Today I attended my cousin’s wedding. In amongst the readings and the vows, the
priest took the opportunity to discuss why we make choices. His view is that
ultimately we make choices that we believe will make us happy. We don’t tend to
make choices that will make us worse off.
Making everyday choices
Looking at the choices we make every day, we all act in a
way that will contribute to our happiness. We decide what to eat for
breakfast. We might be on a diet, so we
eat something that we think will be a healthy start to the day. By eating
healthy, this should help with weight loss and this will then make us happy. We
have a shower, which we do to keep clean, and make us feel refreshed. We choose
our commute to work. We might use public transport because it is cheaper and
more convenient. This saves money, which improves our life. Or we might choose
to drive a car for a less crowded commute if we have free parking. All these
small decisions are made automatically every day.
Not all choices are good choices
Every choice we make has some element of consideration of
our happiness, wellbeing, or enjoyment. It can be a small decision, or a huge
decision. This doesn’t mean all people make good choices. The person who
chooses to steal a car is thinking they can go for a hoon and have a good time;
or maybe they want to sell it for cash. By making this choice, there is
something in it for them that they think will contribute to their
happiness. They don’t make such choices
thinking about the consequences.
The power of choice
As we have this incredible power to make choices, we can all
try to put a bit more conscious effort into our decisions, however small or
large. Some choices take an instant,
especially those driven by our survival instinct. For example we choose
to put our foot on the brake if something crosses in front of our car, without
giving this decision any conscious thought.
But for the majority of choices we make, if we actually put some more
thought into the decision making process, however small or large, there is a
huge potential to make better choices, that will contribute to our
To regret is “to feel
sad, sorry or disappointed over something that has happened or been done”. We
have all experienced regret over something that has happened in our lives. It may be something small like regretting the
last drink of the night the morning after; or it could be a decision that was
made that completely altered our life.
Having regrets has a major effect on our happiness, as we are powerless to
change those events that have already
If you have made a decision that you regret, that is a
choice that stays with you for your whole life. There are two options for
dealing with regret – accept what has gone before and focus on how you can live
with what has happened (or not happened); or you can continue feel awful about
the decision you made. As hard as it can
be sometimes to move forward, there really is no other choice.
I have often regretted choosing to study pharmacy at
university. At the time it seemed like a
good decision, but in recent years job prospects have thinned out and wages
have fallen. There were days where I was really quite upset about the lack of
opportunity, especially given how hard I worked to achieve good results.
Regrets and "what if"
When we have regrets, we often think of how much better our
life would be if we had made a different choice. How often do we ever think that the
alternative life to what we are currently living might have been worse? Not too
often I think. We all like to believe that “the grass is greener on the other
side of the fence”. I thought this way about
my situation, if I had studied a different course then I would have better job
opportunities and be better off overall.
So I made a choice. I got all my qualifications required to
be registered as a pharmacist, but then not wanting to settle for what was on
offer, I kept studying to gain additional qualifications. After to applying to
every pharmacy in the city for a position, I got lucky and landed my first
position. I worked hard for a couple of years, got additional qualifications
and then applied to work in hospital pharmacy. Eventually I had enough
experience and additional training that the time came where I was successful in
my application for a particular position. Now I love my job, I work with a
great team and I am happy with my potential for career progression.
I could have chosen to give up on pharmacy all together and
go back to university, but I wouldn’t be where I am now. I wouldn’t be living in my first own, I wouldn’t have ever met my partner, I
wouldn’t have known some of the great people who have become my friends. It’s so
easy to think “what if”, and ignore all the good things that have happened
along the way.
If you make a decision and later regret it, do something
about it. If that choice is stopping you from being happy, it may be time to
reassess what you can do to live with your choice. Take steps to put the decision in perspective
– was it really that bad? How can you go about making it easier to live with
this decision? At the end of the day you cannot change what has already
happened, but there is no reason to let regrets be emotional burdens that you
If we were all perfect, we would always make the correct
choices that lead us to a life of happiness. We are by no means perfect, and
sometimes we make “bad” choices. Focus on what can be, not what could have been.
The past cannot be changed, so the only choice is to move forward , as to live
a life burdened by regrets is to live an unfulfilled life.
I am the type of person who doesn't realise just exactly how
much I get stressed. It doesn't even have to be anything major, just lots of life’s
little demands that keep building up. Whilst I am dealing with all these
“little things”, my body gets tenser and tenser. It’s not until I get a massage,
have a good laugh or take a deep breath and relax my shoulders that I feel just
how stressed I have become!
Recently I've taken stock of my stress levels, and
discovered some ways to ease the load and relax. There is no exact way to manage stress, it’s simply finding an activity that you are so engaged in that your mind becomes
freed from its worries. We all have stress to deal with, and it is possible
for each of us to cope with it. Successful people are not those that don’t have
any stress, they are just successful at managing stress. Consider trying some of the following
approaches to help manage stress.
Option 1: Do some physical activity
It may be hard to find time to exercise in your day but
getting the body moving is one of the best ways to relieve stress and stay
healthy. Put on some music and dance like no one’s watching. Play on the Wii,
play WiiFit, Zumba or Sports Resort. Get outdoors and go for a walk, run or
bike ride. Physical activity was the
nature of human existence before the explosion in technology (we didn’t have
cars and we didn’t have machines to do a lot of our housework). Get your blood
flowing and your heart pumping and your
stress levels will plummet!
