Tuesday, January 27, 2009


I was having dinner with some friends late last year when an interesting conversation came up.

Most of us were experiencing various stages of disequilibrium in our lives—either in our relationships, with our businesses or careers or in our emotional lives.

A friend I hadn’t seen in quite a while asked me, “So, how are you?” I paused for a minute, reflected and replied “Actually, I’m great. I’m feeling really good.” She looked at me with a confused expression on her face. She said she didn’t understand how this could be when I was navigating so many new and challenging business issues.

I told her, “I think happiness is a choice, and in this moment, this day, this is how I’m choosing to feel.”

I, like many of you, experienced a lot of loss and dysfunction growing up (three of my immediate family members died unexpectedly and prematurely between my 24th and 34th birthdays). And throughout most of my twenties and into my early thirties, I felt those losses had the power to dictate how much, how often or when I could experience joy. (I later realized--after a lot of personal growth work--that they were irrelevant to my happiness!)

It’s as if for years, anytime I started to feel light, free or happy, the old feeling of “waiting for the other shoe to drop” would creep in. Can anyone relate?

Last year there was a lot of buzz in the media about happiness and the happiness set point. (read more about this concept via this link). Research was released which showed how much power we have over our ability to be happy (and that feeling good was not related in any way to the accumulation of “stuff”). Helping others, feeling grateful, living more in the present and taking time for soul-nourishing, deeply absorbing work and activities are all things that impacted our happiness quotient.

Many of my clients are riding the emotional roller coaster of these uncertain economic times: “I can’t look at my retirement account, it makes me sick,” “My phone lines are dead, no one is spending right now,” “Announcements about layoffs are coming next week, I’m in limbo,” and “ I want to start a business or change careers, but am I crazy to think about doing this now?!”

I would challenge all of us to examine our thinking. Is it possible to be happy no matter what? Where does our happiness come from? Can I be happy even when everything around me “looks” like it’s falling apart?

I believe we can. Even if it’s a moment-to-moment experience.

P.S. I just did an interview with Cathy Greenberg, Ph.D., for her new book “What Happy Working Mothers Know.”. She and her partners are conducting research on working mothers from around the globe from various socioeconomic backgrounds to determine what make women—working mothers in particular—happy. Interesting stuff. Come here us at the Florida Conference for Women, May 12th and join this lively dialogue.


Jacqueline Johns - Your Happy Life Mentor said...

Yes Renee!

I have to agree.

Our happiness (or not) is a decision we make moment by moment, by choosing our thoughts. I have to say it's possible to be happy no matter what. I'm the Happiest Person I Know, even though I'm facing HUGE personal challenges at the moment.

Happiness comes from within us - not from shopping malls, or even from our partner or children.

Even though things may appear to be falling apart, WE are the ones who control our thoughts, and therefore our emotions.

I wish yourself and your readers a Happy Life.

Amanda W said...

Hi Renee- I love this post. I found that happiness is a choice through experiencing loss. After that, I had to decide what my purpose was, because if I didn't, I was going to be stuck in an emotional rut.
Now, nothing makes me feel happier than the volunteer work I do with my photography and the teaching work I do with my kids.
Your blog is lovely, btw.