Living a Magnificent Life:
How to Be Happier

Happiness is a choice. I know you’ve heard the statement before and it almost sounds a bit cliché, doesn’t it?

Happiness is a choice - in your relationships, career, and in life. If you're ready to live your best life, here is how to be happier.

You might be thinking, how can I choose to be happy, when bad things happen to me? Or You don’t understand, Judith, I’m dealing with some really tough stuff!!

My relationship’s not making me happy. My job’s not going well. My life’s not how I want it to be.

None of us are helpless. No matter how tough times get, no matter how difficult, we always have the power to re-engage. We have the power to transform. We have the power to discover how to be happier.

There’s a concept known as hedonistic adaptation. It sounds like a big scientific term, but what it really means is we all have a built-in tendency to stay at steady happiness levels.

If you win the lottery, if you are involved in a terrible accident, if you get divorced, if you get a promotion—your happiness will generally return to previous levels after a certain amount of time. This time period is much shorter than you may think, too. In studies of lottery winners and amputees, one year after the event, they reported happiness levels returned to the same levels as they were prior to either the winning or the accident. A wonderful windfall and a terrible tragedy had almost no effect on their long-term happiness.

We all have a built-in tendency to return to our set happiness point.

The goal is to move the set point. Turn up your capacity. Turn it up to 11. We need to engage and grow our capacity for happiness and joy. We need to stretch our emotions to encompass and experience with whatever is headed our way. How do we do that? How can we be happier? We need to realize WE have the control over our own happiness.

Locus of Control

So why do certain people know how to be happier and others struggle? Well, it has to do with the perception of control. If you believe you’re a victim of circumstance (or of your relationships) and situations happen to you, you believe in an external locus of control.

Those who are happier realize they aren’t victims. Even when bad things happen, they’re seen as opportunities to learn and grow. These happier people choose to live boldly because they know they can’t avoid life and prevent “bad things” from happening. Life happens. They’re ready to learn and grow and roll with the punches. They realize they have an internal locus of control.

We can change our situation, we can switch jobs, break up our relationships, move across the country—but if we aren’t changing internally and addressing our internal belief system, we’re simply arranging deck chairs on the Titanic. We need to make permanent change in our capacity. We need to adjust the limiting beliefs that might hold us back and strive to meet our yearnings. We need to engage in the change; dedicate ourselves to the concept of being our best.

All our life experiences offer value—our successes and our defeats.

We can choose to avoid life and limit our lives to stay within our safe bubble, but we will stagnate in the space. We won’t live full and vibrant lives.

We can feel angry or bitter and stay in a negative space. We can believe things have happened to us—people have betrayed us and life is unfair.

How many of us have said those words before? “It’s so unfair.”

It’s true. Life isn’t always fair. We can either choose to be victims, waiting for someone to rescue and save us, or we can choose to let go of helplessness and save ourselves. We can teach ourselves how to be happier, more fulfilled and more joyful!

Victims and Rescuers

Transactional analysts call the pattern of victim, persecutor and rescuer, The Drama Triangle.

The Drama Triangle is the interaction pattern where people attempt to meet interpersonal needs indirectly. Meaning, they’re trying to meet their yearnings: they’re trying to get what they need. Rather than engaging, taking responsibility and asking for what they need, they choose to play in the drama triangle, protesting, “It’s not my fault!” This isn’t real engagement; it’s pseudo-engagement.

If this victim-persecutor-rescuer pattern sounds familiar, it’s because it’s literally the plotline of every soap opera and every movie. We relate to it, because it’s giving dramatic representation of our internal process. It’s fascinating because it’s simply a dramatized version of the pattern many of us fall into.

We blame our partner for not making us happy. Or we swoop in to rescue our partner by taking any of their dissatisfaction and unrest on ourselves. We say we’re the ones to blame, then when they agree, we blame them and feel like the victim. Round and round we go.

