Take Control edited 9_25_13

Taking control of your life requires:

  1. The desire to change and grow
  2. Your belief that you can actually make changes in your life
  3. Identification of the areas to change or adjust.
  4. Your choosing to take the actions necessary to change your life rather than passively observing how the events in your life unfold.


Sonja Lyubomirsky, in her book The How of Happiness, provided a summary of the research about what determines happiness. She illustrated it with a pie chart that showed 50% of happiness is determined by genetics.   In other words some people are born with more ability to be joyful and happy then others. It turns out people have a set point or a level of happiness that is very natural to them.  Another 10% of happiness is influenced by our external circumstances.  Who we marry, how much money we have, what type of house we live in, etc.  These are what most of us spend our time chasing and why we find it so difficult to capture happiness.   They add to happiness, but only to a small degree and often only for a limited time.

That leaves 40% of happiness that can be determined by our thoughts and actions.   This is what we can control.  This 40% is how we think, feel and act in the hundreds of little situations that we encounter every day.  This 40% is our opportunity to increase our level of happiness.   So even though we have a genetic set point and can’t influence more than 10% of our happiness with money and other circumstances, we can control our thoughts and actions to raise our level of happiness above our genetic set point if we choose.

Lyubomirsky what determines happiness chart

NOTE:  Sonja Lyubomirsky points out that these numbers are based on a consolidation of many research studies and they are not exact and will vary by person.   The graph is intended to illustrate the concept that a high percentage of our happiness can be determined by controlling our thoughts and actions.

What are you choosing?  Our state of mind has four times more impact on our happiness than our circumstances do.  How are you influencing your state of mind? icons-02 How are you categorizing your life?  If you have to miss a meeting to stay home with a sick child, is it a catastrophe that makes you angry and unhappy or are you grateful for the time with your son or daughter.  Which feeling are they seeing while you spend time with them?  If your significant other gets you a gift on your birthday you are not excited about, are you thinking about how bad the relationship is because they don’t know what you want, or are you appreciating someone who remembered and was thoughtful enough to get you a gift?  Do you become unhappy when, after reviewing your finances, you find out you can’t buy that new house for another year?  Or are you grateful that you have a job, can save money, and don’t just have a home but can plan on upgrading your home?

After doing extensive research, Sonja Lyubormirsky’s conclusions about happiness were:

“The only person who has the power to make it happen is you.”

  • “You are in control and can influence your life from this day forward in a significant and meaningful way.”
  •  “If you’re not happy today, then you won’t be happy tomorrow unless you take things into your own hands and take action”
  • “So, if you want to be happy tomorrow, the day after, and for the rest of your life, you can do it by choosing to change and manage your state of mind.”

Video from Connecting Happiness and Success workshop: