“Circumstances don’t make a man, they reveal him” – James Allen
James Allen, a philosophical writer between the 19th and 20th century, wrote As a Man Thinketh and had a personal view on why some people may be happy and why others may not. Most people would agree that circumstances don’t influence a person’s well-being 100%, but certainly they impact people relatively significantly… right?
Research by psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky and her team have asked this question and quantified the answer for us all. Based on her findings in the book The How of Happiness, roughly 50% of our "happiness set point" is determined by our genes, 10% is based on conditions that happen to us in life and 40% is based on our mindset and choices.
Some individuals simply are born more predisposed to happiness, while others are not. That’s 50%, that’s life. Good fortune for some while not as much for others. 10% of our amount of happiness comes from what happens to us. That fender bender you got into? The work from stress? That’s right, overall in the long run, it only makes up 10% of your happiness. (e.g. As an aside I am always amazed at the personal story of Viktor Frankl and his ability to live in the direst of circumstances as a Nazi prisoner in a concentration camp while maintaining a sense of optimism and even pleasure at times).
So with 50% of happiness accounted for by genes, 10% based on circumstance, that leaves a glorious 40%. As it turns out, James Allen had a bit of insight into long ago.
So that means that roughly 40% of our level of happiness is based on choice and how we choose to process our lives. This percentage is where psychologists live to help people make changes. This percentage is where our power and control lies! The daily activities we choose, the way we think about situations, and how we handle life’s ebb and flow of events are what ultimately govern how that 40% is spent. This area is so important for the simple fact that we are in control of it. So if a you want to learn how to increase your level of happiness, you working on you is a great place to start.