These dramas perpetuate themselves in endless loops of dissatisfaction with no real change due to the indirect attempts to fulfill legitimate human yearnings. And, too often, they result in deteriorating relationships. The way out? Taking responsibility for…experiences. This means recognizing deeper yearnings and engaging in responsible, heartfelt communication. [Getting] at what is really going on underneath the blame and feelings of victimhood, we discover new levels of creative problem solving and positive results. –The Heart of the Fight

The deal is: no one gets more than 50% of the blame in any relationship. Romantic, work, friendship or otherwise. We each play a dynamic. One person may start an argument, while the other responds counterproductively. One person fails to communicate what they want, baits the other, nags, or argues. Then the other person retaliates and we go back and forth. It takes two to tango.

On the flip side, each person also takes 100% responsibility for happiness and satisfaction!

There it is again. You are responsible for your own happiness. Not your partner, not your parents. Not the lottery. If you want to know how to be happier, it is within you. We all have the capacity to live fuller more joyful, more engaged lives. We must reach out and grab it!

Life is only what we make of it. If we’re unhappy, then it’s on us to change it. Not in a mean way—we can’t bully or beat ourselves up for not being happier.

We can’t think, “I’m just not happy. There must be something wrong with me.” We need to empower ourselves to find our happiness. We need to discover and uncover our yearnings and then work to meet them.

In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl chronicles his experience as a psychologist imprisoned a Nazi concentration camp. As he pondered the meaning of existence and found the will to go on, he wrote, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

We have a choice to step out of victimhood, no matter how dire our circumstances. We have a choice to empower ourselves to give up the thoughts and beliefs holding us back. We have a choice to let go of our defensive reactions of blaming and shifting responsibility.

If you’ve moved to the destructive side or slipped into victimhood and responsibility, right the balance. Fight the urge to blame and criticize without taking full responsibility for your experience.

In this quarter of our Year of Transformation, we’re exploring nourishment and self care. We’ll talk about overcoming limiting beliefs and taking responsibility for our happiness. Please join us for an upcoming More Life Training to learn how you can unlock your potential, and find more happiness and more joy than you ever thought possible. Learn more at The Wright Foundation.

She is a co-founder of Wright and the Wright Graduate University.

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The Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential is a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Foundation performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.

Mind Over Matter:
The Surprising Effects of Positive Thinking

Do you ever wonder why some people are GOOD at everything?

Some people are naturally happier, more fulfilled and better at what they do because they have embraced powerful effects of positive thinking.

Maybe it’s your coworker who received a promotion at work, when you were passed over. Maybe it’s a friend who is constantly moving up in all aspects of his life. He has a great relationship with his spouse, recently bought a new house in the suburbs and is always doing something adventurous and amazing (he’s even a nice guy!).

Don’t they get under your skin? You know, those people who are just amazing at everything they do. Like King Midas, everything they touch seems to turn to gold. It all works out for them, all the time. Don’t they just piss you off, those lucky so-and-sos?!

All jest aside, it’s not your imagination, but it’s also not dumb luck either. Some people are naturally happier, more fulfilled and better at what they do because they gravitate toward powerful positive thinking.

Rather than pissing you off, these positive thinkers should be great examples and role models. If you want what they’re getting, you’ve got to shift your approach. Surround yourself with positive allies and learn from them.

These seemingly gifted people have learned to focus on the positive. They’ve developed a positive mindset—a growth mindset—and they’ve used the mindset as a platform to transform their lives. These people learned they possess the power to control their happiness through action (not willpower or willful denial). These people are leaders and influencers. They’ve learned the powerful effects of positive thinking.

Positive psychology isn’t about wishing and manifesting from the universe. Positive psychology can be congruent to faith and religion but it’s not a spiritual practice. It certainly doesn’t mean you’ll never face problems or frustrations. It’s not even about “faking it until you make it.” (Although, faking a positive growth-mindset until it becomes natural and genuine can help you get there.)

What Is Positive Psychology?

Historically, the field of psychology has been focused on the darker side of understanding disordered thinking and mental illness. Psychologists studied and wanted to understand why people were anxious, depressed, and so on. They wanted to dissect the problem to resolve it.

Starting with Alfred Adler, the field of psychology started to slowly break away from the approach of “identify, dissect and resolve a problem” and into a more holistic approach—a focus on each person’s needs and how to help them move toward happiness.

