Have you have ever heard the expression, “Black and white thinking?” This is a term that is used to describe a situation, a lifestyle choice, a way of thinking or a thought as everything being all one way or all the other way. And, in fact, nothing falls in the middle, the gray area. How many times do you fall into this deception?
We often measure these things as all bad or all good, great or horrible, tasty or gross, or fine and not fine. But can our lives be measured in such two-dimensional terms? I know I’m guilty of doing this. In fact, we all are to some extent. The problem with this type of thinking is that we can never truly enjoy happiness.
What is happiness?
In seeking a very baseline definition of the term “happiness,” we can refer to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
Happiness – a statement of well-being and contentment, a pleasurable or satisfying experience.
That definition really doesn’t give us much to work with. Let’s take a look at another description of happiness as quoted from the book, The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris (pg 5).
The common meaning of the word is ‘feeling good.’ In other words, feeling a sense of pleasure, gladness, or gratification.
The other far less common meaning is ‘living a rich, full, and meaningful life.’
This is most definitely something you and I both strive to achieve. In fact, if our life didn’t have some quality of richness (happiness), then we wouldn’t have a reason to get up in the morning, day after day. This leads to the discussion of how do we measure happiness? If everything isn’t all black or all white, then how do we measure the shades of gray?
The Happiness Scale
We are all, most likely, familiar with the question a health care provider will ask, “On a scale of 1-10, how do you rate your pain?” One is the lowest level on the scale and barely recognizable. A five would be an average measure and 10 is the worse pain you have ever felt in your entire life. I recently had a physical therapist tell me that no one can honestly rate their pain a 10 because then that would mean they are dead. Hm? Keep that in mind.
So, if you don’t gauge your happiness in terms of this 1-10 scale then that means you are engaging in the “black and white” thinking. It also means that you are either about dead (a 1) or ecstatic out of your mind happy (a 10). Now it may be true that you have felt those two emotions before, but are those realistic measurements of your day-to-day happiness? I’m going to say, “No.”
It’s time to rethink your happiness scale. Certainly having the deep lows of a one are not ideal or wanted. On the flip side, can you really achieve a full level 10 of happiness? Maybe. If our happiness level is rated as a five and considered an average level, then wouldn’t that also imply that plus or minus a few levels, we can still feel happy? Absolutely.
If you define happiness as the amount of money in the bank, the size of your home, or the steps achieved on your success ladder, well it’s likely that you will never be truly happy. If you tend to see everything in your life negatively, then you will most definitely never achieve the happiness you are searching for either.
How do you achieve happiness?
We have all read thousands of catch-phrases regarding happiness. Here are some examples:
- “Don’t worry, be happy.” -Meher Baba (song by Bobby McFerrin)
- “Happiness depends upon ourselves.” -Aristotle
- “You can’t be happy unless you’re unhappy sometimes.” -Lauren Oliver
- “Happiness is a choice.” -Willliam Glasser
- “Don’t put the key to your happiness in someone else’s pocket.” -Unknown
- “Happiness is not the absence of problems, but the ability to deal with them.”-Steve Maraboli
If only our achievement of happiness was that easy. Personally, I have never found these types of phrases very helpful. So, where do you go from here? Follow my blog and come back as we engage in a journey on the ways and hows to happiness. For the next 26 days, we are going to explore the Alphabet of Happiness.