The other day, as I was enjoying one of my summer moments by the pool, I cracked open the latest issue of Psychologies magazine to read an interview with Robin Wright Penn (oddly enough I'd just watched The Princess Bride on TV which was her first starring role!). I was overjoyed when I turned to the page where the interview was and read the title "Happiness Doesn't Just Happen." Wow. That sounds like something that could be the story of my life in four words! Happiness doesn't just happen -- at least not for most people. Happiness is something you have to work at, work towards, and keep working on. For some people, happiness comes with ease. For others, like me and Wright, it's not as simple as that. In this post I'm going to highlight some of the comments Wright made in the interview (centered, in italics) and add my thoughts on them (feel free to add yours in the comments!).
Happiness Is a Choice
"The most important thing I've learned
is that happiness doesn't just happen. It's a choice...
We have to decide to make that choice every day."
Happiness, as I've written many times before, is a choice. Not only is it a choice that we have to make in general, but it's also a choice that we have to make every day. I think it's in Alcoholics Anonymous that they say, "one day at a time." I feel like this when it comes to happiness. When I think about being happy forever, or how my current happy state probably won't last, I feel overwhelmed and a bit panicky. The thought of being happy -- even in a general way -- for a long period of time feels overwhelming. I feel like I won't be able to do it, like I'm going to go back to my old, miserable, negative ways at any moment. But when I think about it as a choice that I can make today, right now, I feel better about it. I don't think about happiness long term. I think about it now. I think to myself, "Am I making the choice to be happy right now?" I'm not always making that choice (who is!?) but I try to do it more often than not. I try to live in the moment and embrace the happiness in whatever situation I am in. I take positivity one day at a time. I realize that I can choose to be happy, no matter what's happening. This doesn't mean I'm always happy, but it does mean that I always have the choice to be happy. For some, happiness and positivity come easily without much thought. For me, it must be a choice and it's so wonderful to know that every day I can choose to be happy.
Negativity Can Become a Habit
"I think negativity becomes kind of a habit.
It's easy to fall into it and, like all habits, there's something familiar about it.
I know it sounds ridiculous -- how can we be comfortable
with sadness or negativity? But we can."
I, for one, am all too familiar with the idea that negativity can become a habit. When I read Wright's statement above, I thought to myself, "Wow! That was me! I was in the habit of being negative!" As Wright says, it seems ridiculous that anyone would be comfortable with sadness or negativity, but I was. I bet there are many people that become comfortable with unhappiness. When we do something over and over again it becomes a habit, something we take comfort in (even if it's not good for us). Unhappiness and negativity can be like this. We get used to it and we keep doing it and, in some cases, it is reinforced. People know we're unhappy so they bring us their unhappiness, hoping to bond over the misery. We feed off of each others negativity, making it worse. It's sad that it has to be that way but for many people unhappiness becomes habitual. But we can break the habit. We can choose happiness and break away from the idea that we must focus on the negative. If I can do it, anyone can do it!
Being Happy is Being Generous
"Some kinds of unhappiness are very self-absorbed.
There's something narcissistic about it.
It's all about you, all about your pain.
It's so uplifting and generous when you
make the choice to give, to love, to be happy."
Never before have I thought about happiness as a way to be generous, but Wright is really on to something with this one. When you're negative or unhappy, you're sucking the life from other people. Your presence is draining, tiring. I know when I spend a lot of time with negative people, I feel unhappy afterward. I don't want them to be unhappy and I feel bad for them. I also don't want to spend all of my time talking about the negative things in their lives. Of course, everyone has bad days or bad situations and there's nothing wrong with sharing those with others. However, there's a difference between sharing a specific situation and always being unhappy. You know what I'm talking about. You know who those people are, the ones who are always complaining, always unhappy. It's hard to spend time with them because they are taking something from you when you are with them. To be happy is to give of yourself, your joy, to the world. Think about this when you're interacting with others. Are you giving or taking? Are you absorbed completely in your problems or is there a mutual dialog in your relationship? When you start thinking about happiness as a gift (and a free one at that!), you'll want to start giving it to those around you.
When I picked up the latest Psychologies magazine I knew I would find some great insights (I always do!), but I had no idea how much Wright's interview would speak to me. I was so impressed with the words she shared in her interview. She made me realize that happiness is a choice, negativity is a habit that can be broken, and unhappiness is very self-absorbed (in most cases). I really enjoyed reading her interview and learning from her and I hope you did too! Feel free to let me know what you think of these snippets from Wright's interview in the comments section below.