Updated: Nov 8, 2020
In general, I would characterize myself as a happy person. Dating back to when I was a youngster (not too long ago), this disposition has been present within me. I'm not quite sure where it stemmed from (cue nature vs. nurture arguments), and I never really understood how to articulate why I was mostly happy or, more importantly, why I chose to be happy (we will dig into that shortly).
Throughout the last year or so, I have been going through an awakening of sorts—learning a great deal behind the how and why I operate. Through this self-education, I am finally able to sift through the fog and identify what it is exactly that makes me happy. And the answer is rather simple, though it might ruffle a few feathers:
What makes me happy is my decision to be happy.
I know, I know, kind of a lame answer. I’m sure some of you reading this were looking for an in-depth analysis of what makes Jacob tick or some type of process I go through to search for happiness. But, in my opinion, therein lies the issue. Happiness isn’t this tangible goal we should pursue. It does not rest in the future and cannot be "attained." Instead, happiness exists in the moment...more specifically within each moment.
Happiness is quite literally around you all the time (existing in each moment). With this outlook, I now understand that it is up to "I" or the self, to make the call to be happy or not. Now, this all may seem like the easy way out and perhaps even a blanket to be tossed over people’s pain, trauma, or agony in any given situation. I understand there is great suffering in many of life's moments, but the difference between the feeling of being hopeful and hopeless, is your decision to feel hopeful or hopeless. It really can be that simple.
*Please note, by no means do I intend to discount the troubles faced by those who are struggling with mental illness. I understand that these individuals may not have the overarching "choice" I refer to in this post.*
A perfect exhibition of this idea is from the Austrian neurologist, Viktor Frankl—a Holocaust survivor best-known for his book Man’s Search For Meaning (if you have not read this book, I cannot stress enough how influential it is...please check it out here). One of many takeaways is Viktor's thoughts on choice. Viktor tells us,
“[E]verything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
To me, this is incredibly powerful.
It wasn’t until after I read this book that I had that “ah-ha” moment—that moment in which I truly understood my happiness. I consistently choose to embody a positive attitude in any given set of circumstances, well...because that was always an available option. Sure, I could be happy if I got $20 for my birthday, or if the girl I had a crush on in school laughed at one of my jokes (which isn’t saying much because, let’s face it, I’m hilarious), but my happiness was deeper than any externally-generated, fleeting moment of pleasure...it was about that conscious decision to be happy as much as possible.
Now, a bit of a disclaimer. Choosing to be happy all the time, across all of life's moments, is impossible. Yet, that doesn’t mean that, in these moments, both good and bad, we can’t strive to choose a positive attitude. I try my best to live with Viktor’s words in my head, his story in my heart, so that I can make my own happiness—after all, it is up to me and me only.
In life, I choose to be sunny-side on. I hope you do too. 👍