Saturday, 23 March 2013

Choosing Happiness

This post finds me writing from the mid point of Spring Break. By now hopefully most people have had a week to unwind and relax. With still another week of break to look forward to, I suppose the happiness level of most staff and students should be relatively high. But how will that happiness shift as next week slides by, and a return to education matters looms closer?

Its a popular social meme to dislike work. Aside from Disney's Seven Dwarfs, I've rarely encountered images of people happily setting off for their days work. Instead, its common to hear about dealing with the daily grind and the drudgery of doing mindless tasks for insufficient pay. This image does not improve for students either. Commercial media commonly depicts school as a place of mind numbing boredom, or as a scary and threatening environment built to deprive children of all hope or happiness. Society has created a myth that people have a right to be happy all the time and things that deprive us of our leisure cannot possibly make us happy.

Happiness is getting a lot of attention these days. Author Gretchen Rubin's Happiness Project has spawned a website and a series of best selling books. Google happiness and you'll get literally thousands of hits. Many of these sites extol the virtues of happiness and promote the position that people have a right to be happy -the implication being that things that interfere with or get in the way happiness are bad and should be avoided.

I would suggest  that rather than being a right, happiness is actually more of a choice. When people buy into the myth that happiness is their right, they immediately set themselves up for disappointment. In her book The Myths of Happiness author Sonja Lyubomirsky identifies how the IF factor (I'd be happy IF I only had more money, the right job, better friends etc) actually works to keep people from attaining real happiness.  The truth is we all control our own happiness through the choices we make. Happiness is not found in what we get, it is determined by what we do with it. Happiness is an attitude and is most determined by how we choose to respond to adversity.

A recent post by Mariana Ashley at  The Change Blog states "We always have the choice to be happy. Learning to change our attitude is frustrating, but worth it in the end. When we choose to be happy, things tend to work in our favor, and luck seems to be on our side; and even if things don’t happen the way you want them to, if you choose to be happy, you can accept situations for what they are and make the most of life, no matter the hand it deals you."

A positive attitude, regardless of circumstances,  builds resilience, and that's a real 21st century skill. So here's hoping that everyone makes the most of the rest of spring break. May it put you in a positive and resilient frame of mind, so when next week comes around we can all choose to happily  return to education matters. 



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