The Discipline of Happiness

Have you noticed that many parents, teachers, and students these days seem unhappy? Have you also noticed a rise in classroom discipline? Does unhappiness cause students to act out and adults to respond with traditional and ineffective discipline techniques?

Well, I assert that we all have a moral responsibility to be happy.

We owe it to our spouse or partner, our fellow workers, our children, our students, our friends—indeed to anyone who comes into our lives. If for no other reason, people act more decently when they are happy. Students act out less, and adults are less stressed.

So how do we achieve happiness? Well, if we equate happiness with success, we will never achieve the amount of success necessary to make us happy. There is always more success than we can achieve. As long as what we do is JOYFUL and MEANINGFUL, happiness will ensue.

Neither is money the cause of happiness. Some unhappy poor people have the illusion that money will make them happy. (Unhappy rich people don’t even have that.)

Neither will fun bring happiness. Fun is temporary. Happiness is ongoing. Fun is during; happiness is during AND AFTER.

An awareness of what brings happiness requires a great deal of thought for many of us. It requires the discipline to overcome natural inclinations to do what is most pleasurable at the moment, rather than what is most happy-inducing.

In order to be happy, we have to ask ourselves, “Will this—having this thing, taking this action, relating to this person, purchasing this item, even dwelling on this thought—have me become happier or unhappier?”

Dissatisfaction is what makes personal improvement possible , whether it be better emotional ties to others, better personal ethics, or better personal health. Indeed, anything that becomes better does so as a result of previous dissatisfaction. Cherish human dissatisfaction, but do not allow it to prompt unhappiness.

I try to be happy unless something happens that stimulates me to be unhappy. In this case, I will be unhappy until I decide to be happy. This is based on my “choice-response” philosophy, which I talk about extensively in my book Discipline Without Stress. I have a choice as to whether to allow dissatisfaction to direct my feelings. When my feelings are not what I would like them to be, I start thinking of something else—or I change my activity.

Cognition and emotions are so tightly interwoven physiologically that separating them is beyond our current scientific knowledge. However, our brain, rather than our emotions or our nature, should be the arbiter of our happiness.

Therefore, practice reflection (along with my other two principles of positivity and the empowerment of choice). Reflection prompts the most important source of happiness: gratitude. Grateful people are happy people.