Choosing Happiness in Our Lives

by John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

All too often in our lives, we place happiness squarely out of reach. I hear people complain, "I'll never be happy," and "Happiness just wasn't meant for me." Unfortunately, these statements are symptomatic of the problem. Happiness is not out of reach; we just put it there due to other, often less important things, getting in our way.

The Arguing Duo: Mr. and Mrs. Smith

For example, let's look at how Mr. and Mrs. Smith communicate when they argue. Their communications are often marked by one contradicting the other. Blame is thrown around, and Mr. Smith often insists that his point of view is the right one. Mr. Smith is choosing, whether he realizes it or not, to be unhappy. He has chosen to be the one in the "right," rather than to work toward tranquility for himself and his wife. While Mr. Smith feels vindicated, his wife now feels angry, upset, and very much unhappy. Her unhappiness will eventually filter down to him, since they share much of their lives together. Perhaps they will both feel much worse off after such arguments, even though Mr. Smith continues to win them.

If life is all about winning such arguments, Mr. Smith will have "won" at life. That will be little solace to him when he looks back at such wins and sees how miserable he made life for both himself and his wife. We often get caught up in the emotion of an argument, and it is in this feeling of "being right" that we lose sight of the purpose of the argument. Winning the argument becomes more important than the person's feelings with whom we are arguing.

But what exactly has Mr. Smith "won"? Is it likely that Mrs. Smith will slap herself on the side of the head and say, " by golly, George, you're right! Thanks for spending the past 15 minutes arguing your point, because now I see the light!" I don't know of too many people who come away from an argument saying that (other than sarcastically). by beating the other person into seeing your point of view in an argument, the only thing you've "won" is bitter misery and resentment from them. Ask yourself a simple question: Do you feel better or worse about yourself after arguing with someone (especially a significant other)? How do you think the other person feels?

Most arguments are ultimately pointless, meaningless, and conducted over small matters that have little to no real meaning in life. by choosing to argue, rather than choosing to be happy, you are setting your own course. The two are mutually exclusive; I've never met two people who were truly happy when arguing.

But What About When It's Important?

Sometimes a discussion or argument is important, and solutions must be discovered or else the problem will fester and grow. This inevitably means both parties will commit to some form of compromise. The amount that Mr. and Mrs. Smith compromise, however, will often determine who feels better after an argument. The person who does the most compromising often feels worse off.

It is important for a person to carefully choose when an argument is so important, it must continue at the expense of happiness or tranquility. These times are more rare than most people realize. Arguing about personal habits, being late, doing a chore, or remembering to pick up milk are unimportant unless one person in the relationship makes it so. They are a waste of time, a source of constant and unnecessary stress, and will likely cause more ill feelings than the problems they solve.

The next time you're considering whether to nitpick or to bring up a point to someone, or to correct someone's simple misstatement or fact which may be slightly out-of-place, reconsider what you and the other person have to gain by your choice. I will bet you that nine times out of ten, you would be happier, and so would the other person, if you choose not to engage in that argument. It is a choice, and you have the power to make it.

Yes, that means biting your tongue. That means learning to let go of things that you'd otherwise bring up. And it means caring enough about the other person's happiness (and your own!) to make the effort to try and change. It won't always be easy, and the first couple of times will be rough. But the more you learn to let the little things in life glide over you, like a gentle breeze that blows across a field, the more at peace and happier you will be.

Start today. Choose happiness over being right.

Date published: 5/21/01
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 9 Oct 2013
    Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.

 

 

Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.
-- Oscar Wilde