A women lay in a hospital bed recovering from multiple surgeries, the result of a horrible car wreck. Her lower left leg had been removed. Yet her nurses remained baffled.
Despite experiencing what should have been tremendous pain, and facing a life that was never going to be the same, the look on her face radiated nothing short of pure elation. This woman was undeniably happy.
She wasn’t delirious. She had merely learned that both her children, one who just awoke from a coma, the other who had broken his arm in the back of the car, would both make full recoveries. What better news could have been delivered to the woman that day?
What’s evident here is that in this situation, the woman’s happiness was entirely relative. Had her children been safe and sound at home instead of in the back of her car, the news of their good health would have been meaningless.
The Relativity of Happiness
Happiness is often just a matter of relativity. If you won five million dollars in a lottery, you’d be elated. Yet if three weeks later you were informed that due to a system error, you’d instead be awarded only $22,000, you’d no doubt be crushed.
But why should that matter? If you had merely won $22,000 from the start, you would have been elated the entire time.
Yet its not just about timing. Socrates is said to have made the following observation:
“If all misfortunes were laid in one common heap whence everyone must take an equal portion, most people would be contented to take their own and depart.”
When you put things into a global perspective, it suddenly seems a bit shallow to bellyache over many of the typical things we all complain about. Oh the horror, we have to sit in traffic. How about having to worry about finding your next cup of clean drinking water.
Relatively speaking, we have an incredible assortment of reasons to be happy. But we don’t like to compare globally. We like to measure our own stock against those around us.
How much of your happiness is based on what you have compared to what your friends, family, and coworkers have? If you think none, you need to consider a point Ben Franklin once raised::
“The eyes of other people are the eyes that ruin us. If all but myself were blind, I should want neither fine clothes, fine houses, nor fine furniture.”
None of us can deny that our priorities wouldn’t change if everyone else was blind.
A Matter of Mindset
The message here is that you don’t need reasons to be happy. You can be happy for no good reason at all. It’s your attitude that matters, and the moment you realize this your life will change.
Whether you’re generally cheerful or cynical is up to you. There’s always those who like to smell the roses and those who prefer to obsess over thorns. You just need to decide what type of person you want to be. There’s no right answer, but never forget that the way you view life directly affects your state of mind. Abe Lincoln may have said it best:
“People are as happy as they make up their minds to be.”
Seems like an easy decision to me. What’s your choice?