Is Happiness a Choice?


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.


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.


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

You were born to thrive.


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.

Respecting the process.

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


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.


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. 🦋

Enthusiasm is contagious.

Photo from keynote at a College Student Alliance (CSA) student leadership conference.

I believe in the power of education. Deep down in my soul. And it’s this core belief that translates into a high level of enthusiasm and excitement for student success in my classroom.

I believe so strongly in the impact of enthusiasm on motivating students, capturing their attention, and enhancing their learning that I wrote my PhD dissertation on the topic.

Education + Enthusiasm = Student Success


What core beliefs guide your work? Your life? 💫

Show students you care.

How do teachers compete with smartphones?

They don’t.

There is no doubt that smartphones have changed the way we live and learn. Which is why teachers must continue doing what they do best – connect with students.

Because no matter what happens on the small screen, technology will always be a poor substitute for human connection.


So instead of complaining about students being glued to their smartphone, teachers must consider why students do it in the first place.

1. Consider the underlying cause.

Educators (including myself) must take a step back and reframe the smartphone problem.

Student distractibility existed long before smartphones.

We “doodled”. They “text”.

Lack of attention is the common denominator.

Smartphones in the classroom are a signal that students need to be re-directed back to the learning activity.


2. Rethink how you teach.

First, explore how you engage students, capture their attention, and sustain curiosity with instant gratification just one click away.


Next, consider how you spark student interest and arouse curiosity, week after week, semester after semester.

3. Model what you expect.

a) Motivate students by being motivated!


b) Engage students by being engaged, passionate, and excited by the topics you teach.  Enthusiasm is contagious!

c) Connect with students by being genuinely interested in who they are, how they learn, and why they are here.


d) Grab attention by being attentive to the unique needs of each student, and responsive to the distinct personality of each class.

e) Stimulate curiosity by being curious about how students think.

4. Show them you care.

In order to move students from the instant gratification of smartphones to meaningful interactions in school (and in life), we must show them how much we truly care.

How? We are present in our own classrooms.

We are mindful.

We are in tune with each student and teaching moment.

We connect.


This picture was taken at a CSI student leadership event at Conestoga College in Kitchener, Ontario. Student motivation and attention is always my first priority. Only then can the learning begin!

Students first. Every chance I get.