The danger in believing “Happiness is a choice.”

“Happiness is a choice” and “Just BE happy” is a message being spread so much and so often on social media these days that it creates the impression that if you are anything but happy, there is something wrong with you.

And that’s not true.

True happiness involves more than the simple decision to act happy or think positively.

No matter how happy one may act, pretending to be happy doesn’t equal happiness. Habitually convincing yourself that you’re happy when you’re not is potentially dangerous — and here’s why:

When a person who is not happy convinces themselves that they are, they remove the incentive needed to make the changes that are necessary to put them on a path to being genuinely happy.

This only serves to perpetuate the problem because pretending to be happy doesn’t rid a person of any underlying dissatisfaction in their life — it simply covers it up.

It’s far more productive to be unhappy and honest with one’s self than it is to cover up the symptoms of unhappiness by pretending they don’t exist.

It is from pretending to be happy that people often fool themselves into settling for careers or relationships that do little more than cause them to drift further from the things that they truly care about.

And the further one drifts from the things that bring them genuine joy, the further they drift from the most potent sources of happiness that exist for them.

I’ve said it before, it’s not happiness that’s a choice, it’s attitude.

It is a healthy attitude that allows a person to recognize and be grateful for what they already have.

It is a healthy attitude that allows a person to consider mistakes to be nothing more than learning experiences.

It is a healthy attitude that allows a person to consider strangers to be nothing more than friends they haven’t met yet.

It is a healthy attitude that allows a person to see the world as a playground instead of a cage.

And it is a healthy attitude that allows a person to survive a negative experience in a positive way no matter how challenging it may be.

A healthy attitude is what allows a person to see the value in all life experiences, not just the “good” ones.

The simple decision to be happy isn’t as much of a precursor to happiness as a healthy attitude is. A healthy attitude is what allows one to truly appreciate the journey of life regardless of one’s circumstances.

The more one learns to enjoy & appreciate not just the highlights of one’s life, but the complete journey, the more often happiness arrives as a result of that enjoyment.

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The “perfect” candidate, cause, or product

From personal relationships to business to politics, the person who isn’t afraid to be themselves, make mistakes, and even challenge you, is generally acting with far more integrity than the person attempting to do, say, and convey all the right things in order to win your affection, support or business.

Beware those afraid to show their human side or the work or thought process that led to whatever they’re saying or selling.

It’s probably wiser to consider wisdom from a wise & imperfect person — that acts like a real human being — than it is to take wisdom from a “wise” & “perfect” person that acts like a robot.

The former suggests authenticity. The latter suggests someone trying to hide their true self in order to come across as something that they’re not.

It’s one thing to have the answers, it’s another to have earned them from experience.

Don’t fall victim to those seemingly perfect people or products that cater to your ego or sense of self-worth in order to profit from your patronage.

No one in this world is perfect. There are only people who pretend to be.

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“Screwing up” : Embracing imperfection

Excerpt from: my book series

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The person who screws up & learns from the experience has a lot more to offer than the person who appears perfect because they never risk making a mistake or appearing imperfect to others.

People who suffer one failure after another — only to ultimately succeed — have a fundamental understanding of experiences that people who get lucky or cheat their way to success never get.

In fact, even people who never achieve the goal they set out to accomplish often have more wisdom to offer about the experience of trying to achieve that goal than those who were able to attain it easily or without effort.

One gains far more from their struggles in life than they do from their successes.

There is a tremendous amount of value in being imperfect.

Forgive yourself and others of past mistakes and, instead, put your focus on where it is of most value, what was learned from them.

Strive for progress, not perfection.

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Happiness is not a choice.

Seen in a meme:

“Happiness is a choice.”

No. Happiness is not a choice. Attitude is a choice.

Happiness is not just putting on a fake smile, acting cheerful, and pretending everything is OK.

Sometimes things are not OK. And that’s OK.

That’s life.

Stop for a moment and imagine you’re grieving over having just lost a loved one.

Now imagine someone comes up to you and says, “Happiness is a choice.”

