The Happiness Habit - Joel Osteen

Many people don’t realize that much of the manner in which we approach life — our attitudes, and our demeanour — is learned behaviour. These habits have formed by repetition throughout the years. If we've spent years focusing on what’s wrong rather than what’s right, then these negative patterns are going to keep us from enjoying our lives.

We acquired many of our habits from our parents or from the people who were around us as we grew up. Studies tell us that negative parents raise negative children. If your parents focused more on what was wrong, living stressed out, uptight, or discouraged, there’s a good possibility that you have developed some of those same negative mind-sets.

I often have people tell me, “Well, Joel, I’m just a worrier. I’m just uptight. I’m not a friendly sort of person.”

No, please understand, those are habits that you have developed. And the good news is you can “reprogram” your own “computer.” You can get rid of a negative mentality and develop a habit of happiness.

The Bible says, “Rejoice in the Lord always.” One translation simply says, “Be happy all the time.” That means no matter what comes our way, we can have smiles on our faces. We should get up each morning excited about that day. Even if we are facing difficult or negative circumstances, we need to learn to keep a positive outlook. Many people are waiting for their circumstances to be worked out before they decide to be happy. “Joel, as soon as I get a better job; as soon as my child straightens up; as soon as my health improves.”

No, the bottom line is if you’re going to be happy, you need to make a decision to be happy right now.

Happiness does not depend on your circumstances; it depends on your will. It’s a choice that you make. I’ve seen people go through some of the most awful, unfortunate situations, yet at the time you would never know they were having a problem. They had a smile on their face and a good report on their lips. In spite of their dire dilemmas, they remained positive, upbeat, and energetic.

Happiness does not depend on your circumstances…It’s a choice that you make.

Other people in similar circumstances — and some in far less severe situations — insist on wallowing in despair; they’re down, depressed, discouraged, and worried. What makes the difference?

It’s all in how they’ve trained their mind. One person has developed a habit of happiness. She is hopeful, trusting, believing for the best. The other person has trained his mind to see the negative. He’s worried, frustrated, and constantly complaining.

If you are going to develop a habit of happiness, you must learn to relax and go with the flow, instead of getting frustrated. You have to believe that God is in control, and that means you have no need to be stressed out and worried. Moreover, you have to be grateful for what you have, rather than complaining about what you don’t have. A habit of happiness boils down to staying on the positive side of life.

Each day is full of surprises and inconveniences, so you must accept the fact that not everything is going to always go your way. Your plans are not always going to work out just as you scheduled them. When that happens, make a willful decision that you are not going to let the circumstances upset you. Don’t allow stress to steal your joy. Instead, be adaptable and adjustable and seek to make the best of a bad situation.

One of the best things I’ve ever learned is that I don’t have to have my way to be happy. I’ve made up my mind that I’m going to enjoy each day whether my plans work out, or whether they don’t.

Our attitude should be, I’m going to enjoy today even if I have a flat tire on the way home. I’m going to enjoy each day even if it rains out my ball game. I’m going to be happy in life even if I don’t get that promotion that I was hoping for.

When you have that kind of attitude, minor irritations or inconveniences that may have stressed you out will cease to be a source of frustration. You don’t have to live all uptight. Understand, you can’t control people, nor can you change them. Only God can do that. If somebody is doing something that’s getting on your nerves, you might as well leave that up to God. Quit allowing somebody else’s quirk or idiosyncrasy to get the best of you.

If your husband is fifteen minutes late coming from work and dinner gets a little cold, that ruins your entire evening. No, don’t be so rigid and set in your ways. Life is too short to live it stressed out. Besides, prolonged stress can damage your health and significantly shorten your life. I don’t want to die early because I got upset every time I was stuck in traffic. I don’t want to live with knots in my stomach because some person is not doing what I want him to do or because my big weekend was rained out.

It’s not worth it. You can choose to be more flexible and have a more easygoing attitude. Think about this. Ten years from now, many of the things that you are allowing to create stress in your life won’t even matter. You won’t remember the fact that your golf game was rained out last Tuesday. You won’t care that you were stuck in traffic.

One time, Victoria and I had the perfect vacation planned. We had been looking forward to it for several months. It was an opportunity for just the two of us to get away together and take a break for a few days. The closer I got to the vacation dates, the more excited I became. I had my tickets and I was ready to go.

My mother had been dealing with a hip problem due to a bout with polio she had suffered when she was a child. When the doctors had done their best to treat my mother with medicine, they decided that they were going to have to replace her hip, so they scheduled her for surgery. Something came up right at the last minute, and they had to reschedule that surgery. The postponed surgery date fell on the exact same day we planned to leave for our big trip. I had a tough decision whether I was going to go on vacation or stay home and take care of my mother. We decided to stay home. At first, we were disappointed; it was a bit of a let down, but we decided that we weren't going to let that steal our joy.

Mother had the surgery, and that week while I was at the hospital visiting her, I must have prayed for twenty or thirty other people, too. At one point, I was going from hospital room to hospital room, as one family after another asked me to pray for their loved one. At the end of that week, I felt more refreshed and more relaxed than I would have had I gone on vacation.

We could have let that stress us. We could have said, “God, it’s not fair. We had this planned for a long time. Why is this happening to us?”

Instead, we simply remained adaptable and adjustable. The Bible says in Romans 8:28, “That all things work together for good when you love the Lord.” I don’t know why Mother’s surgery fell on the exact same day as our vacation. I don’t know what all the factors were, but I do know this: God worked it out for our good. I know, too, even when my plans don’t work out, even when things don’t go my way, because I am honoring God and striving to keep the right attitude, God will make it up to me.

He’ll do the same for you. When your plans don’t work out, don’t get negative and sour. Don’t start complaining, “I can’t believe this is happening to me. God, I just can’t afford this delay.” God may be protecting you from an accident. How do you know God has not allowed that delay so you can meet somebody He really wants you to know? Learn to go with the flow. Don’t get upset and let minor interruptions steal your joy.

Joel Osteen, author of Become a Better You: 7 Keys to Improving Your Life Every Day (Copyright © 2007 by Joel Osteen), and his wife, Victoria, are the pastors of America’s largest church — Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas.

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