‘Positive illusion’ can make you happy | Sunday Observer

‘Positive illusion’ can make you happy

Most of us are under the illusion that we have to work at happiness. We assume it is a feeling that comes as a result of good things that just happen to us, things over which we have little or no control. Strangely, the opposite is true. Happiness is largely under our control. It is a battle to be waged and not a feeling to be awaited. However, to achieve happiness it is necessary to overcome some stumbling blocks.

The biggest stumbling block to happiness is comparison with others. We compare ourselves with our neighbours, colleagues, and peers all the time. I once met a young man with whom I studied for some time. He left our school, entered medical college and became a gynaecologist. He spoke of his love for his beautiful wife and their adorable children. He was also happy to be a much sought after surgeon who visited many private hospitals as a consultant.

Dizzy heights

I somewhat envied his position as I had not reached such dizzy heights in my career. While sipping a cup of coffee at a wayside restaurant, he said something that surprised me. He said his wife was suffering from a terrible disease known to doctors as sclerosis. I felt like a fool for assuming nothing unhappy existed in his life. From that day I stopped comparing myself with others.

All of us have certain images of how our life should be. We dream about having a posh house, a beautiful wife or a handsome well-to-do husband plus loving children. We also wish to have an expensive car. The problem is that only rarely do people’s jobs, spouses and children live up to imagined ideals.

Here’s a personal example. When my father took me away from home over a misunderstanding with my mother, I was left without a permanent abode. I had to live with some of my relatives sharing their joys and miseries all the time. I had to shift from one place to another according to my father’s wishes. It meant I had to attend several schools in different parts of the island. Somehow I managed to do my studies and secure employment.


My close association with members of different families proved that nobody was living happily. Some husbands beat their wives and others had illicit love affairs. By witnessing such ugly scenes I came to the conclusion that the world is not a place for happiness. I found misery everywhere. When I married I confided in my wife that I could not shake off the feeling that my family life had failed. She asked me to forget the past and lead a happy married life.

During the past few decades I have been studying happiness and a significant conclusion I have drawn is that there is little correlation between the circumstances of people’s lives and happiness. A moment’s reflection would make this obvious. We know that people who have had a relatively easy life in their childhood become unhappy in their old age. We also know about people who had suffered a great deal as children but remain happy in their old age.

The first secret of happiness is being grateful to those who helped you to succeed in life. For that matter, all happy people are grateful to their parents, teachers and other benefactors. Another secret is that people do not complain about the problems they face. When you start complaining all the time, you become a bundle of unhappiness.


In a way, happiness is a byproduct of something else. The most obvious sources are those pursuits that give purpose to our life , anything from studying a language to playing a musical instrument. We need different types of passions to elevate ourselves to happiness. If you have no passion for anything, you could never be happy.

Most happy people have faith in religion or philosophy. Spiritual happiness complements mundane happiness. We need to have a vision in our life so that we still have something to hold on to. Your personal philosophy should encompass this truism: If you choose to find the positive in every situation, you will remain happy. If you choose to find the awful, you will court unhappiness. In fact, to be or not to be happy is largely your decision.

If you observe how happy people live, you will realize that they have a high self-esteem. They love themselves as they are, and see themselves as more intelligent and better able to get along with others than the average man or woman. Psychologists call this ‘positive illusion’ or a moderately inflated view of themselves as good, competent and desirable people.


Happy people also have a firm sense of self-control. They are in control of life’s events, unlike those who remain pawns of others. What is more, happy people are optimistic. Their optimism helps them to persevere at tasks and achieve success. Happy people also like to be around other people who live happily. They tend to be extroverts and develop a supportive network of close relationships.

People often ask: Does money bring happiness? The simple answer is that money does not bring happiness. There will be an initial surge of happiness in a lottery winner. However, his happiness will diminish with the passage of time.

Despite the ups and downs of life, most people tend to be reasonably happy. The level of happiness can have a profound effect on your life.

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