Adlerian psychology is known as Individual Psychology. Not because the practice focuses on the “Individual,” as we would instinctively assume. In German, Adler’s native tongue, the word translated to “whole” or undivided. The focus was on healing and transforming a person into their best potential state.

Positive psychology has evolved on this base of Adlerian philosophy. Positive psychology is a scientific approach to happiness. It’s based on experiments and tested theories. It’s an evidence-based approach to joy and greater fulfillment.

A positive growth-mindset isn’t limited to psychology and the field of mental health but is used by business leaders, counselors and life coaches. In fact, the field of coaching and positive psychology go hand-in-hand.

Coaches work with their clients to help them develop tools to achieve their goals and find more fulfillment and influence in their worlds. Coaches help clients work toward greater fulfillment and success. Much of the growth clients experience is achieved through the effects of positive thinking.

How Can You Benefit from the Effects of Positive Thinking?

We’ve all had times when we feel like an outsider. Maybe you aren’t connecting with your spouse or your coworkers. Maybe your friends seem to click, yet you feel like you’re standing on the outside, looking in. How do you get those connections? How do you get to the “good life” you want?

Well, positive psychologists, coaches and others who’ve studied the “good life,” learn it isn’t about the stuff we buy or own. It’s not about our promotions at work, or having the biggest house or the prettiest spouse, or even being the most intelligent person in the room. The good life comes from unlocking your sense of purpose. It comes from our experiences and our focus on the positive. The good life comes from the effects of positive thinking.

In our signature program, The Year of Transformation, we discuss many different approaches to reaching your version of the good life. One of the most important tools you can unlock is the ability to see life as an adventure. Focus on the positive. Every experience is an opportunity to learn and to explore. Setbacks are no longer setbacks but deeper chances for learning and engagement.

This approach to learning is called a growth mindset. Educators, coaches and psychologists have learned adopting a growth mindset’s one of the keys to success. Transformational leaders and visionaries (those guys with the Midas touch) focus on the positive and possess a growth mindset.

In our Year of Transformation program, Adopting a Positive, Growth Mindset is a key focus.

Make a conscious choice of a growth mindset, over a fixed mindset. Most of us have a fixed mindset. Oh we don’t mind learning something new or even taking a class or seminar periodically, but we’re not passionately curious and really stretching ourselves on a daily basis. We aim for a goal, achieve it, and are content to coast for an indefinite period afterwards. In other words, we engage as a shorter-term tactic to get what we want. We may engage to become a black belt in karate, to secure a plum position with our organization or to find a romantic partner. Once we get what we want, though, we disengage. What we’re suggesting is adopting a growth mindset if you want to sustain engagement past an endpoint.

Live your life as an experiment! This is the essence of the assignment way of living at Wright. This attitudinal shift can foster engagement by getting you out of your routine. Engagement thrives on novelty and an experimental perspective allows you to test all sorts of new endeavors. Too often, we feel that we have to do certain things and follow certain paths. We create all sorts of boundaries that prevent us from venturing into uncharted territory where we could engage in ways that we don’t, when we are following well-trodden paths.

You may recall a world class transformer, R. Buckminster Fuller, who is perhaps best known as the inventor of the geodesic dome. However, Fuller was also a philosopher, engineer, poet, educator and Renaissance man. He talked about living his life as an experiment designed to discover how he might benefit humankind. He formalized this experiment by referring to himself as Guinea Pig B. With this life-changing approach, Fuller was able to engage deeply in a myriad of endeavors. He filled his life with novelty and fostered in himself wide-ranging intellectual and emotional involvement. His ideas and inventions did indeed benefit humankind, thus fulfilling his experiment’s mission.

Be like Bucky Fuller and live your life as an experiment, engaging in all you do and harvesting more of the infinite possibilities available to you. When we engage in our life project as our personal experiment, we make discoveries—a key element of the Transformed process.

-from Transformed! The Science of Spectacular Living

If you’re ready for a more engaged, more fulfilling life of getting what you want, join us for an upcoming workshop or event. Our free workshops on Emotional Intelligence or a free coaching consultation can help guide you toward your next steps. Please visit us at The Wright Foundation for more information!

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The Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential is a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.