Erik Van Alstine

Erik Van Alstine

Author. Leadership strategist. Expert in Perceptual IntelligenceTM.

Happiness – More About Mindset than Circumstance

I’ve been describing happiness as “a pattern of positive emotion that comes from seeing good things happen at a good pace” for eight posts now. Given our better understanding of happiness, how can we live happier lives?

We start off realizing that happiness is more about mindset than circumstance. Happiness comes from the way we “see good things happen.” It’s about our perspective.

I’m not just talking about perspective for the actual circumstances of life, but the virtual experiences we have in the theater of the mind, where “see things” that may not even be there, ascribing unique meaning to events, or remembering experiences in a certain way, or imagining things that haven’t yet happened and may never happen.

Because of the power of perception, we can have all sorts of inner “experiences” that have nothing to do with reality. So we must always separate our actual experiences from the ways we see those experiences, and our actual experiences from memories and imagination that aren’t real experiences at all but still feel real.

With that in mind, we can say that happiness is more about our perception than the actual good or bad things that happen to us or the things we possess.

Last post we looked at happiness in the face of trouble. When bad things happen, happier people see things in a different way, which helps them be happy despite their troubles.

  • Happy people see troubles as temporary and isolated. They tell themselves, “This won’t last, and it’s only one aspect of my life.”
  • Unhappy people see troubles as permanent and global. They tell themselves, “This is bad forever, and it ruins everything.”

Imagine these two types of people get laid off. The happy types say to themselves, “This is terrible, but I’m going to get a new job, and there are many good things in life besides that job.” They recover quickly and start looking for new work.

The unhappy types say, “This is terrible, and I’ll never get a new job. My whole life is ruined.” They recover slowly, if at all, and are slower to find new work.

Which of the two is seeing things right? Who perceives life more accurately? Both types can be wrong at times, but the happier type usually sees life more clearly than the unhappy type. Truth is, troubles don’t last, and there are many other good things in life to appreciate. As a rule, the happy type is more realistic than the unhappy type.

The crazy thing is, unhappy types often claim to be more realistic than happy people. But often, it’s the opposite. The happy people see tough circumstances in a more realistic and empowering way.

This gives them more resilience and a better quality of life.


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