Control and happiness

When were you happiest? Maybe when you landed your dream job, or when ‘the love of your life’ finally asked you out. Maybe it was a time when you felt you could do whatever you wanted with no limitations. These are all times when you felt in control of the situation.

Conversely, when were you unhappy? Perhaps it was when you found out you didn’t get a job, or when ‘the love of your life’ broke up with you. In these examples, happiness and a sense of control are linked , while a lack of control is associated with despair. It’s not circumstances that determine our happiness, but the level of control we feel we have over them.

I admire people who believe in religion, but I wonder – does religion make one feel that when terrible things happen, that it is God’s plan, entirely out of our control, which, ironically, makes us feel in control?

Turning to God, or the Universe, takes the ‘lack of control’ out of the equation and this can be a useful coping mechanism for highly stressful situations when you feel like control has been taken from you. There is nothing wrong with this belief. I have done this myself and seen how turning control over to a higher power can make people feel happier and, yes, “back in control”.

Brian Tracy once said “You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control your attitude towards what’s happening to you.” The key here is perception. What is a bad thing? Imagine two people, one is an ‘A’ student and one is a ‘D’ student. They both do the same exam and they both receive a ‘B’ grade. However the ‘A’ student is distraught and the ‘D’ student is overjoyed. They both received the same grade yet one is happy and the other is upset. What separates them is their perception and the control they feel they have over the situation.

We can’t control anything but ourselves or our interpretation of an event, but that in itself is powerful and knowing it can bring happiness.

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