Happiness Takes Work

BY: Dr. Richard Osbaldiston, EKU associate professor of psychology

Most people would like to be happier in their lives.  Even if you are already a fairly happy person, it’s easy to wish that some of the stressors and hassles of everyday life were toned down, and you could enjoy a few more of the peaks and special moments.

And certainly for people who are in undesirable circumstance, it’s really easy to wish that life was different. 

Here’s a key point: just wishing for happiness isn’t likely to make it happen. 

For most of us, happiness takes work.  It takes a deliberate and intentional effort to control our thoughts so that we experience more happiness. 

But this work isn’t like rolling boulders uphill, picking cotton in the hot sun, or hammering rocks for the great highway.  The work is very subtle.  The work is a shift in perspective.

A simple fable illustrates this point.  There were three brick layers working side-by-side all doing the exact same job. 

  • The first man had a frown on his face, and he was working with drudgery.  He said, “I am laying bricks.  This is all I ever do.  I lay bricks one by one all day long.”
  • The second man had a smile on his face, and he was working contentedly.  He said, “I am working to support my wife and children.”
  • The third man was positively beaming with delight, and he was working with an effortlessness.  He said, “I am building a fabulous church where people will come to worship and be joined in fellowship.”

They were all doing the same job, but each had chosen to have a different perspective on it.  This is the work of happiness: You have to see the options and chose your own perspective.  Your perspective can lead you to unhappiness or happiness.

Another illustration is from Richard Carlson, Ph. D.  He says that you can be unhappy that you have to drop off your child at school before you go to work, or you can be happy that you have a car to drive, and child to care for, and a job to go to.  Happiness depends on your perspective. 

Remember that just wishing for happiness isn’t likely to make it happen.  You have to do the work of being deliberate and intentional to control your thoughts.  Often, it is a simple change in perspective that can bring much happiness to you. 

Published on May 10, 2019