Sunday, October 7, 2012
The Illusion of Choice - Be Happy
I had a conversation with a good friend recently about the nature of choice. I realized that many of us have this idea that choice is a good thing, that helps us find happiness and peace. After all, if I can choose what I want, then I will choose what will make me happy. We fear being limited in our choices or from having our choices taken away from us. We are jealous of people who have more talents, more money, more friends, and more opportunities, because we think they have more choices than we do. We believe if we were like them we would be happy, because then we could choose the things that would make us happy. But is this really true? If we had the ability to choose whatever life we wanted, would we choose one that actually made us happy? Or maybe even more importantly, why do we think the choice to be happy is the same as the choice to choose whatever lifestyle we want?
Lack of choice is a human rights issue for many people, especially people who suffer under poverty or oppression. I'm not suggesting that promoting oppression would help people be happy, but I think it's important we dispel the illusion that, more choices make us more happy. I have had a lot of jobs in my life, probably just shy of 100 or so. I was able to have all those jobs, because I pick up skills quickly, I was raised in a stable healthy family, and I received a good education. I had lots of resources and I could have chosen almost any kind of path I wanted, but for years I made a choice to avoid life in subtle ways and to choose dissatisfaction.
So many people do this in all walks of life. Instead of choosing to be happy with whatever they have they choose to be unhappy with it. We live in a country with untold comfort and luxury. Most of us don't have to fear violence, starvation, rampant illness, or societal instability. Yet we choose to be dissatisfied with our lives. We are told that we should be smarter, wealthier, have more friends, drink more kinds of coffee, buy more organic food, be more beautiful, be more fit, and more, more, more. Yet this more rarely makes us happy. We are hiding the fundamental choice. The choice to be happy.
This is the simplest and hardest choice in a way. It is really a choice of faith. It's a choice of choosing our own flawed, complicated, imperfect, silly, awkward lives. It's the choice to smile, simply because smiling both manifests happiness and is the manifestation of happiness. It's a choice to appreciate what we have even if others have 'more.' It's a choice to let others have 'more' and be happy for them. It's a choice to love ourselves and our lives just as they are. Sounds simple right? Yet it is a very hard thing to do, because there are so many forces inside and out that point out what's wrong. Our civilization is built on the ability to solve problems, but that means sometimes we try to find problems when their aren't any. We have the brains of people who have tamed nature and crossed the globe, but most of our problems now aren't at that scale. At least the problems we focus all of this BIG MIND energy on aren't aren't to that scale. Instead of using this sledgehammer to pound at our little anxieties, what if instead we chose to work on a more fundamental problem: the problem of being able to choose to be happy.
Take time this week to look at places in your life where you are choosing dissatisfaction. What if you chose to be satisfied instead? Try smiling during the day even if you don't feel like it. When you are walking around ask, "What look do I have on my face?" It can feel fake and forced at first, but remember smiling does create happiness. They've done studies. It's like totally science and stuff. Try it out for yourself and see what the effects are.
If choice is something you value, try everyday to make the choice that is always available Make the choice to be happy, at first is small ways and eventually in bigger ways. You will be surprised how this simple intention manifests itself in everything you do.
Thanks for reading and Be Well.