While the dictionary defines happiness as “the state of being happy”, that gives you very little information about what the state of happiness feels like. I used to think happiness was about having things, but then I got older and hopefully wiser. Happiness is more about being. And it is a choice.

I taught Child Care Services several years to high school students. One of the discussion strategies I used was WHIFs. A WHIF is WHat IF a specific scenario existed and you had to respond to it. In the course, scenarios were usually around dealing with preschool children and their behavior. In other words, WHat IF a child (or children) were doing something that required a caregiver to take action. What would you do in that situation? How would you respond that would provide a teachable moment for the children or model a more appropriate behavior or even apply disciplinary action?

I think applying a WHIF to situations in your life is often an appropriate decision-making process for adults. In terms of happiness, as in most life situations, the response you choose can either add to your overall happiness or detract from it. It is especially helpful in potentially negative situations to ask yourself this question: What if I choose to _________? (Fill in the blank with a choice you could make in a situation.) Would that choice fulfill my needs or add to my peace and contentment? Or what if I choose to _________? (Fill in the blank with another choice you could make in the same situation.) What would be the likely outcome of that choice?

Your response to your WHIF has the potential to either add to your happiness and move you further toward your goals and dreams in life or move you further away from those goals and dreams and possibly the people you love the most.

Do any of these attributes or feelings apply to you? Do any of them define or contribute to your happiness? Consider how your choices impact your happiness level by applying your own WHIF.

  • Your Needs are Met – When a person is happy, their needs are usually being met at the level they want them to be met. It doesn’t mean that someone is not having a hard time, it’s more about how you make what you have fill your needs.
  • You Feel Satisfied – When you are happy, you tend to feel simply satisfied with your life. You think about your life and feel good about it.
  • You Feel Content – A happy person tends to feel content about their life in general. They are not in a constant state of stress. But remember happy people do have stress, they’re just better at feeling content even when things aren’t perfect.
  • You Are at Peace – Peace tends to go with contentment. Happy people tend to know that everything will turn out okay and are good at turning negativity into positivity.

The truth is, happiness is how you define it personally for you. It’s not about getting tons of stuff unless you want that. It’s not about finding a spouse unless you want that. It’s not about having kids unless you want that. It’s all up to you how you define happiness.

Happiness is not a destination that you get to one day and stay at. It’s a lifelong journey that will have many ups and downs and struggles. But, you get to decide how those ups and downs of life affect you. You have it in your power to be happy where you are in your life right now. So, the next time you’re faced with a potentially negative situation, apply a WHIF to consider the impact of your actions. While you do have to do more than think positively to really and truly feel happy, it does start with your thoughts. Make your choices manifest happiness through your actions.