Determined to Be Unhappy

Happiness Is an Inside Job

Abraham Lincoln, a man well acquainted with the disappointments and sorrows of life, once said: “Folks are about as happy as they make their minds up to be.”

What he meant was, if you are truly determined to be happy, it’s well within your power to make it happen … regardless of what the people around you are doing to you, saying against you, thinking about you, or withholding from you. In other words, your mental state is your own doing.

As a corollary to that, your UNhappiness is also your own doing.

Your mental state is in your hands. Always has been, always will be. The only trouble is, even while we’re crafting our own moods and self assessments, we hide the process from ourselves. We think our feelings are dictated by the people around us, seldom realizing how much we use cues from our neighbors, family members, and friends as excuses for feeling how we’ve already decided to feel.

Stop for a moment and think of the people in your own life. Aren’t some of them consistently more cheerful and forward-looking than others? And conversely, you probably also have acquaintances who — no matter what’s happening — find a way to see it all through a jaundiced, negative filter. In short, they’re determined to be unhappy … downright determined.

But those folks are not our responsibility. Each person already has a fulltime job managing his/her own mind. You have yours; I have mine. Of course you and I can offer encouragement to each other, and that’s a good thing, but it’s not our job to take over another person’s thoughts or actions; not our job to “save” them.

The Glad List

A while back, on another blog, I suggested to my readers that they might want to start writing down (every day) some things they were thankful for. And if thankful was too strong a word for them, then just list things they felt glad about.

I got a lot of positive feedback on that post. I also received some negative comments too.

I was especially interested in the lady who wrote me a long email detailing armloads of things that were wrong in her life. In fact, she insisted she didn’t have anything to be thankful for.

Replying, I asked if she didn’t have access to a computer, and Internet service provider? Weren’t her eyes and hands working? Didn’t she have food to eat? A sheltered place to stay?

The lady wrote back, even more negative than before — she didn’t give an inch. The computer, she said, was not hers. It was in the public library, and she had to ride a bus for three hours to get there. Her eyesight was weak. She thought she might be getting arthritis in her hands. And on and on.

At some point I decided two things. First, I began to doubt the truthfulness of some of her story, and second, I accepted the fact that some people just will not be helped — they don’t want it.

They say the biggest danger when a life guard tries to save a drowning person is, the one being rescued struggles in their panic and may drag the life guard under, so that they both drown.

The moral of that story is, if you find somebody who militantly rejects your encouragement, know this: you’ve done your part and it was rejected. So move on. You have no duty to be dragged under by someone who is focused exclusively on the negative. Maybe they’ll finally get it in a future life …

So, yeah, everybody is just about as happy (and as unhappy) as they make up their mind to be. This includes you and it includes me.

The ball’s in our court. What are we going to do about it … for ourselves?

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