Happiness Is Not Out There; It’s In You

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“Stop letting people who do so little for you control so much of your mind, feelings, and emotions.” This quote encapsulates my view of happiness. We have become a nation of unhappy people because so many of us have lost the skill of self-control. I am hardly alone in this thought.

In terms of a lack of happiness, in June 2020, as the nation faced its uncertain, pre-vaccine lockdown period, the Associated Press reported on a significant “Happiness Survey” (June 16, 2020) and found America had not been that unhappy in more than 50 years. We can all blame the pandemic for our misery. However, that would be unfair.

Indeed, by the end of December 2020, a World Happiness Report was released (yes, there is such a thing!) finding the happiest country in the world was not America – we were, in fact, number 18. The happiest country was Finland, and the happiest of happy cities was Helsinki!


Self-Control in an Out-of-Control World

In doing a much deeper dive into the relationship between happiness, self-control, and, indeed, how others control our happiness, I came across an insightful article written in February 2020 before there was a national lockdown consensus.

Karen Lynn Allen is a well-known author who thinks a great deal about self-control, happiness, and such, and she often comments on such things in her Musings blog. She wrote a piece taking an opposite approach, detailing the habits of unhappy people. As it turns out, we can see a lack of self-control in almost every aspect of unhappiness.

I have taken some of Allen’s reflections and added a few thoughts of my own based on the thousands of people I’ve met due to my speaking career and life in general.

  1. Unhappy people love to brag. I like to refer to this as the lack of social media self-control. How can anyone keep up a simulated appearance in front of hundreds of people? More importantly, why do so many of us allow our happiness to be controlled by so many people we haven’t even met?
  2. Unhappy people hold grudges. A lack of self-control leads many people to become angry at everything. The angrier they become, the more it fuels anger at other things. Will yourself to give up loathing; love more, care more, and love the stranger as yourself.
  3. Unhappy people blame others. It takes a lot of self-control to say, “I am sorry for my past mistakes. I will try to do better starting now.” We can carry a significant burden of unhappiness on our backs. It is relieved by striving to do better and by not blaming someone else.
  4. Unhappy people demean others. Self-control relies on all of us to feel more secure within ourselves. Be happy within yourself, love your accomplishments, and give up shame. More so, don’t be around people who are only happy when they try to humiliate you or remind you of who you were, not who you are.
  5. Unhappy people tend to embellish. It takes self-control to speak the absolute truth. Enjoy where you’ve been and where you are. There is no shame in failing or falling short. Live with honesty.
  6. Unhappy people fixate on the negative. Studies have shown that an obsession with news often leads to unhappiness. We live in a time where some of us are not only addicted to news but only to one viewpoint. Beyond a modest amount of viewing, develop the self-control to turn off the television and mobile devices and go outside and unplug.
  7. Unhappy people are inactive. Sedentary people are unhappier than active people. In whatever manner you’re capable of exercising, develop the self-control to be physically active. Energetic people are happier people.

Ultimately, we are all capable of being happier, and the key is often self-control. If you learn self-control, you can master anything. You can determine how you make a difference in making yourself happy and in elevating the happiness of others. Happiness is not out there; it’s in you!


For more information about Hall of Fame speaker and bestselling author Steve Gilliland and the Gilliland Foundation, please contact steve@stevegilliland.com / 724-540-5019 / www.stevegilliland.com.