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.

{ 23 comments }

Razwana October 7, 2012 at 11:47 pm

hhhmmm…. but I’m always right. Always. Is this a problem? It certainly is for all except me ;-)

In my experience, when the feeling of wanting to be right feels wrong, then it impacts on whether I am happy or not. And it certainly is ego driven.

It’s usually when I am debating with someone and I can feel this emotion filling up my stomach where I just HAVE to find an argument so that I win. How egotistically competitive is that! And then when I have won, the satisfaction of being right is certainly not there!

It certainly is better to be happy than right.

Loving the Bruce Lee quote. Great for Aquarians !

- Razwana

Vishnu October 8, 2012 at 12:19 am

haha Razwana – in your case, I would have to say that you are indeed always right! especially with this comment :)

when feeling right feels wrong, we should not double down and be more right but chose happiness over rightness. It’s usually difficult to accept that in the moment. I think rightness is a short-term high and happiness a long-term high!

Glad you enjoyed the quote – there’s so many more quotes, stories and inspirational anecdotes by Galen in her book.

Martha Orlando October 8, 2012 at 7:16 am

Galen is so wise and a terrific writer, isn’t she? :) I’m simply going to have to read her book as soon as I can.
I agree that it is more important to be happy than right. However, as you (and Galen) point out here, there are times when we must stand up boldly for the things we believe in and not waver before the dissension of others.
Fantastic post, Vishnu!
Blessings!
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Vishnu October 8, 2012 at 7:33 am

Yes Martha! She is in general a wonderful writer but her book is just great! I know you’ll really enjoy her book.

Most times, we should chose happiness. Determining those moments when we should stand up for being right is the challenge! Thanks for your comments Martha.

Caroline October 8, 2012 at 9:24 am

I like this post. I used to be obsessed with being right and it definitely didn’t make me or those around me happy. My favourite point on the list is #4 which is to let go of the idea of right and wrong, these days I really don’t care about being right, I just have what I believe in and I share it and if it inspires others to believe in it too then great and if not then that’s cool too. It has been liberating to let go of needed others to agree with my views and ironically the less I try and convince people of my point of view the more likely they are to listen to it :)
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Vishnu October 8, 2012 at 9:40 pm

Is not having to be right, being free? It sounds like it’s better to be happy and free as well instead of being right.

And I love the irony you point out of being more right and heard by more people when you’re not trying to be right and not trying to convince anyone of your point of view. That’s another strategy all by itself for how not to be right all the time.

Thanks for your comments Caroline.

Hiten October 8, 2012 at 1:39 pm

Hi Vishnu,

It’s great to be at your blog!

I really enjoyed your post and thanks for sharing some of Galen’s wisdom.

The point you made about working with and struggling against really struck a chord with me. I have a couple of tasks I’m doing at the moment, which have seemed like a struggle. I’m now going to change my approach and work with them. Thank you.
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Vishnu October 8, 2012 at 9:47 pm

Thanks for dropping by Hiten.

Glad Galen’s points resonated – it did with me as well. Thinking beyond right and wrong is a healthy way to get past the concept of having to be right. Changing one’s perspective from struggling with a situation to working around a situation will bear more fruit quickly!

Liz Seda October 8, 2012 at 6:16 pm

Hey Vishnu!
I waited patiently for a new post, and it was worth it!
I used to have a huge problem with this. I would go as far as changing my stance depending on who I was talking to. Definitely a problem.
I have very strong convictions and beliefs. And I found that, for some reason, I REALLY wanted the person I was talking to to admit that I was right. I couldn’t stop until they admitted it.
That did not make me happy.
So, I still have strong convictions and beliefs, but instead of needing them to agree, I just listen and understand their point.
Now I try to learn and integrate new viewpoints instead of instantly rejecting them.
I think about them and come to an assessment.
However, I never bend on my core principles. Ever.
Great post thank you!
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Vishnu October 8, 2012 at 9:54 pm

Liz – welcome and thanks for your comments. That’s a good strategy too – integrating new viewpoints instead instantly of rejecting them. That way you’re always looking to strengthen your conviction and beliefs:) by considering and incorporating other points of view.

