Thanksgiving has now passed us by and consumerism takes center stage. It is unfortunate that our society places such little emphasis on what Thanksgiving stands for. Yet, our individual behavior and choices shouldn’t be dictated by what others choose to focus on. We can choose to be grateful everyday.
Over the last year or two I have thought a lot about happiness. What makes us happy? I differentiate between happiness (which is brought about by good things and tends to be long lasting with no bad aftertaste), and pleasure (which is short term in nature and can often be brought about by bad things such as drugs). Lots of things give us momentary pleasure. But mankind has been searching for lasting happiness for some time. There have been books written and many studies done on the topic.
I believe one significant contributor to our happiness is personal progression. The ability to progress in life…in many different aspects. Some people look for circumstances to derive their happiness. While circumstances may influence how easy or difficult life is, they don’t have to determine whether we are happy. How is it that poor individuals are often happier than rich ones?
Each one of us lives with our own constraints. The grass is always greener somewhere else in some aspect of our lives. Maybe we were dealt a hand in life that is more difficult than other people. It happens. Rather than allowing circumstance (which is often beyond our individual control) to dictate our happiness, we can choose to make the most of our situation – we progress to the extent we can, and in that find great satisfaction and happiness.
Progression can only come by individual choice. If we were not free to choose, if we were compelled to do things, there would be no personal progression – which would severely limit our ability to be happy. No wonder people are willing to risk their lives to leave an oppressed situation. They need choice. Some people call it agency. Others call it freedom.
How grateful I am for the freedom to choose, the freedom to progress and the ability to find happiness in life…despite my personal circumstances.
Sometimes this freedom results in making mistakes or bad decisions, maybe even shameful or embarrassing decisions. Sometimes we may wish we didn’t have all that freedom. But we can learn from our errors and experience. There is something very empowering about saying “Yeah, that used to be me. But now I choose to be this way.” Such a statement is often preceded with many failures and relapses. It requires significant effort, patience and persistence. It is personal progression at its core. And it brings lasting happiness.