Would you believe it? Would you be able to let go of your grief, shrug your shoulders and say, “Ok, I’ll be happy now” and actually be happy?

Unlikely.

What about depressed people or people who have suffered psychological trauma?

Would you tell a suicidal person that “happiness is a choice” and expect this superficial catchy catchphrase to solve the problem?

Of course not.

Even if attaining a state of happiness was as simple as making a choice, telling someone who isn’t happy that “happiness is a choice” is as about as helpful as teaching someone how to fish by telling them that “there are fish in the sea”.

It isn’t helpful.

Happiness is a byproduct of enjoying the journey of life.

You teach people to achieve happiness by providing them with the tools necessary to deal with life’s challenges in a positive and productive way.

You teach people to achieve happiness by showing them ways to navigate their mental & physical world in such a way that they can enjoy their journey.

And one of the most effective ways to enjoy one’s journey is to adopt a healthy attitude that allows one to appreciate life experiences regardless of one’s circumstances.

Suggesting that being anything but happy all the time isn’t a healthy way to view life.

Making people feel bad about feeling bad isn’t terribly effective at making people happy either.

The fact is, there is nothing inherently wrong with being unhappy.

“The ability to feel a full range of emotions and different states of being is an important part of the human experience.

It’s ok not to be happy. And in many cases, a large part of personal growth is dependent on recognizing when one is not happy and then actively working through it.”

Sometimes that journey will be difficult and life won’t be fair.

Again, that’s life.

It’s ok to have negative emotions. It’s ok to make mistakes. These are an essential part of life and how we learn. But it’s important to not let these things hold us back or lock us into a cycle of self-pity.

Instead, we can use negative emotions and feelings of discontent as the motivation to initiate positive changes in our lives.”

We may not like everything that happens to us in life and we may not always be happy as a result of what happens, but we can always choose our attitude when dealing with it.

A bad attitude inhibits happiness. And when we are happy, a positive attitude accentuates it.

It’s not happiness that’s a choice, it’s attitude.

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“We actually have as little choice about wanting to become happy as the heart does about pumping blood. We’re incapable of wanting not to become happy. The pursuit of happiness isn’t merely an inalienable right with which we’re endowed or an activity we’re capable of choosing; it’s psychological law we must obey. Even people who appear to want nothing to do with happiness, like those so immersed in self-hatred that their principle aim becomes self-sabotage, will say they haven’t lost their desire for happiness so much as ceased to believe they deserve it” — Alex Lickerman, MD (From: The Undefeated Mind: On the Science of Constructing an Indestructible Self)

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Relationships 101

Excerpt from: my book series

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Never stop doing the kinds of things that made you and your partner fall in love with each other in the first place.

Many people make the mistake of no longer furthering their efforts once they achieve what they want. Only to then wonder why they lost what they had.

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Yes, learn from your mistakes, but don’t penalize your current partner for past partners offenses.

Every person you meet has different habits and a different history. The past is not the present.

Give people you meet a chance to demonstrate the type of person they are through their actions not someone else’s.

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Where "being yourself" fails

Seen in a meme:

“Embrace who you are and don’t make any apologies for being yourself.”

I’d like to add a major caveat to that:

First, we are *all* works in progress, we all make mistakes, we all have blind spots in our level of awareness (particularly with regard to ourselves), and we all have room for improvement.

But some more than others.

While I am all for people being authentic and real, I’d much prefer not to encourage the assclowns, douchebags, and dirtbags to just “be themselves” and never apologize for it.

“Yeah, I cut you off in traffic. So what?”
“Yeah, I double parked. Just being myself, man.”
“Yeah, I litter. Big deal.”

Sure, if you’re kind, compassionate, and authentic, if you strive for progress and improvement in your life and your self, if you aim to make a positive difference with what you have to offer, then by all means continue. Even if you occasionally make mistakes, as we all do.

But if you’re someone who goes through life making things more difficult, painful, or inconvenient for others, then perhaps it’s better you don’t just “be yourself”.

Perhaps it’s better if you aim to be the kind of person you and others can actually be proud of rather than just accept who you are with no intention to change.

