According to a recent Harris Poll, only a third of Americans consider themselves to be very happy, down from the last national poll by two percent. Although the numbers appear to be related to social conditions and also to one’s age (older people are happier than younger), gender (women are happier), and race (Hispanic Americans are less happy than Black and White Americans), expectations also appear to play a huge role in how happy people are overall. One of the statements researchers asked survey respondents to agree or disagree with was, “I won’t get much satisfaction from the things that I do anytime soon,” which almost half of 2,345 respondents agreed with.
Unfortunately, the researchers failed to follow up on this question. I found myself wondering, “Is it that people are doing things that they believe will never make them happy (i.e., wasting their time on things they dislike), or are people doing things they don’t want to do to build toward the future (i.e., taking that horrible statistics class in pursuit of the awesome career to come)?”
I soon realized that if the latter were the case, people would probably be more optimistic about the horrible statistics class being worth it in the end. The statistics having spoken for themselves, I can only conclude that Americans are still unhappy about doing things they don’t want to do, and that this is (still) the major source of their unhappiness—outside of those things that can’t be changed. Over a third also said that they were not participating in the hobbies or pastimes that they actually DID like doing, the combination of which is a recipe for unhappiness.
“The Constitution only guarantees you the right to pursue happiness. You have to chase it yourself.” – Some wise person, circa 1881, usually attributed to Ben Franklin
It would appear that happiness is a choice that results from knowing that at some point, there will be a pay-off. To be happy, your actions should support your goals. This means that if you are unhappy, you can do one of two things to fix it:
Choose to do something different. You can either do more of something you like to do or less of something that you don’t. Try this simple exercise, courtesy of gaiamtv.com to clarify what you’d like more of in your life. Then get to it! Or……
Choose to think something different.
“Okay,” you say, “but I have to go to my crappy job.”
“I have to take this crappy course.”
“My crappy car is the only car I own!”
Okay, maybe so. But instead of reveling in the craptastic nature of it all, think about the paycheck you’ll be getting on Friday, the degree to come, or the places the car will take you. It could take you to the next interview, or it could take you to your best friend’s house. The choice is yours.