This winter, in a small beach town in Costa Rica, I noticed that most of the local crowd seemed incredibly happy. Yoga teachers, surfers, ex-pats and Costa Ricans smiled easily, took time to chat, and quickly invited newcomers to join in. A friend jokingly said, “We’d all be happy if we lived down here!” That got me thinking: we could all live there. That’s a choice.
We are constantly making choices, from what to have for breakfast to whom we spend our lives with. Whether big or small, each choice has consequences. A lifetime of breakfast bacon may lead to temporary enjoyment, followed by long-term medical issues. Choosing a life partner who challenges and inspires you leads to different outcomes than a partner who stifles your spirit.
As we navigate the choices and deal with the consequences, a natural tendency is to resort to resentment or blame when plans go awry. We may point at others, telling ourselves that our unhappiness is “all their fault.” Or, we may look at healthy and happy people to find flaws, instead of being inspired and curious about how they do it.
As ever-expanding research on happiness continues, a key point emerges: to turn that frown upside down, take responsibility for your choices. Instead of blaming or resenting others, use your dissatisfaction as a mirror to your inner life. Ask, What choices aren’t working? What do I do differently going forward?
One of my favourite coaching tools is, “for everything we say ‘yes’ to, we have to say ‘no’ to something else” and vice versa. My friends who said “yes” to living in Costa Rica often said “no” to higher-paying jobs, living close to family, and many conveniences. They’re also saying “yes” to living with occasional power and water outages, six months of a rainy season and scorpions as close neighbours.
Notice what you say “yes” and “no” to. Be careful not to change all outer circumstances yet repeat unhealthy habits that may recreate your previous reality, wherever you are. Whether you’re moving to oatmeal or Costa Rica, remember to make your choices conscious.