“Be yourself. Unless you suck.” — Joss Whedon

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Beating yourself up & tearing yourself down.

“My life sucks.”
“I’m a failure.”
“I’m not where I want to be.”

It should be obvious, but even if you’re not exactly where you want to be in life — or you’re unsatisfied with your current situation — beating yourself up over the fact that you aren’t where you wish to be only serves to make things worse.

Rather than help, this kind of negative thinking puts the one person most capable of fighting for your well-being at a disadvantage. It turns you into your own enemy.

You wouldn’t tolerate a friend belittling your accomplishments, rubbing your mistakes in your face, or trying to put you down. So why would you accept that kind of behavior from yourself?

You don’t win an award for seeing how low you can go or how miserable you can make yourself feel.

If you have a tendency to do this, it’s time to stop. It’s time to take note of when your line of thinking is leading you in a downward spiral. It’s time to remind yourself that making yourself feel worse about whatever situation you find yourself in isn’t helpful or necessary and no good will come of it.

“This isn’t helping me. I need to stop thinking this way. I need to stop revisiting these thoughts. I need to focus on something else. I need to remember that, ‘This, too, shall pass’.”

While you may not be able to immediately change the situation you find yourself in, you can change is your attitude about it. And rather than focus on your problems, you can focus on solutions to your problems. Even if the most immediate solution is to stop beating yourself up — because that’s a problem you can solve.

It’s important to remember that success in anything is often comprised of many failures. And comparing your life to others isn’t fair. We are each on our own unique journey. No two people are following the same exact paths in life.

And not only do people rarely make their struggles known, they often don’t highlight their failures either. What you see when you look at others’ lives is often only a fraction of a complete picture.

The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind the scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.” — Steve Furtick

If revisiting the past in your mind makes you miserable or comparing yourself to others makes you feel like a failure, stop doing it. Because no amount of thinking about these things in this way is going to help you. No matter what you do, you cannot change the past.

The only thing you have complete control over is your attitude and how you choose to act in this moment. This moment matters.

Rather than waste time and energy tearing yourself down, use that time to focus on what you want to achieve. Taking steps to stop yourself from feeling worse is a start.

You, more than anyone, have the ability to be your own best friend, it seems a shame to waste that opportunity by becoming your worst enemy.

Retire those tired old dysfunctional thoughts. Push forward with new ones. Be thankful for what you have and work with it and take positive action.

You can be the hero of your life and the champion of your well-being, but first you have fully commit to the role.

And that transformation will only take place after you stop beating yourself up & tearing yourself down.

Don’t give power to your unfriendly thoughts.

*This isn’t about positive thinking or negative thinking. This is about stopping the barrage of unfriendly thoughts that lead one down a debilitating downward spiral that often leaves one feeling helpless and hopeless.

Negative thinking can actually lead to positive change, but it requires that one be in a mental state capable of finding the motivation to initiate that change. There is a huge difference between focusing on self-abuse that makes one’s self miserable and using negative thinking to initiate positive changes.

As I’ve written before, it’s ok not to be happy.

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"I wish I knew then what I know now"

“I wish I knew a year ago what I know now.”

You will never know today what it will take life experience over the next year to learn, but you can always increase the rate at which you learn things by getting out of your comfort zone, trying new things, and growing from the process.

Every new experience you have, every mistake you make, and every challenge you face will provide you with a valuable learning opportunity.

Every skill you develop as a result of these life experiences can then be used to deal with and overcome additional challenges you face.

If you want to be better prepared for what life has in store for you, never stop learning, never stop challenging yourself, never stop trying to broaden your perspective, and never stop exercising your body or your mind.

Like everything, they deteriorate from lack of use.

Take a direct and active role in what you learn in life and where you go as a result.

Wisdom, strength, power, and understanding don’t come from your comfort zone.

You have the awesome ability to upgrade your body and your mind at any moment.

It’s a shame to waste that by living a life wishing you knew then what you know now.

Life is meant to be a surprise.

