I recently attended a two day course called the Happiness Option Weekend.  I took this course once before, exactly seventeen years ago.  The experience changed my life.  This time I was accommodating a friend experiencing depression over the loss of his thirty-six year marriage.  He was one of a hundred attendees who were courageously willing to ask themselves, what is making me unhappy?

You need a lot of courage to ask that question.  We in the west live in a society where we are expected to be happy and prosperous.  Indeed, prosperity makes it even more difficult to ask the question.  After all, what right does a man or woman have to be unhappy when they have a good income, a stable family and a fine home?

You have to hit a turning point in life.  Strangely, achieving much success is such a turning point.  It is frightening to achieve your life’s dreams only to discover that they didn’t make you happy.  Equally unnerving is the arrival of a personal calamity.  You get seriously ill.  Your husband or wife dumps you.  Your financial situation plummets.  Perhaps your first child is born or the last child grows up and leaves home.

I think you have to consider another question before you will have the courage to ask, what is making me unhappy? You have to first ask, is this all there is? When your future looks like an empty abyss of endless sameness without purpose or meaning, you are ready to ask the unhappiness question.

Why is it so hard to ask this question? Fear.  We are all afraid of finding out that choices we made led us to the place we are at.  We are afraid our unhappiness is our own fault.  We poured everything into our love relationship.  We gave our all to our careers.  We gave our children everything we had to offer.  Why hasn’t life rewarded us with the happiness and inner peace we deserve?

Seventeen years after I asked myself this question, I know one thing for sure. You have to give up the idea that you can earn happiness. You have to severe the link between what you do and what you get.  You must find a way to know that you are safe and lovable just as you are, even if you don’t get what you want or deserve.

The overriding message I heard from the course participants last weekend can be summed up in four words:  I’m not good enough.  “My boyfriend didn’t kiss me good-bye.” “My aging mother never thanks me.” “Not one friend offered to help me, even when I asked.” “I bombed a test I needed to pass at work.” “I was raped and beaten twice.”

When you don’t get what you want or do get what you don’t want, you conclude you are not good enough.  You decide that you are existentially unworthy and therefore you have no reason to be happy.  Indeed, the second major message of the weekend was that being unhappy is a strategy to get what you want.  You learned on the road of life that if you are unhappy, somehow, someone will come along and give you what you want.  Your spouse will change; your kids will behave or more likely, you will beat yourself into doing what you need to do to get what you want.

The shocking message from the weekend program taught by the Option Institute‘s loving instructors is that “happiness is a choice.”  They also teach that unhappiness is a choice too.   By taking ownership of your attitude and your state of mind, you can be at peace with either choice. That awareness alone will alter the way you experience your inner life, without actually changing anything in your external life.

This is a true example of living the second line from the Serenity Prayer: “O God, grant me…the courage to change the things I can.”  You can change your attitude in a heartbeat.

One of the best ways I know of to do this is to “look for the good in the bad.”  There is a silver lining in every trouble.  You just cannot see it yet.  The Law of Serenity will help you do that.  This new e-book is now available for free downloading for a limited time only.

In peace,

John