"Tip of the Week" – The Grass is Greenest Where You Live

I am back to my favorite blog, today, Pick The Brain, because everyone needs a shot of pseudo-psychology to appreciate what they have and where they are regardless of economic news and their employment situation. And it seemed appropriate after all the vitriol within the comments of my past blog post (OT) Response to ATL’s Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To be Contract Lawyers. (Anonymous comments with fake e-mail addresses will no longer be published. If you have something to add to the conversation, own it under your real name. You can read the new Comment Policy here.)

Realise that happiness is just a feeling and you can have all the feelings you want right now, without changing your life.

Most people think that our happiness is caused or limited by the circumstances around us. Sure our circumstances are triggers for happiness or unhappiness, but you always have the choice about how you feel in response to what’s going on around you.

Everything is a choice including not doing anything about your current circumstances…..even when you find them untenable.

I caught wind of a blog the other day highly critical of those who encourage others to help themselves.  They claim the ‘self-help’ industry is profiting off of  individuals who are not be blamed for their own inability to rise above their dire circumstances. The structures in place in our society are to blame.  These are the same structures which allowed the mortgage crisis, Enron, bank failures, the collapse of Wall Street and even the implosion of Big Law including outsourcing of certain legal tasks. And when we don’t blame the systems and blame those impacted by the systems we are preventing important change from taking place.  We are allowing those who are ‘helpless’ and victimized to now suffer the additional burden of  guilt for their inability to effectuate change in their own lives when it’s simply not their fault.

There is some truth to the argument.  We are all impacted by systemic failures. When someone works hard, qualifies to take out a mortgage to buy a home, does everything right then loses their job, can’t get another job to provide the same income to support the home and then loses the home, they are not to blame. Or if  a new lawyer feels they were misled to spend huge sums of money on an education with promises of a great return only to end up with no employment and the feeling there are no options, they can feel victimized.

What the author doesn’t allow for, however, is that after the losses are suffered at the hands of a broken model, what does the individual do? How should they behave? Does he take solace in the fact he is the victim of a systemic failure and go live under a bridge beating his chest in despair? Or does he have the choice to reinvent himself within his new circumstances?

Nazi death camp survivor, Viktor Frankl, said, “The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose ones attitude in any given circumstance.”

We all have choices.  We may not like the choices, but they are choices nonetheless. And if there are people out there giving you guidance on the options available to you, it doesn’t mean they don’t feel your angst.  But their job isn’t to change the system.  Their job is to help you improve YOUR circumstances if you’ve made the decision you don’t want to play the role of victim any longer.

So on that note, I leave you with today’s brain candy:

Circumstances and material things don’t make you happy – your thoughts about those things are what makes you happy. You have full control over your thoughts, so you can be happy anywhere. Realise that changing where you live, what stuff you have, what work you do or who you sleep with will never make you happy. It’s always your thoughts and the stories you tell yourself about your life that will do that for you.

If you want to read the full blog post from PickTheBrain, you can do so here.

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7 comments on “"Tip of the Week" – The Grass is Greenest Where You Live

  • Like your post, Susan. I agree with that saying (don’t know who gets credit) that “happiness is an inside job.”

    And I am a bit critical of the positive psychology movement but that’s not what you are advocating.

    Liked what Mark Vernon said:

    “Take the Buddhist writer Matthieu Ricard’s book, Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life’s Most Important Skill. This French monk, who has spent years living in Nepal, has also written a sophisticated tome on philosophy and a penetrating volume on the interface between science and religion. But his happiness book is a huge disappointment. It trades in the more or less obvious, and seems mostly concerned to align Buddhism with positive psychology, presumably so as to gain from the good PR of the so-called science of happiness.

    “The concern is that Ricard knows better. Right at the end of his book he explains why the science of happiness actually won’t do. However commendable and altruistic its goals, he explains, it bases its analyses ‘on a rather fuzzy assessment of the nature of happiness, lumping together superficial pleasures and deep-felt happiness.’”
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2009/may/13/buddism-western-spirituality

    • Stephanie,

      Thank you for acknowledging I’m not a proponent of nor advocating for dining on ‘positive’ psychology alone. But in the grand mix of things, like the eight spokes mentioned in your referenced link, ‘attitude’ is critical.

  • Hi, again, Susan. Just to clarify. When you says you are not an advocate of pos psych “alone, ” does that mean you are an advocate? Also I am not clear what your last sentence means? Are you equating pos psych with attitude?

    Very interesting topic. Thanks.

  • Well I’m a graduate of Jack Welch’s Crotonville School of Management. They best words Jack ever taught me…Control Your Own Destiny or Someone Else Will.

  • Susan,

    I like this foray into pop-psych, or common sense, or whatever. Yes, we are all responsible for our own happiness. The alternative is to accept being flotsam and jetsam in the oceanic currents of life. Be a message in a bottle instead.

    Best,

    Nick

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