I hear you about sticking to your core principles. I don’t recall who said it but there’s a quote that says ‘if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything’.

Galen Pearl October 9, 2012 at 12:08 pm

Vishnu, Thank you for a thought provoking review. I especially liked your political photo and caption! In this election season, you are in the thick of this issue. I always appreciate your perspective.
Galen Pearl recently posted..Close Encounters of the Brain KindMy Profile

Vishnu October 10, 2012 at 6:20 pm

Thanks for writing this book Galen! I really enjoyed it and look forward to a re-read! Looking forward to speaking to you post-election:)

Debbie Hampton October 9, 2012 at 2:20 pm

Vishnu,

I have heard such good things about this book. Your thoughts only confirm to me that I have to order it and add it to the stack. Thank you for sharing!
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Vishnu October 10, 2012 at 6:30 pm

Debbie – yes!! I really enjoyed the book. Great tips on how to be happy and great stories by Galen. Hope you enjoy it too.

Wendy Irene October 10, 2012 at 7:00 am

Hi Vishnu!
I was so happy when I finally got a chance to open my Google reader this morning and saw your post! I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately especially when it comes to conflict. It helps me to whenever possible not think of myself as right and the other person as wrong. It can be hard to do depending on the conflict but it helps me to try and remove my ego as much as possible. Sometimes I do feel strongly right when it comes to the change I want to see made in our country, but as much as I can I like to stay open and have friends with opposing viewpoints. Have a great day!

Vishnu October 10, 2012 at 7:58 pm

Hi Wendy – I know what you mean by not trying to think of right and wrong. That’s why I liked Galen’s take on working with instead of struggling against. Trying to let go in conflict is especially hard with that pesky ego in the way. Trust me, working in politics, I know:) Trying to be as open minded as possible is a good way to deal with politics and life. Thanks for your comments.

Aileen | Kaizen Vision October 10, 2012 at 11:02 am

Great tips from you and Galen.
Have you read “The Art of Happiness” by Dalai Lama? It’s such a powerful and beautiful choice to choose happiness. Sometimes it’s harder than others, but to feel good and feel happy is just awesome!
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Vishnu October 10, 2012 at 6:50 pm

Hey Aileen – you know, it’s been some time since I read that book. I think I’ll read it again soon. Thanks for the suggestion – I’d like to see the Dalai Lama’s take on choosing happiness and most likely highlight some of this tips here.

Sandra / Always Well Within October 11, 2012 at 3:23 pm

What a great exploration of right or happy! It’s been rocky that past few days and ‘right’ has been tugging at my ego. I definitely want to go for happy instead so I will take all these terrific suggestions to heart!
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Vishnu November 15, 2012 at 10:01 am

I’m glad you found them useful Sandra – to get more great tips and get the full context of these ideas, check out Galen’s book:)

Jody Lamb October 15, 2012 at 5:56 pm

Great review! Gosh, and you say you don’t do book reviews….

“Pause and look deeply within.” I like this. Many people react before thinking. My grandfather always repeated that old Coca Cola slogan, “The pause that refreshes.” Very wise.

A long time ago, I also let go of the need to convince people that my views are right because I realized that I only have control of myself. :)

:)
Jody Lamb recently posted..All I have for certainMy Profile

Vishnu November 15, 2012 at 10:00 am

hi Jody – you’re right! We have no control over anyone but ourselves and most of the time, we’re not going to convince anyone else that they’re wrong. We can only come to accept we’re better off happy than right:)

Your grandfather is a wise man – using pop culture and branding and applying it to life!

farouk November 26, 2012 at 12:28 am

yes that’s such a big problems
people go for debates that are full of hatred just to prove themselves right
we should be able to let go in the right moment
thank you : )
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