Happiness: The Down Side of Paradise

Most of us think we must earn happiness.

You’ve finally gotten what you truly wanted.  You have arrived.  You worked for it and now it is yours!  You envisioned it, you set goals to get there, you worked hard, and now you are finally there—right where you wanted to be.  Ahhhhh…the joy of the experience!

But you no sooner settle into basking in the wonder of it, when you notice a slight uneasiness begins to set in.   At first, you shake it off, take a deep breath, and all is OK. Back to basking in the glory of a job well done.


How Dare You Enjoy Life?

Then you notice it creeping in again, seeping into the edges of your happiness like a water spot on a crisp white sheet of paper.  First just on the edge, but soon bleeding into all parts.  You are suddenly able to identify this water spot on your peace of mind.  It’s called GUILT. Guilt in its subtlest form.  It begins to surface with a small voice whispering so you can barely hear:  “What makes you think you deserve this?” Then slightly louder, “How can you enjoy _________ while others are ________?”  Then at the top of it’s lungs, “HOW DARE YOU!”

Most of us feel we must earn our right to be happy.

If we accomplish certain things first—making this amount of money, putting in that many productive hours, spending this much time helping others, etc.—then we have earned our right to be happy. So let’s say for the sake of argument that you have done all those things first: you have made sure that everyone else is happy, fulfilled, taken care of and loved; you’ve got the perfect house, a  successful business, a satisfied spouse, excellent boss, and employees—let’s just say you’ve finally “earned” your own happiness—then what?  Well, then you CAN relax and enjoy without the guilt, right?

Wrong! The cell phone rings!  It’s the school and your child is ill and needs to be picked up right now.  Or your biggest three customers quit.  Or your company reorganizes and you are out of a job.  Change is constant.  People expecting things from us is constant.  Our very own “to do” list is relentless.  As long as we believe the guilt voices that tell us we must “earn” our happiness, it can never be a reality.  We will never be able to earn it, let alone keep it! So will happiness always be illusive?

The truth is, our happiness does not need to be earned.

It is a right, a gift that we are all born with.  The only thing you can change in this scenario is your own rule about what is true.  And the only place you can change that rule is in your own head.  You can choose happiness and peace of mind right now.  It can be something completely separate from your to-do list, your children, your boss, or any circumstance you find yourself in.  Right now you get to be Happy. Right now you get to have Peace of Mind. You can begin by answering that gnawing voice of guilt with your new rule:

 Happiness is not about earning it.  It’s about choosing it.

So when you take an hour to sit on your deck and read a book in the middle of a big project, and you hear that familiar voice whispering in your ear, “What makes you think you can….” just remember it is asking the WRONG QUESTIONS.  These questions no longer apply because the way you access your own happiness is known by you alone and is not up for debate by others, especially those guilty gremlins in your head.  You are the only one responsible for your choices and happiness is not earned, but chosen.


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