The Power of Choosing Happiness and Embracing Our Emotions
“We can always see things in different perspectives. What is the perspective that we can use to be helpful for us at this moment?” – Ana Melikian
- Choosing happiness instead of pursuing it
- Understanding toxic positivity
- Why mindset alone is not enough
Choosing happiness instead of pursuing it
We’ve all heard the phrase the pursuit of happiness at one point or another. It’s even in the declaration of independence! But is that all it takes to find true joy in our lives?
It’s my philosophy that we must choose happiness over pursuing it. I am lucky to be born an optimist with a glass-half-full mentality. And at the same time, it took me overcoming cancer to realize that pursuing happiness can be a blind spot.
If we embrace positivity too tightly, working ourselves to the bone under the guise of optimism, pursuing happiness can become a goal that we will never achieve, always on the horizon, out of reach.
We are better served as individuals and as a society if we learn to embrace every little moment. Instead of seeing happiness as a goal, we can see it as a way of being in our day-to-day life. That is how we find the full value of happiness.
That doesn’t mean working hard is wrong or that life is not difficult. Instead, I encourage the choice of happiness within the hardships, letting yourself have joy amidst challenging points in life. Even small measures can do wonders. We still have the power to choose elements of our situation.
We can always see things from different perspectives. We must ask ourselves, “What is the perspective we can use to be helpful for us at this moment?”
The choice of happiness is rarely a simple one. Often, the times we need it most are the times it’s the slipperiest. That’s where practice and environmental support can sway us into true joy and away from false optimism.
Understanding toxic positivity
Possibilities open when we start to see happiness as a choice. However, this practice is not a matter of simply smiling and being happy no matter what. We must make room for the full scale of our emotions.
If we believe that we can ‘will power’ our way to happiness, we are going to fail. It's not about the search—the question of happiness is something that happens spontaneously. We can’t force it.
Imagine that happiness is a plant. We want to cherish the plant and make it grow. We cannot make the plant grow by pulling its leaves, if we try to make a plant grow by pulling its leaves, we are killing the plant. If you’re trying to force yourself to be happy, that is the best recipe for being miserable.
But, like a plant, if you can create conditions that allow it to thrive—making sure that humidity is in a good range, proper sun exposure, providing enough water, etc. The chances of that plant flourishing increase ten-fold.
It’s the same for positivity in our lives. We can cultivate positivity, and we can create conditions that allow positive emotions to thrive. And from there, we can build a better present and future for ourselves.
Why mindset alone is not enough
I believe in the importance of mindset. At the same time, mindsets have limitations. The concept of mindset and the power of changing our thoughts have limits, too.
If we read from the high-performance world, even in the coaching world, there is a view that if we work our mindsets, if we change the way we think, that will change the way we feel, our behaviors, our actions, and the results we get. And that is true. At the same time, that gives an almost unidirectional, linear perspective, that the only way to change is by changing our thoughts.
Thoughts are not the be-all, end-all. Sometimes if we are in a situation trying very hard to change our thinking and our mindset, and we're not getting anywhere, it takes physical action to make progress.
A walk in nature, taking a small concrete action, and letting yourself be the thing that you need at that moment allows change to happen.
I suggest that you consider three critical dimensions:
- Our thinking and mindsets
- Our feelings and emotions
- Our behaviors, actions, and implementations
We can initiate the process of change at any of these sites. Any change or transformation in one of the dimensions affects the others, creating a ripple effect of positive change.
When was the last time you chose to embrace your emotions? Has there been a time you slipped into toxic positivity without realizing it? Can you tell the difference between pursuit and choice?
Remember to check out my full episode for further discussion around mindset, plus how to confront our inner critic!