Happiness is a Decision

My friend has a very special friendship with her elderly neighbour. While my friend is at work, her neighbour, a spry 87-year old lady, takes her dog on long, happy walks throughout the neighbourhood and parks nearby. The neighbour gets fresh air and exercise, not to mention heaps of canine gratitude. My friend enjoys peace of mind knowing that her dog is in excellent care and she loves hearing about the adventures that her neighbour and dog share.

I asked my friend how she met her neighbour and she replied, “When I moved to this condo, I decided to like everyone”. This powerful decision made it possible to cultivate a warm friendship that enhances each woman’s life on a daily basis.  As I considered how a deceptively simple decision could transform our lives for the better, I realized that happy is something you can decide to be.

It doesn’t end there – you can decide to be happy at any stage in your life.  Whether you are 9 or 99, it’s never too late to choose to be positive.  Last summer, the Globe and Mail published an essay on 98-year old Ria Maude Hart, a grandmother who chose to banish negative self-talk and open her mind to new ideas and ways of being.

What if, like Ria, you woke every morning and made a conscious decision: Today will be a good day and I will see the greatness in everyone I encounter. I have incorporated this decision into my morning routine and I can guarantee that things change once you commit to happiness.

Carlos Castaneda noted that the key is in what we choose to emphasize in a given situation. “We either make ourselves miserable or we make ourselves happy,” he said. “The amount of work is the same.”


  • At the gym, I could grumble through a 6:00 am spin class and resent the early wake-up call OR I can take the opportunity to work up a good sweat, enjoy the adrenaline rush, and be grateful that the instructor is willing to get up early to help me take care of my body.
  • During another department meeting, I could let my eyes glaze over and be annoyed to be pulled away from my desk OR I can learn what my colleagues care about and find ways that my work connects with theirs.
  • While stuck in traffic, I could succumb to road rage and send hateful glares and thoughts to the cars that surround me OR I can use the time to reflect upon my day or to broaden my mind by listening to an instructional CD, an audiobook, or a new podcast.
  • When trapped in a one-sided conversation, I could dismiss the person as annoying and resent her whining and complaining OR I can listen and engage her in a real conversation to learn about what she values, thus exposing myself to new ways of thinking.

Once the decision to be happy is firmly ingrained into your life, why not take a page from Brian Tracy’s book, “How the Best Leaders Lead” and decide to be not merely happy but to be very happy.

What daily decisions do you make to be happy? How do you approach course correction during the day? Please share your ideas and stories in the comments below!

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Guest - Cliff Kanto on Thursday, 24 February 2011 14:53

This is great stuff, thanks for the excellent reminder Ellen!
All the best and be happy!

This is great stuff, thanks for the excellent reminder Ellen! All the best and be happy! Cliff

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