Happy is a State of Mind

Here in the United States, we are part of the first wave of human beings who’ve been obsessed with being happy. If a generation is roughly twenty-five years, that would make today’s twenty-somethings about the fourth generation since “happy” rose to ascendency.
Why is that, anyway? Well, if you roll the clock back a hundred years, most of us were too busy to worry about whether or not “happy” made the daily hit parade. Take my grandmother, for example. A Russian immigrant, she had seven children. Between laundry, turning out three meals a day for nine people (without convenience foods) and managing a large, rambling house, she didn’t have time to worry about frivolous things. And even though she would have had a hard time articulating it, she derived a sense of personal satisfaction from a job well done. Of her six children who survived to adulthood, every single one had a college education.

In my psychotherapy office over the years, I saw lots of people who would say something like, “I’d be happy if only…” Take a look at that sentence fragment and read it again. Yes, it means exactly what you think it does; and it has interesting implications. It means whoever said it has cut themselves off from the possibility of true happiness if they don’t get a certain thing.
I’d like to take that one step further. In my experience, people who live their lives this way keep raising the bar. They finally get what they thought would make them happy. It doesn’t, so they set their sights on something else.

It may sound simple-minded, but how we feel is under our control. If we tell ourselves we couldn’t possibly be happy because— (you fill in the blank), we’ll never be. But it works in reverse as well. The most conscious, fulfilled people I know carry their joy within them. And they find things to nurture that bliss in simple, everyday events.

We are like crystals. We reflect our inner nature. Self-acceptance is the key to nearly everything. So, set realistic goals. Celebrate successes. Regroup when something doesn’t happen as you may have wished. Instead of waiting for the universe to conform to your expectations, see what you can give that might shift some karmic balance.

Writing is a neurosis-inducing endeavor. And a fairly narcissistic one. I can’t speak for other writers, but what’s made it work for me is having a sense of who I am independent of my identity as a writer. I think you almost need that to deal with the plethora of rejections. Actually, I’ve come to value rejections (and feedback when I’m lucky enough to get it). Both give me direction for how to grow myself as a writer.

Along the road, I’ve done a fair amount of critiquing and editing and I’ve been amazed at how difficult it is for some writers to accept anything other than glowing commentary. Having a second, third and fourth set of eyes on my writing is invaluable, even if some suggestions from different editors compete with one another. For that fact, if I pick up one of my own stories that I haven’t worked on for a few weeks, I’m far better able to pick out its weaknesses.

Growth and change mark our progress more than “happy”. And the ability to look at our own efforts with some level of objectivity is a gift.

How about all of you? Does anything in this blog post resonate? This is a fairly anonymous forum. Anything you’d care to share is always appreciated.



  1. Brilliant post, Ann! We do create our own happiness, and our own misery.

    1. Thanks, Sloane.
      Boy, isn't that the truth. If I could somehow bottle that understanding, I'd be a wealthy woman!


Post a Comment

Popular Posts