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Is Happiness A Choice? No [3 Reasons Why]
It’s likely you’ve heard the phrase happiness is a choice at some point. In this video, we discuss why that saying is wrong and potentially harmful as well as a few related nuances. Here are three reasons why happiness is not a choice.
It’s not one choice.
Honestly what does calling happiness a choice even mean? You can’t just choose in a moment to become happy, otherwise we would all choose this all the time. This phrase is detrimental because it causes people to think that unhappiness is because they are choosing in the moment to be unhappy. This is an oversimplification. Happiness is rooted in all our choices, how we view the world, our habits, and the life we build for ourselves. Happiness is the sum of all our choices and circumstances, not just a single quick choice.
I think the intent here is to say happiness is in our control. Even that’s a bit of a stretch. Happiness is definitely influenceable and we can set up our lives to feel more, but we don’t have full control. And it’s definitely not one singular choice.
Our Mind Generally Runs On Autopilot
Saying happiness is a choice implies something happens, then we make a choice about whether or not to be happy. In reality, this is often not the case. Events happen then suddenly we realize we’re unhappy. We can change our focus at that point, but there’s no real choice beforehand. It’s akin to other feelings. Sometimes, we’re sad or angry, then notice it. After noticing it we can make choices, but we can arrive at the feeling before ever making a conscious decision to get there.
Happiness has a genetic component
This channel is all about optimizing happiness, so we don’t talk about this often but there is some component of happiness within our genetics. Some people are simply wired to feel happy more often than others. Now there are all kinds of ways we can set up our life to optimize for happiness, but saying happiness is a choice completely ignores our genetic baseline. Again, there’s a lot we can do, but at least some portion is determined by genetics. Again, it’s like anger or sadness, some of us are more prone to this feeling than others.
Overall, Happiness is a choice just isn’t a great saying. It misses all the relevant nuance. We like to end with something actionable, so here’s a couple steps for thinking about how choices actually impact happiness.
Create a list of choices that do impact happiness.
Determine how you can make it easier to make the preferable choice during one of those decisions.
Let me know what you think when you have a chance!
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