This is why happiness isn't a choice
by Elliot Lyons
One of the biggest questions in life involves happiness. What is it? What does it feel like? Is it a choice? This last question is often given as the answer as to the content of happiness: it’s not something that happens to you, but something you choose despite any difficulties you may face. Happiness, then, is a perspective we choose.
I don’t think this is entirely correct: happiness isn’t a choice, but it does involve choosing.
That’s because happiness is a direction.
When we choose a goal, no matter how large or small, we give direction to our thoughts and actions. This direction gives us something to strive towards when things get hard because we know that despite our circumstances, there is a place called “more” and we are headed there.
Having a direction defines what we want, and it’s difficult to be truly happy without knowing what we want.
Sometimes, though, it’s our goals that cause the problems in our lives because we have to sacrifice things we care about in order to reach them. This sacrifice may even make us become straight-up miserable. But this is part of the processes to get to our goals—as every hill must have a valley, achieving our goals means we must struggle.
So, happiness isn’t just the joyful emotions we have, but encompasses the range of emotions we experience on our journeys towards our goals.
Happiness is in the work.
This makes happiness a bit funny, because it’s a combination of experiences we have in striving towards something more than we currently are, which makes it mobile instead of static, meaning it’ll change given different circumstances.
If happiness is about these experiences we have on the path towards our goals then, in a sense, we do choose happiness because we set goals for ourselves that give us focus. This defines the boundaries of our happiness but not in the sense of choosing it despite whatever hardships may befall us. It’s about knowing our struggles are a part of what is needed to get where we want to go.
Happiness is about giving meaning to the struggle.