Can you choose to be happy?

Strap in, it’s one of those reflective posts…

Is happiness a choice? It’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about in the past couple of weeks since something happened in my life that made me pause and think about it.

Let me tell you about me. I’m one of those people who is never quite satisfied with their lot; who is always chasing the next thing – the next job, the next house, the next item for my living room that will transform it into something worthy of going on Instagram. I’m irritatingly restless, I admit it. However, something happened recently which made me question whether this is a good thing – or whether it stops you existing in the moment. Yes, I know, this all sounds very much like one of those fluffy bits of influencer insight you scroll past on Instagram, but stay with me. There might be an element of truth in it…

“I’m one of those people who is never quite satisfied with their lot; who is always chasing the next thing – the next job, the next house, the next item for my living room.”

So what was the something that happened? Well, I was offered a job. It was fairly unexpected but that’s not to say it wasn’t welcomed. It was a promoted role, a more senior position than my current job, a step up. All the things you want from a new job. Why would I not want it?

Well yes, until a couple of things transpired… 1) they told me the salary, which was exactly the same as my current role, and 2) I realised quite how much of an upheaval the job would actually be. It was going to involve commuting every day, a significant portion of my salary going on train travel, and a lot less free time at both the beginning and the end of the day. So basically, less disposable income and less time. Yay.

I told them I’d think about it. And I did. I took a long hard look at my current situation. Why did I want to leave? Well, up until this time, all I’d ever seen was the things I didn’t like about it. There were lots of reasons: I didn’t have a group of best pals like I did in my previous workplace, I didn’t find it creative or collaborative enough, I got irritated by some of the people I worked with who were never satisfied with what we did. Et cetera.

“It was also pretty telling that whenever I moaned about my job to my sister she’d roll her eyes and tell me that I should count myself lucky.”

Nothing out of the ordinary, you might think. Nothing more than pretty standard work grumbles. And you’re right; writing this now I’m actually struggling to think of any solid reasons. It was also pretty telling that whenever I moaned about my job to my sister she would roll her eyes at me and tell me that I should count myself lucky. “You work 9-5pm and have zero commute”, she’d insist, lamenting her 5.30pm finishes. I would disagree with her of course, but I couldn’t see the woods for the trees. I couldn’t see the good for the bad.

When I was confronted with this choice I had to weigh up the good points too. And there are quite few: I can leave my house five minutes before I start work. I can pop home at lunchtime and make my own lunch, which also means that I don’t have to waste money on stodgy sandwiches. I can spend time with my puppy in the middle of the day – because let’s face it, if I couldn’t do that then we might not have a puppy at all. All these things that I’d just casually taken for granted were now staring me in the face like duh, pay attention, look at me.

“All these things that I’d taken for granted were now staring at me in the face like duh, pay attention, look at me.”

So in the end, I turned the new job down. Was it the right decision? Well, all I know is that as soon as I said I wasn’t going to take it a massive wave of relief washed over me, so if that didn’t tell me all I needed to know then I don’t know what would. Since then, I’ve tried to check in and appreciate the things that I’d noticed. I might not be full-blown zen just yet, but I’m definitely making more of an effort to choose to appreciate the parts of my job that I enjoy, and give less time and attention to the things I don’t. That might not be choosing happiness exactly, but it’s a definitely a start, and that’s’ good enough for me.

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