own happiness.


*artwork by the talented Pinky Punia


9 thoughts on “The Origins of Happiness”

  1. Donna Parker says:

    Thank you Bev, much appreciated.

  2. Armand says:

    Brilliant, insightful, and well written (as usual). This makes me almost wish for you to cover some other “challenging” examples – getting a flat tire in the rain; your child’s supermarket tantrum; and even maybe also looking at the contrast of situations where sadness may be more appropriately called for.

    1. Beverly Molina says:

      Thank you Armand for wanting to ‘delve deeper!’In my book, which is in the final stages of editing, I cover many more specifics and contrasts on this topic. And it is truly fascinating, as you might guess, this exploration of happiness!

  3. Deling says:

    How true! “When we do not depend on others to make us happy, we will lift the burdon from” them. I hope more of us will realize that sooner than later.

    1. Beverly Molina says:

      Hi Deling! It took me a while to realize this one, but it was very freeing once I did. Hugs to you and everyone!

  4. Eri says:

    I totally agree! I’ve told K more than once that I don’t depend on him to make me happy because I’m already happy with myself:-)

    1. Beverly Molina says:

      Hi Eri – Yes! This lesson I hope very much to instill in my children!

  5. Christina Manzila says:

    Hi. Did you draw that picture?

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