“Cut the happiness crap, Tyler!”
That’s what a coworker used to holler at me when I was cheerful at the water cooler at 7:00am each work day. He said it with a smile and proclaimed he was teasing, but it stuck with me. Twenty-five years later, I think that guy was on to something.
There is a lot written about happiness these days. Amazon has 22,329 books on the subject right now. A Google search found 46 million articles, with most promising to tell us how to be happier and why we should seek happiness. I have read a few articles about happiness, and I agree with much of what is researched and written about it. However, there is something missing.
There are three perspectives overlooked in the highly publicized search for happiness millions seem to be conducting, and they are worth pondering.
- The expectation to be happy. If we expect to be happy all the time, we will be thrown off when life takes an unavoidable turn. The fact is, life’s journey includes some detours once in a while. People get sick, companies close down, children become teenagers. Life happens, and it’s not always full of skipping through sunflowers whistling Zippity Doo Dah. When we expect to be happy every day, we either shove the sadness deep inside to hide it or we are overwhelmed by the bad stuff and get stuck in misery.
- The pressure to be happy. The peer pressure to be happy causes stress and can damage relationships. When you’re struggling with one of life’s obstacles, and you turn to a friend for support, do you love it when the friend says, “You shouldn’t be disappointed by your manager leaving the company. The new one will be even better.” We don’t really enjoy someone else pressuring us to “get over it.” We all have feelings we need to grapple with, and we will do so in good time. Pressure not to feel the sadness is not helpful.
- The lost opportunities caused by happiness. The expectation and pressure to be happy cause us to miss out on the benefits of adversity. In our effort to be happy every minute, we are likely to take fewer risks or deny a challenge facing us. Happiness can blind us of reality and prevent us from rising above obstacles, which is unfortunate because there are few feelings better than those experienced after surmounting an obstacle or staring down a challenge. We rob ourselves of those feelings by trying to stay happy all the time.
When we deny life’s detours or go out of our way to avoid them entirely, we are telling ourselves a few things. We’re saying, “You’re not capable of overcoming that obstacle.” Or, “You’re not good enough to figure out a new way.” Or, “No one cares if you reach the destination.”
Let’s not sabotage ourselves with such negativity. Instead, let’s face the reality of all situations and let’s face challenges head-on. Look forward to the sense of accomplishment, don’t avoid it. We don’t have to “cut the happiness crap” completely. Let’s just keep it in perspective.