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The Common Sense of Happiness

Updated on January 19, 2010

Finding Happiness Through Common Sense

I spend many hours musing about happiness. I don’t proclaim to be some kind of self-professed guru on how to be happy. However, I’ve devoted many a waking moment trying to understand how this process works and have come up with a unique perspective.

There are two influencing factors which determine achievement of happiness that can give overall satisfaction and tranquility in life.

  • Environment
  • State of Mind/Behavior - How You React in Adverse Situations

You have limited control over the first factor; however, you have total control over the second by controlling you. Through trial, error and some common sense, I have learned that happiness can be attained by applying mind over matter and mastering my state of mind and actions.

I’m probably not winning any genius points with you yet? Probably won’t, but I have been able to achieve an existence that satisfies me to the point I can say, “I AM HAPPY!” I didn’t use any parlor tricks or religious cult ideas... just common sense. Here’s the skinny. You have to ask yourself, “Why am I unhappy?” Then take out a sheet of paper and list the many hindrances in your life that you believe keep you from being happy.

Granted, if your basic biological needs aren’t being met (i.e.: food, shelter, clothing, social activity and health), well you have cause to be unhappy. Take consolation that even you can still be happy. I’ll discuss a little later.

Once you have finished your list, begin crossing off those impediments which:

  • Are unrealistic. – If anything on your list is impossible to achieve, take it off. For example, if you are a balding, penniless, fat guy looking for a supermodel wife who’s a freak in the bed, a wiz in the kitchen and willing to ruin her looks by baring your children, get over yourself! You must stay grounded and be willing to accept and appreciate your lot in life. Therefore, the chick with the skinny legs and mustache will have to suffice. I am not saying don’t be ambitious. Sure you can rob a bank, buy some hair, lose weight, etc., but do you think that shallow supermodel you finally end up with will ever love you the way you desire? Of course not.
  • Would sacrifice other’s unhappiness. – You can’t rain on another’s parade for your own selfish needs. If your idea of happiness is to go out and say, murder someone’s dog, well it’s pretty obvious you are enveloped in your own selfish desires. DUH! Take a moment to consider how much time you waste thinking about you and the things you want others to give you. Here’s a hint…if it made you happy because someone over exerted or hurt themselves to give it to you, then you are a self-absorbed leech and didn’t deserve it.
  • Exists because you refuse to take action. – It’s “happy physics for dummies”. An inert object without the force of momentum stays at rest. Translation, if you are in a bad situation that you (and the world) would recognize to be bad and have the ability to change course simply by taking action – do it! Many people stay in unhealthy environments and relationships trying to will it better. You must get off your duff and put in the work. Most of us have options, even if you are being held back against your will. Inertia comes from the Latin word “iners”, which means to be idle or lazy. Remember, you always have at least one other choice no matter how bleak it seems.
  • Exists only in your head. – We all know folks like this, but would you recognize it in yourself if you looked in a mirror? That old proverb about “seeing the glass half-full” will always stand the test of time, because it encourages us to appreciate life. If you appreciate being alive, then you won’t indulge in self-centered thinking. You also will be less callous about the choices you make. Lastly, and most important, you will learn to respect and appreciate the life of others. Don’t create imaginary obstacles that unnecessarily hinder you from happiness.
  • Exists as a result of your own destructive behavior. – This is the biggest no-brainer! Remember, I previously talked about creating obstacles? Yeah, those vices you partake in have to go! The seven deadly sins are anger, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy and gluttony. Stand clear from these impediments and your problems will be cleared up in less than a week.
  • Exist because of your inability to cope. – Some people are unhappy because they don't know how to behave in a time of crisis. Their emotions and reactions are staged in black and white, and the grey areas are never considered. For example, when they find something upsetting, they either become extremely angry, depressed or fall into state of denial. If you behave like this, ask yourself, “What process did I use to get to this point?” If you don’t apply the correct emotions you can both overreact and under react, ultimately complicating the problem. Instead use perspective and apply the right amount of concern with the same level of effort based upon its ability to cause turmoil in your life. Think about it this way, how important is this problem to my life? Will it stop me from paying my bills, putting food on the table or shelter over my head? If no, don’t sweat the small stuff.

This last point brings me back to the position I made about biological needs not being met. By no means do I imply that your situation is meritless and without valid concern. I have lived a good part of my life broke, sometimes homeless and without a significant other to love. I truly understand the disparaging feeling of telling a child there’s no more to eat. Be encouraged to live a positive life despite your misfortune. You can find simple pleasures in nature and love that won’t cost a cent (like in a child’s smile). Seek out help from others who care and press on.

The Bible sums it up in Mathew 5: 1-13, “Blessed are the poor in spirit…”. Take comfort in the knowledge that your situation is temporary and to not let life’s adversities define you. You aren’t a failure by any means. You are experiencing a difficult time in life. (If you aren’t into Christianity, or organized religion, here’s a story that sums it up pretty good too.)

Now, that wasn’t too painful was it? Take a look at what’s left on your list. Hopefully, nothing is left. If there is something, reread the bulleted points and reapply. It’s just common sense anyone can achieve by thinking carefully about it.

You might say, “Who died and made you the authority on this?”  My response is…my unhappiness died. That’s who.


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