Option 2: Laugh
When you laugh, all the muscles in your body relax. If you
are stressed out and have a good laugh you will feel just how tense your body
really is. Visit YouTube and find a clip of a funny video. Watch a comedy show
that you enjoy. Remember a time when you
had yourself in stitches, and soon enough a grin will be likely to come to your
Option 3: Reward yourself by doing an enjoyable activity
We all have activities which we enjoy doing. Reading, shopping, sewing,
watching TV, going to see a movie, gardening, cooking, having a massage; all of
these activities are highly effective at taking your mind off your worries. Really
engage in what you are doing to refocus your mind away from stress.
Option 4: Talk to friends or family
When you get stressed you may have a tendency to bottle up
your problems. Talking to friends and family can help take your mind off your
worries, and a problem shared is usually a problem solved. Family and friends
want to help, and be there for you, even if you think you can manage on your
own. There is no need to carry a heavy load alone.
Option 5: Talk to a counsellor
Sometimes stress can get so overwhelming it can be extremely
hard to get perspective on how to deal with it. Talking to acounsellorcan provide a completely objective view on your problems
without any emotional attachments.
Counsellors are more readily available than you might think. Community organisations
Lifelinehave a 24 hour telephone
counselling service, and many workplaces offer
confidential counselling for employees.
Unhealthy ways to cope with stress
Choosing a healthy way to manage stress may be hard,
especially given that there are a range of easy, unhealthy ways to deal with
stress. Often these are the first port of call for many of us. Who hasn’t had
that chocolate bar or an extra drink after work at some point after having a
bad day? Smoking, gambling, and other risky behaviours are all ways people
choose to cope with stress. In the short term, you may feel better. But in the
long run, these types of behaviours will damage your health, adding another
unnecessary stress to your life. We all cope with stress in different ways.
Sometimes we might choose to manage stress in a healthy manner, other times we
might reach for the chocolate bar. Stress is a part of everyday life, so it is
a life skill to learn and practice the stress management technique that works
best for each of us.
Humans are a social species that have evolved to seek out
relationships. From the moment we come into the world, we are thrust into a world
of interaction with other people. As a species, we need to be connected to others. We need to feel accepted, needed and that we belong. The relationships we have throughout are
lives significantly contribute to our happiness.
Having meaningful relationships with other people is
essential to our happiness. This should not be interpreted to mean that we need other peopleto make us happy,
far from it. From the moment we are born, we begin our relationship with our
parents. As we grow older, we form relationships with our family, seek out friends
in the playground, and seek out a partner to share our life with. We have
professional relationships with co-workers and mentors; and then we have a
relationship with our own children; and the cycle continues.
Relationships need to be nurtured,
sometimes they can be extremely hard work. In any relationship, you are seeking
something from the other person and they something from you. You may seek love,
acceptance, respect. You may want to feel useful and needed. We all view
relationships from our own perspective. How one person views a
relationship and what they are seeking from it can be different to the other’s
point of view. When there is a mismatch
in expectations from a relationship, this can be when problems start to occur.
Relationships are the foundation of human existence. We
cannot live without them. Being connected to others emotionally, intellectually
and physically can bring us profound happiness; if we are careful in choosing
those relationships to nurture and those to sever. Sometimes we might take our
relationships for granted, something we have hall been guilty of at some point
in our lives. To decide if a
relationship is worth nurturing, think of how you would feel if that person was
not in your life at all. Fairly soon you
can come to the conclusion as to those relationships you value and those that
you could live without.
Having meaningful relationships contributes enormously to
having a happy and fulfilling life. Being connected to people who are there to
savour the good times and support us in our weakest moments helps keep us
strong. Creating these connections takes a great deal of hard work, but it is
work of the most rewarding kind. A life without meaningful relationships is a
We spend a lot of our lives working hard to earn money. We
spend it to live a comfortable existence, to keep a roof over our heads, to
have food in our stomach and clothes on our back. We pay all the bills and then
ideally we might save some money. After all that is accounted for, we make
choices as to what we spend the rest of our money on.
Why do we feel the need to spend our disposable income?
Essentially we want to enjoy life and therefore we seek out items and
activities which we believe will make us happy. When we go to make a purchase, we do so for a
reason. It might be something we need, such as a new fridge. No
one wants rotten food in the house! Or
it might be something we want, like a new bike. Different people are obviously
going to “want” different things, because we all have varying interests, beliefs
and values. These factors then give us our perspective on what we believe is
going to bring us happiness.
Say you buy the family a set of bikes. If this then leads to
countless bike rides, riding on holidays and spending time together; then this
is the ideal scenario of quality use of disposable income. The money you have
spent has not only bought a physical, tangible object; it has also created an
opportunity to create memories together, and keep active and healthy.
If however you buy the bikes and they sit in the shed
gathering dust, you probably aren't
going to feel all that fulfilled with your purchase. There may be the initial excitement
of having something shiny and new; but this initial satisfaction soon fades.
We have all made these types of purchases, often made with
the best of intentions that by purchasing that object somehow this will make us
happier and more fulfilled with our lives. We don’t often part with our “leisure
money” unless we think there will be some enjoyment to come out of it.
After having a look at the items I have purchased over the
years, there are some I can identify as being more valuable to me than others. I am by no means a spendthrift, but there are
some items I look at and I think “why did I bother”, as they haven’t created
the happiness I had hoped they would.
Happiness comes from dreaming, creating and achieving; not
from having. There are a plethora of quotes on the topic. “Money doesn't buy
happiness” is one such quote that obviously comes to mind. If you use your money carefully, and spend it
wisely, it can give you opportunities to create your own happiness.