Is Happiness a Choice?

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The Happiness Question

Have you ever wondered why some people remain upbeat and positive despite the chaos that surrounds them while others are utterly miserable even in good times?  What explains the difference between these two groups of individuals?

Are happy people just lucky people born happy? And unhappy people born miserable?  Or is happiness a choice we make day by day, moment to moment?

The answer to this question is twofold. On one hand, 50% of happiness is predetermined by biology (e.g., inborn temperament) while the remaining 50% is influenced by life circumstances and intentional activities.

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The Happiness Formula

As stated above, research indicates that approximately 50% of happiness is genetic (e.g., temperament), 10% is life circumstances (e.g., income), and 40% is intentional activities (e.g., daily exercise, meditation, forgiveness).

Though we may have little control over genetics and/or life circumstances — we do have personal agency when it comes to intentional activities. Be it a walk around the block, gardening in the backyard, or simply relaxing by the fire.

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Being an optimist (and a positive psychologist), I tend to focus on the parts of life where I have influence. For both myself, and the people around me.

Even though you might not be the happiest (or healthiest, or richest, or most zen) person in the room, you (like me) have room (potential) to grow and expand – no matter your life circumstances or genetic make up.

The Happiness Webcast

In the webcast below, I explore the happiness formula (genetics vs. environment) in more detail. Including: 1) the developmental origins of happiness, 2) how individual differences in personality affect happiness, and 3) the paradoxical relationship between traumatic life experiences and happiness (posttraumatic growth).

Happiness Talk

Click on  Is Happiness a Choice Webcast  to learn more.
The video is in webcast format so it requires Adobe software.
It will run on your computer, but might not work on your phone.

The Happiness Choice

  1. Embrace your freedom to choose intentional activities within your control (e.g., gratitude, helping others, fitness), and the power to let go of what is not (e.g., the past, the opinion of others, the weather).
  2. Celebrate your one-of-a-kind happiness determinants. Do not compare it to your brother or your sister, or to a neighbour or a (facebook) friend. FOMO is the “thief of joy”. For what determines your happiness is unique to you, and only you.

“If positive psychology teaches us anything, it is that all of us are mixture of strengths and weaknesses. No one has it all, and no one lacks it all.”

Related Post: Happiness in One Word

Live your dream NOW.

The stress of waiting.

The list is long when it comes to student stress. But by far, one of the greatest sources of stress is waiting!

Students are always forecasting into the future. Every single moment of student life is about waiting. Waiting for grades. Waiting for summer. Waiting for graduation.

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Forever in a day.

Students become frustrated waiting for what feels like a lifetime to practice the profession they’re in school for.

Textbook readings, class lectures, and endless exams seem miles away from actually doing their dream job.

Days become weeks, weeks become months, months become years. Time moves at a snail’s pace.

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Infinity in their minds.

For students, there are too many years before they can finally live their lifelong dream of becoming a nurse, a lawyer, a carpenter, a designer, a psychologist.

“Don’t worry, it will all be worth it in the end”. Easy for a professor to say. Challenging for a student to live. A day is infinity in a student’s mind.

(Little do they know that one day they will look back and fondly recall their college years as the best years of their lives.)

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 Bridging the (time) gap.

Listening to students lament year after year about the waiting game got me thinking (and dreaming) of a better way! Asking myself how I could bridge the (time) gap between education and profession.

My goal is to help students claim ownership of their present time. To help them live their dream job every single day. To remind them that life purpose does not require a job to be realized.

No more waiting.

Students do not have to wait a lifetime to experience their dream job. Instead, they could live the core elements of their chosen profession every single day – in so many wonderful ways. Simply by living on purpose, in present time.

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Accounting students could help their friends get a better understanding of their finances. Show their neighbours how to do their taxes.

Carpentry students could assist their family in the renovation of a kitchen.

Child and Youth care workers could volunteer at an after school program.

Nursing students could help out an elderly couple at the grocery store.

Social work students could give a seminar at a college residence about mental health.

Seniors could show first years the best spots to study on campus. Listening fully, completely to every freshman they meet.

Living your dreams. Every single day.

Using “bite size” mission statements,  I help students identify the key attributes of their dream profession.

During this exercise, students realize that “Life Purpose” is 99% about LIFE. Something they live every single day.

And that no one needs to wait one more year, one more day, or even one more moment to live life to the fullest.

Ultimately, students (and their professor) discover that Life Purpose is about following their heart, sharing their gifts, and shining their light.

One bite size dream at a time.

Related Post: Shine Your Light

You were born to thrive.

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Do not fear challenge or adversity.

Run towards it. Not away from it.

Use it consciously. As a stepping stone.

To rise up.

To propel yourself forward.

To begin again. 

For strength is ultimately built from challenge, from difficulty, from overcoming.

You were born to thrive!

Watch my video for helpful strategies on how to thrive.

Harnessing positive energy.

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The next time you’re tempted to complain about the same thing (over and over again), direct that same (frustrated) energy into your highest, loftiest goals. Consciously swap one complaint for one baby step towards your dreams. Same energy required. Magically different results. 🎈

Related Post: Set a time limit on negativity.

Respecting the process.

How do you trust, let go, and respect the process of your life?

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Not long ago, I was interviewed by Adam Rochon on the topic of transformational change.

During the podcast interview, Adam and I explored a different way of thinking about change.

A more uplifting and empowering take on transformation.

Adam and I discussed how the key to lasting change isn’t to push yourself harder.

The key to lasting change is to understand yourself better.

To accept yourself more. And to judge yourself less.

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Trust the timing of your life.

Your good and bad habits did not develop overnight.

And neither does transformational change. 

Ultimately to grow, we must trust, let go, and learn to respect the process.

Excerpt from my interview with Adam Rochon: “For me respecting the process in my own life and in all the people I’m blessed enough to meet, is to realize the process is so much bigger than I am. It is our destiny. It is the 100 years – if we are ever that lucky to live on this earth. Whatever we experience, good or bad, is just a day in the life and that we need to pay attention to where we are. When we get stressed out, overwhelmed and are going through a lot of changes, take a step back and realize that there are so many forces at work that are greater than we are – which is the process. When we Respect the Process everything just falls into place. It sounds simple, but you need to just let go of what you don’t have control over and be inspired by the process.” Episode #15: Transformational Change.

Click here for access to full podcast interview. 🦋

How do you prepare for work each day?

“Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.”

I value positivity and a sense of security in the classroom, above all else.

For it is only when students feel safe, supported, and uplifted are they motivated to learn.

Creating a harmonious classroom atmosphere happens long before the school bell rings.

Which is why my preparation for teaching psychology includes both physical and mental preparation.

Ultimately, the more relaxed and happy I am, the more calm and content my students will be.

I am grateful for every student I teach and I want to make sure that they get the best of me.

Physical Preparation for Work = Exercise

Mental Preparation for Work = Psychology

How do you prepare for your job each day?