How to be Happy, Instead of Right.

by Vishnu on October 7, 2012

"All right bro - you do happy, I'll do right"

I work in the social justice movement which regularly requires community and political organizing. I help people make positive changes in their lives and often taken on special interests, powerful corporations, lobbyists and even government entities.

In order to do my work and empower others to make change in their lives, I spearhead campaigns to create change; organizing people around issues, motivating them to take action and inspiring them to persist until change is made.

During the organizing and change process, I deal with the very real dilemmas of questioning myself about the “rightness” of my positions. Am I on the right side of the law, the issue, the moral dilemma?

More often than not, I regularly believe I AM in fact right so that I can do my job more effectively – with passion and creativity to help the people that I’m working with, win.

Why wanting to be (always) right is a problem?

In organizing people around issues, I work with conviction of my beliefs.

Belief in the cause is critical to carrying out an effective campaign.

But always having or wanting to be right is a problem. A big problem.

Wanting to be always right means that you might be regularly avoiding reality and you cannot be as strategic about the work you’re doing. For example, if facts, circumstances or situations change and you’re still clutching onto your position or point of view, you may not be able to make the necessary changes to the circumstances.

Also, wanting to be right always spills into other areas of your life. It is extremely easy for the professional to become personal.  I spend so much of the work day believing that I’m right that I start thinking and believing I’m right in every other situation as well – talking to TSA security guards at airport, when talking to my accountant and to my psychic.

Finally, wanting to be always right could be stopping you from your own happiness.

How to be happy, without having to be right.

I was struggling with how to be right and be happy. Or maybe even how to accept the fact that I may not be right all the time.

Is being right and happy mutually exclusive? How do I reconcile these choices?

Luckily for me and for you, my friend Galen, has come to the rescue.  In her inspirational and practical book, 10 Steps to Finding Your Happy Place (and Staying There), Galen writes that in many instances, it was more important for her to be happy than to be right. She says it was “tough on my ego, but nourishing to my spirit.”

To be happy, instead of right, Galen suggests the following 7 ways:

1) Asking if there is even a right answer? There won’t be just one right answer in every instance. Being open to the possibility there may be more than one right answer in a situation is a start.

2) If there is a right answer, inquire if the right answer even matters. Galen tells us this story about how she let go of being right; resulting in her ego sulking and spirit smiling.

She recounts a work situation where, “someone was wondering about something that happens to be my area of expertise. When I offered the correct information, the speaker disagreed with me. I pressed. He pushed back. My ego knickers were in a knot. I was poised to pull out my expert status and crush all opposition, but I paused. The resolution of the issue was not relevant to the meeting topic.”

3) Pause and look deeply within. Galen suggests when we are filled with righteous indignation, to shine light on the sacred spaces within ourselves. Sit with those feelings that make us feel uncomfortable and breathe into it until our discomfort softens, our body relaxes and our mind clears.

4) Think beyond right and wrong. Pema Chondron, Galen points out, says “the concepts of problem and solution (in life) can keep us stuck in thinking that there is…a right way and a wrong way.” Chondron suggests another approach, one that focuses on “working with rather than struggling against”.

For example, how do you work with a problem or a set of circumstances instead of struggling against them? Working with doesn’t require you having to be right – it allows for changing your perspective when circumstances change. Struggling against, on the other hand, requires being set in your position and usually sticking to being right.

5) Reframe the issue. Galen uses her experience with tai chi to show how to make issues into nonissues in our lives. “Now when I find myself in conflict, I try to pause and explore the possibility of reframing the issue to avoid opposing sides. I have found this to be a powerful as well as a peaceful approach,” she writes.

Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless — like water. Now

you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup, you put water

into a bottle, it becomes the bottle, you put it in a teapot,

it becomes the teapot. Be water, my friend.

–Bruce Lee

6) A quick cost-benefit analysis. How often do you analyze a situation to determine if it’s worth sticking to your beliefs and being right or is it better to be happy and bring happiness to others?

This approach requires self-reflection, awareness and a calculation. It requires us to step back from the situation and look at it from an objective perspective to determine what the real cost of being right is. Is being right less important in the situation than bringing happiness to others?

7) Be right when it is not ego-driven. This final point speaks most to me.

Galen suggests there can be situations when it is ok to be right. “The time is always right to do what is right,” said Martin Luther King. Galen suggests there are situations we must act based on integrity and courage for injustices in the world. We’ll know if this is the case when being right and acting on it would bring an underlying peace and joy in our actions.

Galen has really given me some good ways to think about being right and not having to be so all the time. And you know what’s the best part? This is only 1 of 10 other ways Galen highlights to bring happiness into  your life.

I don’t review books. Heck, I’ve never reviewed one yet but when I read Galen’s book, I thought she had basically written it for me. It was relevant and practical. And it made me happy!

Galen writes about giving up control, giving up judgment, being compassionate and being filled with gratitude but different than other books I’ve read.

Her writings are filled with inspiring and wisdom-filled stories and philosophies of other philosophers, inspirational writers and thinkers, intertwined with her personal life story. And infused with practicality and wrapped in humor.

I know I’m being right and happy when I recommend this book to you – go read it people and let me know what you think!

I was moved by this book to make a donation to the charity which Galen is donating all book proceeds to, the www.edwardscenter.org.  To purchase a copy of the book, visit: http://10stepstofindingyourhappyplace.blogspot.com/p/the-happy-place-book.html

Now, your turn. Is it better to be right or happy? How do you stop being right all the time? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.