One Trick for Increasing Your Happiness

Action may not always bring happiness, but there is no happiness without action. -Benjamin Disraeli

Nothing can bring you happiness but yourself. -Ralph Waldo Emerson


One trick for increasing your happiness is this:

Take action, even if you don’t see immediate results.

Contrast this with a deterministic approach: no matter what I do, events in my life are determined entirely by circumstances beyond my control, so my decisions and actions don’t matter.

Let’s break this down. First we’re dropped into a totally random life. From our original position, we emerge into this world in a place and milieu we have absolutely no control over. Along the way, we choose what we’ll make out of the life we’re given. Along the way, we’re  sometimes we’re struck by terrible fortune. Other times great things happen for no apparent reason.

Sure, some people really don’t have a choice. Their original position is so difficult, they are powerless to events beyond their control.

However, most of us do have the ability to make choices. Every single day, we choose what they’ll focus on, what we’ll work on, and what we’ll avoid.

No choice is still a choice.

Imagine life as one long, Hobbesian barroom brawl. Your goal is to play the one song on the jukebox that you really want to hear. You have two options:

  1. You can wait for a good opening or a lull in the brawl then try to squeeze through OR
  2. You can take action, start swinging, and through your efforts make an opening.

Option 1 is far easier because responsibility is external. You can always say “I didn’t have any options, so I didn’t try.”

With option 2, you’ve taken control over the situation. You’re responding to the situation, rather than just reacting. You’ve decided to take action. Even if we never make it to the jukebox, our levels of happiness increase when we leave the deterministic attitude behind and start to take responsibility for and action towards what we want.

But option 2 is much more terrifying, because if you don’t get through, you’ve got no one to blame. You’re responsible for your own failure.

You’re going to get punched either way. You might not even get to hear your song.

But at least you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you tried.

Photo credit: dankamminga