The Happiness Connection  

To be happy learn to control what you can, not what you can't

Ways to find happiness

Happiness is a funny thing. We all know we want it in our life, but it can be a tricky thing to define and possibly even harder to conjure up.

Part of the problem comes from the fact happiness is an emotion. If you believe you have to feel joyful in order to be happy, you’re in for disappointment. Nobody feels happy all the time. Your negative emotions developed to help you survive.

Whenever your mind perceives you’re in a win-lose scenario, your negative emotions focus you on your primary goal—survival. In primitive times, winning meant surviving and that programming is still with us.

Instead of linking happiness to an emotion, I suggest you link it to a sense of peace and contentment. Happy people seem to find a way to accept the things life tosses at them. That doesn’t mean you have to like or agree with them. It’s about distinguishing between the things you can, and want, to change and those that are out of your control.

Living in Canada and worrying about the American election is futile. We are observers not participants, so save your energy for things you can change.

If you want to foster a greater sense of peace and therefore more happiness, the first step is self-awareness. Are you at war with your situation or people within it?

• Do you get angry at little things, like when a driver cuts in front of you?

• Do you fume when you can’t sleep because your partner is snoring too loudly, or they chew too vigorously when they eat?

• Do feel tired and discouraged with life in general?

Answering yes to any of those questions suggests you could benefit from a greater sense of Zen. Here are a few ways to help you get started.

If you tend to like to be in control, stop

I come from many generations of controllers. I’m not sure if it’s in our DNA, or we’ve just copied our elders. Either way we’re masters of overt and covert control. I speak from experience when I say, controllers live in humongous war zones.

No one will ever do things exactly the way you envision, so you’re bound to be disappointed and frustrated if you think they will. Remember that people rarely set out to upset you, it’s just they aren’t you. They do things differently and have their own opinions.

It’s also tempting to believe you can control the world around you if you behave in a certain way or follow a specific list of tasks. Sadly, there are far too many variables involved in any action to ever be positive things will turn out the way you expect.

I don’t care who you are, the chance of you controlling the weather is slim to none, and yet how often do people melt into puddles of anger, frustration and despair when it rains on the day of their big outside party.

Learn to recognize the things you can’t control and let them go. Be at peace with them.

Be a cheerleader for other people’s journeys, not the director

This point is related to the one above. Everyone’s on their own journey through life. Even your partner and children are taking their own trek. Share your wisdom and viewpoints, be there to cheer, comfort and console, but let them choose their path and overcome their challenges.

Parents find this particularly difficult, but if your children don’t learn to be responsible for their own lives, how will they manage when you’re no longer there to make the decisions. Accept that they’re not mini versions of you. They’re individuals, with visions and lessons of their own.


Trust is the key to finding peace, but adopting this principle is often easier said than done.

Choose to trust that what happens in your life, happens for you, not to you. There’s always a lesson, or opportunity to grow in every circumstance you encounter, both the good and the bad.

Remind yourself of the difficult times you’ve weathered, and all the ways they’ve made you stronger. Listen to your gut and believe in your ability to conquer whatever comes your way. You’ve done it before, so why should this time be any different.

Trust that your loved ones are learning from their own paths and will learn more by being in control of their decisions and accepting responsibility. If you encourage your children to make their own decisions when they are young, it’ll be easier for them to trust themselves as they get older.


This may seem like a strange piece of advice, but when times get tough you may find yourself forgetting. Gritting your teeth, losing your temper or holding your breath won’t help you establish a sense of peace. Take a minute for a few deep, conscious breaths.

Happy people don’t expect their lives to be constantly smooth or endlessly joyful. Instead, they work to discover their Zen so they can be at peace with whatever they encounter.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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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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