Dale Carnegie on what makes us happy

Whether we are having a good time or a bad time, most of the time we assume that it depends on external factors. However, it is not the circumstances that make us happy or unhappy, but what we think about them.

"It's not what you have or who you are or where you are or what you do that makes you happy or unhappy. It's what you think about it."

- Dale Carnegie

So it is not the external circumstances that determine us, but it is the way we react to those circumstances. We should never be victims of circumstances, no matter how good or bad they are. How we react to them is always up to us.

Even though this quote sounds very stoic, it was not written by a stoic. Dale Carnegie was an American motivational speaker. During his career, he interviewed hundreds of people to better understand our drives and perceptions.

Among the people interviewed, all groups of people were represented, from housewives to veterans. This wide range of people interviewed makes for a very interesting cross-section of society at the time.

Especially in his book "How to Stop Worrying and Start Living." is about the human striving for a carefree life. In the course of the book, I personally noticed that there were people with much more difficult fates than mine, but who still found positive aspects in their lives.

I remember a story about a woman who was almost completely blind from birth who had an operation in which she gained 5% of her vision. With her newly acquired vision, she was able to see the soap bubbles for the first time while washing dishes; and in particular, perceive the different colors of them. I for one never found it enjoyable to wash dishes, don't find it too intoxicating even nowadays. The realization that you can feel pleasure in something as mundane as watching the soap bubbles wash away opened my eyes.

Even the ancient Stoa found out that it is not the external circumstances, but how we react to them. We as humans have only limited influence on what happens around us. What we do have influence over, however, is how we react to it. Of course, there are situations in which we find it easier to be cheerful or happy about. And also there are situations where we react more easily annoyed, angry or sad. But our reaction should not depend on the circumstances, but on how we choose to react.

Just the other day, I accidentally spilled hot gravy all over my stomach and forearms. Of course, one could have been angry or pissed off at the first moment. This would only not change the circumstances and possibly affect the further approach. Therefore, I first took a breath and then hurriedly went into the shower, where I rinsed off the sauce residue with cold water and cooled the slight burn.

I know it is not always easy to react rationally to difficult situations, but it is possible. It requires some training, I myself would claim that it does not work even in 50% of the cases. However, it is a steady process where every success is satisfying.

Viktor Frankl, an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist, made a similar observation. Frankl was an inmate at Auschwitz and other concentration camps because of the atrocities committed by the Germans against the Jews. Viktor Frankl observed during his time as an inmate that although the external circumstances represented hell on earth, the other fellow inmates nevertheless joked from time to time, that they showed charity and did not use elbows to ensure their sole survival.

If you are more interested in the observations and life of Viktor Frankl I recommend "Man's Search for Meaning" to German "... still say yes to life." to read.

For my part, I think to myself that if people can still find some joy in their lives under such circumstances, then with my privileges of the 21st century I hardly have the right to complain about anything seriously. However, with this I do not want to say that there are no more grievances nowadays. Obviously, they still exist. Rather, I am saying that we often puff up minor infelicities and turn them into problems.

It is important to learn to react to events of any kind as we think best and not be guided by our instinctive drives.

Just pin it and never forget it again 🙂

Yes, it can be annoying to have dropped a glass. However, hitting the kitchen counter in the heat of the moment and now also having pain in the hand does not help us. Yes, it can be annoying if we get a bad grade at school. But insulting the teacher doesn't help the grade either. A fall with the bicycle is also not something you strive for. But throwing the bike into a bush after the fall won't make the abrasions heal any faster.

Often it can help to take a breath first and then plan the next step.

I hope with this article I could show you, that it is not what you have or who you are or where you are or what you do that makes you happy or unhappy. But that it is what you think about it.

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