Ah, HAPPINESS! I love this topic so much because it dictates the way our days play out. We may suffer pain, injustice, disappointment, sadness. It’s part of life. But – and this goes for relationships, for careers, for activities, for everything – the prevailing attitude we adopt shapes the overall trajectory of our lives. My hope is that we would each select happiness vs. any other attitude option.
Let’s acknowledge this: On our journey through life, there are many, many twists and turns, ups and downs, highs and lows. We can choose, however, to look at the bright side of life, right? (Thanks, Monty Python!) Without being naive, we can work through the down moments and seek the positive in the situation.
I’m not trying to be overly “Pollyanna” here. In a talk my friend, Rabbi David Glickman, gave a few months ago, he highlighted the difference between “fairy-tale happiness” (as referenced by psychology professor Tal Ben-Schachar of Harvard University) and truly choosing to be happy. He said that it is not enough to be happy. Instead, to truly seek happiness, one must do happy.
To explain his position, Rabbi Glickman referred to the Hebrew word, simcha, which translates to English as “happiness.” He went on to describe the three pillars of happiness as he sees them:
- Choose to rejoice. Rabbi Glickman said, “we can’t choose how we feel, be we can choose how we act.” Acting happy is the definition of rejoice. Rabbi Glickman quoted Rabbi Shlomo Zalman who said, “A gloomy expression pollutes the air. If you don’t feel happy, make believe you’re happy and smile.” So, smile when you dial. Fake it ‘til you make. Decide to be happy.
- Choose to do good. The most precious way to celebrate life is to do good for others. In his talk, Rabbi Glickman talked about whether it is more important to be happy or to be good. He rightly said there are plenty of unkind people who are happy and plenty of good people who are miserable. He said that if he had a choice, he would choose goodness and misery vs. meanness and joy. However, he believes – and I agree – ultimately goodness and happiness go hand-in-hand. Happiness originates not in what we get, but in what we give. So give, give generously, give meaningfully… and happiness will surely follow!
- Choose gratitude. Rabbi Glickman, through his talk, reminded me once again that one who is truly happy is one who feels happy with what he/she has. Whatever your lot, be grateful.
These pillars truly are action-oriented. As Rabbi Glickman said, these three ingredients won’t make us happy, but they will make us happier. We can choose to rejoice, choose to do good, choose gratitude. Ultimately, what we are choosing is happiness!