The Happiness Connection  

It's none of your business

In primitive times, people discovered that they were stronger if they worked together as a team.

One person didn’t have the strength, or natural weapons of a sabre toothed tiger, or the size of a wooly mammoth, but if they worked together they could take on pretty much anything, and come out victorious.

I believe that this need to work together as a single unit fostered our belief that we have the right to judge the choices, decisions, and actions of other people. We feel this way because the choice of one might affect the survival of many, including ourselves. We are hardwired for survival.

We’ve all done it. We’ve observed another person and voiced our pleasure, or displeasure with what they are doing. There are times when we need to band together in unity, like when President Donald Trump decided to pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement.

Many voices criticized his decision, and individual states chose to make their own goals as if they were still part of it.

At time like this, working together and standing in judgment of a decision that someone else has made, makes perfect sense. We need our planet to continue to support us if we want to survive. Caring for Earth is everyone’s business.

There are, however, times when the actions of another person are none of our business.

When I decided to get engaged 10 weeks after meeting my husband, my family banded together to let me know how crazy they thought my action was. I felt judged and wasn’t very happy about it.

The first precept for robust happiness is to enjoy the journey you take through life.

To do that, you need to take ownership of the path you walk. You can’t travel a route that is determined by someone else if you want to be happy. It can be difficult to follow your own direction when you know other people believe you are making a mistake.

Let’s take parenthood as an example.

You may have gone straight from high school to college, and because if worked out for you, you feel your children should do the same thing. When your graduate decides to take a gap year, it goes against everything you believe, and you do your best to dissuade them from this lunacy.

You want to guide them, they want you to stop interfering.

Going straight to college may have worked for you, but you have no idea how things would have worked out if you had taken a gap year. Some incredible opportunity may have presented itself. There are no guarantees, or ‘written in stone’ results in any decision you make.

Your child isn’t you. What was right for you isn’t necessarily the best action for them. We each make decisions and then live with the results. If a gap year isn’t the success your offspring imagines, there will be other wisdom gained and lessons learned.

The personal path another person takes is none of your business. That statement may seem a little extreme, especially if their path is intricately intertwined with yours, but it is the best philosophy to have if you want to live a robustly happy life.

You can’t predict who will enter your life, or how long they will stay, so it is vital that you create a life that you love. This may involve some compromise and negotiation if you are in a relationship or family setting, but make sure you are content with the decisions you make that impact you.

If you take a direction that doesn’t feel right just to please someone else, whose fault is it when you decide you’ve had enough of being unhappy? Worse yet, if that person disappears out of your life, do you want to find yourself on this undesirable path all by yourself?

It is important to honour the path that others choose, and surround yourself with people who honor yours.

Does that mean you should you ignore Trump’s view of climate change, or ignore someone who is littering, or kicking a dog, to honour their journey?

When is it OK to voice opinions, and when is it a simply a case of interfering and being judgmental?

As a rule, if what people do is harmful to themselves, another living creature, nature, or society, then it is time speak up. Sometimes a single voice isn’t strong enough and we need to band together to take advantage of the power of team.

Note 1: Breaking someone’s heart is not the type of harm I am referring to. It is more the life or death type of harm.

Taking a gap year is unlikely to be dangerous for the person taking it, or the family and friends they leave behind. They aren’t harming themselves or others, unless you want to count those sleepless nights when you lie awake worrying, so let them make the decision and take responsibility for it.

There is nothing wrong with voicing your concerns, but try not to be emotionally attached to the outcome. Giving additional viewpoints and ideas to think about can be helpful, especially if you let them know you will accept whatever they decide to do.

That approach is very different from doing, everything you can to talk them out of their plan.

Humans have spent 200,000 years honing their ability to work together for the greater good. It is a skill that still serves us today. However, meddling in someone else’s life, or standing in judgment of their personal choices is not an appropriate time to use this skill.

It may be hard to watch someone you love make a decision you really hate, but look at the bright side. When circumstances are reversed, we hope they will do the same for you, even if they think you are crazy. 

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About the Author

Reen Rose is an experienced, informative, and engaging speaker, author, and educator. She has worked for over three decades in the world of education, teaching children and adults in Canada and England.

Research shows that happy people are better leaders, more successful, and healthier than their unhappy counterparts, and yet so many people still believe that happiness is a result of their circumstances.

Happiness is a choice. Reen’s presentations and workshops are designed to help you become robustly happy. This is her term for happiness that can withstand challenge and change.

Reen blends research-based expertise, storytelling, humour, and practical strategies to both inform and inspire. She is a Myers Briggs certified practitioner, a Microsoft Office certified trainer and a qualified and experienced teacher.

Email Reen at [email protected]

Check out her websites at www.ReenRose.com, or www.ModellingHappiness.com

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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