Who is rich? He who is happy with his lot. - Pirkei Avos 4:1
We create the world in which we live to a great extent. While many events are beyond our control… we still have the ability to control our attitudes toward a given situation to a large degree. Hence the emotional consequences of events is largely up to us… Happiness can be learned… Our thoughts control our emotions, and we have the ability to control our thoughts to a great degree… We ourselves choose to think those thoughts which promote our happiness or those with which we make ourselves miserable.
“A truly happy person does not allow his happiness to be dependent on any external factor over which he may not have control.” (Chochmah Umussar, vol.2, pp.331-2)
Base your happiness on your own attitudes, and you can be its master. If you tell yourself that you can only be happy if others do or say what you wish, your happiness is under the control of those people. You can never have a guarantee how others will behave. Even when they do behave as you wish, you are likely to feel uneasy about how they might behave in the future.
What you tell yourself about a given situation is the way that situation will affect you. Your attitude towards any event or situation is not based on its objective reality but on your own subjective evaluation of that event or situation.
Many people feel that the way they automatically view events and situations is the way those events really are. But the truth is that events, occurrences, and situations on the completely objective level just are.
It is the viewer who evaluates them as either positive, negative, or neutral. Once you have a strong awareness and internalization of this concept, you will have the ability to change your negative attitudes to more positive ones.
Rabbi Yeruchem Levovitz of the Mir made an observation that should be read very carefully. The point he raises is so important for a mastery of happiness that it should be reviewed a number of times: When a person is born, he finds the world in a certain organized fashion. As he grows up, he tries to adjust himself to the assumptions that are accepted in the world. He views each event that occurs with the same perspective as the other people of his generation. Theses perspectives originated in the past and have been handed down from parents to children. These assumptions are taken for granted to such an extent that most people react to the accepted perspective of the world as if they were laws of the universe that cannot be changed. They are accepted as reality and are not challenged. Only a small minority of people obtain the necessary wisdom to look at the world with complete objectivity. They take a critical look at each and every thing and try to understand everything as it really is instead of accepting the general prevalent outlook. Those who try to investigate the origin of every perspective will perceive everything in a much different light than is commonly accepted. (Daas Chochmah Umussar, vol. 1, pp. 75-6)
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