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Jun 14 / Michael Wright

Is happiness just a matter of perspective?

As an incurable optimist, I’d like to think so. Rory Sutherland — marketeer that he is — builds a pretty good case in his TED talk “Perspective is everything.” And we had a lively chat among the WSU TEDsters about the framing (or re-framing) of ideas, and “thinking” yourself happy. But something about this talk — at least when I played it out later — started to bug me.

I do believe that how you think about your circumstances — your perspective — can have a considerable impact on whether you are happy or miserable. I believe that satisfaction with what you have, rather than constant desire for something else, is a recipe for happiness. So I believe — to a great extent — that happiness is a choice. But at some point — maybe because Rory is such a consummate pitch man — this talk smacked of hucksterism.

Not happy with your life? Just think yourself happy! Sometimes, sure. But not always. Sometimes, you have to struggle. Sometimes you have to fail. Most times, you have to work. Our greatest joys often result from trial, and challenge, and sweat. You can’t just wish for them. You have to do something. Or endure something.

OK, maybe I’m working myself into a bit of an attitude. My colleagues will tell me I’m getting ahead of myself. We didn’t reach any of these dire conclusions last week. We actually thought about how to apply perspective and framing to our communications goals. And I think that’s right. But sometimes I get concerned when we think marketing to ourselves can be an answer to life’s challenges. Or a guarantee of happiness. Then again, maybe I just need to change my attitude.

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