I am reading another book about happiness, called "How We Choose to be Happy" by Rick Foster and Greg Hicks. It explains the traits shared by truly happy people whom the authors met during years of research. The book also offers ideas how we mere mortals with average happiness can incorporate these traits into our lives. I just finished reading about the second choice, "accountability." On page 46 of the book, the authors describe what this means to a happy person: "Happy people don't see themselves as victims, even under the most difficult circumstances. Their focus is on finding solutions to their problem and looking for what they can do to make their lives better." The happy people they describe accept responsibility for their own lives, the good and the bad, and recognize they can make choices that will further their own goals.
It follows that unhappy people make different choices. They may blame others for their problems, or get stuck in a victim or martyr role, as these sad choices have the potential to be self-perpetuating. It is never easy to accept responsibility for actions that have gone wrong or caused harm, yet if we do, we show a strength of character that can connect us with others rather than causing more separation.
I've been dealing with an ugly situation this week, in which one person is choosing blame and victimhood rather than accountability. Poor choices were made that couldn't have been ignored. However, had they accepted responsibility and said "I made poor choices, I'm sorry and it won't happen again" there are relationships that could have been salvaged. As it is, the finger-pointing, angry tirades and "How could you do this to me?" have closed doors that probably won't be reopened. Reading "How we Choose to be Happy" has forced me to look at my role in this scenario. Even though the choices weren't mine, boundaries could have been set that would have removed me from the action altogether. I can learn from this and ensure I am accountable for making different choices in the future.
But accountability is not just for mistakes and mea culpas. It also means responsibility for our own happiness. I am accountable to myself for my own life. Things don't just happen to me, I can choose actions to further my own success, my own comfort and my own joy. I understand how this philosophy leads to greater happiness, because it implies that we have the control and are not powerless in any situation. I don't have to sit around waiting for good things to happen! This means, however, that I'm not allowed to sit around and wait for good things to happen... I think I'm pretty good at accepting responsibility for my mistakes. My next step is actively choosing to further my own happiness.
Reference: "How we Choose to be Happy: The 9 Choices of Extremely Happy People- Their Secrets, Their Stories" by Rick Foster and Greg Hicks