Is happiness a choice?
I was sitting with some colleagues discussing banking and finance one day when the conversation turned to happiness. These days, it seems more and more people feel unhappy – at work and in life generally – and many people believe we don’t have much of a choice in such matters.
It got me thinking – is happiness a choice? Is it something an employer should provide? Is it something dependent on external circumstances, or is it an internal process?
I’m lucky enough to feel that I do have a choice every single day – each day, I get to wake up and seek new opportunities for personal and professional growth. I get to take another step toward something better for myself and others. Each day, I get another chance to experience life, and that’s something worth celebrating in itself.
We live such hectic lives now that it’s easy to lose sight of what really matters. Conversations like the one I had with my banking colleagues always leave me reminiscing about my childhood, when life was much simpler. I lived in a small apartment with my sisters and parents in India, and I would spend countless days with the humble shopkeepers in the streets, watching them work.
We had the “cyclewala” who fixed bicycles, the “fruitwala” who brought us fresh fruits and chaat (a popular Indian street food) and all kinds of cooks, merchants, and trade smiths offering their particular specialties throughout the town. I loved sitting with these men as repairs for bicycles, shoes, and more flowed in and out their shops, learning about their various trades. But we were doing much more than just talking – though I didn’t realize it at the time, every day I was receiving the gift of incredibly valuable life lessons.
It didn’t occur to me as a child that these men faced many difficulties every single day. They lived humble lives, devoid of the modern luxuries we tend to take for granted. They lived hand-to-mouth, as we’d say, unsure if they’d be able to feed their families for more than a few days at a time. But these men were patient – they worked hard on their best days and their worst, no matter what. And although they struggled, they were happy, always smiling and sharing good times with me over a warm cup of chai.
Such relics of simpler times are now fast disappearing from society. Small specialized shops no longer exist anymore in many parts of India, much less in the West. But as the world modernizes, are we creating more problems for ourselves?
People today love to claim that we don’t have a choice. I think the truth is that we’ve created our own chains. Through relentless focus on material gain, we shackle ourselves in golden handcuffs and then claim we don’t have a choice, but we always do.
Some people turn to drugs or other vices. Others choose to seek fulfillment through new jobs, constantly seeking someone to recognize their value. But the funny thing about recognition of value is that it starts with first recognizing who you are and what value you bring.
If you recognize your own value, life is quite easy, because you’ll never be worried about whether or not others value you.
In my view, it was the humble shopkeepers on the streets I knew in India who didn’t have a choice, yet they all lived peaceful and content lives. It wasn’t about religion, status, or material possessions for them. The secret, I believe, was in the choices they made – they found joy in the simple things, dedicated themselves to perfecting their crafts, and chose to be happy each and every day.
Here at Windmill, we’re in the midst of rapid transformation. There is a lot in the works: we’re growing our team, acquisitions are in progress, and we’re expanding to four locations within the next year. As we build out our product suite and global footprint, I wanted to know how others on the leadership team felt.
I asked one of the leaders how things are going and how he’s feeling, and his answer is what inspires me to keep going. While there’s much to do and plenty of challenges at hand, he shared that he isn’t stressed, but rather quite exhilarated by the possibilities. Every day, he’s excited to get up, get moving on new ideas, and achieve more together.
That’s why I do what I do. Every week that passes by, we move forward in the right direction, and everyone has a unique direction and path. Everyone on this team is working together toward their goals, and it’s beautiful. No matter what comes our way, we’re always making a difference in our own lives and the lives of others as we choose to live every experience with freshness and innocence.
Life is too short. Waiting around for that best something or other to come around is an agonizing way to watch life pass us by. Instead, we should embrace each and every moment for the gift it is, and simply choose to let situations be as they are. Emotions will swell sometimes, and stressful situations will come. But it’s up to us to decide how to face each day, and we can always choose to remain positive and stay open to every opportunity for growth.