Live, learn something new, and make a difference with it. Ad infinitum.

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You’re not perfect nor expected to be.

  • “I’m such a klutz.”
  • “I’m bad at remembering names.”
  • “I have a tendency to say stupid things.”
  • “I have a crooked nose.”
  • “I don’t have perfect teeth.”
  • “I’ll never live this down.”

 

Whatever you may consider your faults, flaws, and imperfections to be, they are nowhere near as clear to other people as they are to you. And the mistakes you make are nowhere near as magnified.

Yes, you may screw up. And you may embarrass yourself in front of others (everyone has done this). And it may seem like the worst thing in the world. But mistake-makers often have a tendency to hold onto negative thoughts from an embarrassing experience far longer than those who witness or hear about it do.

Always keep in mind that other people don’t see you in the exact the same way that you see yourself.

In fact, it isn’t uncommon for people to have a very low estimation of themselves, their looks, and their accomplishments while also being someone that others look up to and admire.

People in your life — especially the friendly ones — are more likely to remember your successes than your failures. Especially because in the same way people don’t see your flaws the same way you do, they don’t see your failures the same way either.

In fact, you may be the only who thinks of something you did as a failure or some aspect of yourself as a flaw.

And those who do want to highlight your mistakes, failures, and flaws in an unsupportive way are very likely not those you want in your life anyway.

Always remember, everyone makes mistakes. And everyone has flaws. Even your heroes.

It’s part of the human experience. No one is perfect. And some of the most beautiful and most successful people in the world are insecure about something.

We are all a work in progress.

The key is to move forward in your life with intention and not perpetuate bad feelings by reliving a bad experience over and over again in your head. Thus making it difficult for you or others to forget.

When you truly know who you are — and who you are in the process of becoming — you will no longer live in fear of what people say or think about you.

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"I shouldn’t…"

“I shouldn’t…”

  • I shouldn’t talk to that person because I don’t want to bother them.
  • I shouldn’t ask anyone for help because it makes me seem needy.
  • I shouldn’t feel proud of my accomplishments because I haven’t done anything original or noteworthy.
  • I shouldn’t draw attention to myself because I don’t deserve it.
  • I shouldn’t contribute to a conversation because I might say something wrong.
  • I shouldn’t express my affection for someone because it probably won’t be reciprocated.
  • I shouldn’t show vulnerability because it will make me appear weak.
  • I shouldn’t offer advice because I don’t have a degree in the subject.
  • I shouldn’t express my opinions because someone may disagree.
  • I shouldn’t act a certain way because it isn’t considered adult behavior.
  • I shouldn’t stick my neck out because I might get my head chopped off.
  • I shouldn’t use profanity because it might offend someone.
  • I shouldn’t try to help people because my own life isn’t exactly where I want it to be.
  • I shouldn’t even try because it probably won’t work or turn out the way I want it to.
  • I shouldn’t publish a post or piece of art until it’s perfect — and it never is.

And that’s just me.

If I listened to everything I told myself I shouldn’t do, I wouldn’t ever do anything worth doing.

Sometimes you just have to tell the voice in your head to SHUSH! And then remind yourself that if it turns out that whatever you want to do is a mistake, you’ll learn from it.

[ DISCLAIMER: I am not recommending law breaking, bad, abusive, or negative behavior. Please use common sense. ]

Everyone feels anxiety at times. Everyone gets nervous. Everyone occasionally wonders if what they want to do will be a mistake.

And that’s ok, but you don’t ever let that stop you from living your life on your terms. Who are you living your life for anyway? You — or everyone else on the planet?

Live. Try stuff. Make mistakes. Learn. Improve. Repeat.

Because being afraid of doing something you truly want to do isn’t a good enough reason not to do it.

Live life fully while you’re here. Experience everything. Take care of yourself and your friends. Have fun, be crazy, be weird. Go out and screw up! You’re going to anyway, so you might as well enjoy the process. Take the opportunity to learn from your mistakes: find the cause of your problem and eliminate it. Don’t try to be perfect; just be an excellent example of being human.” — Anthony Robbins

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