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It's Good To Be Happy, Not Crappy

Posted Jul 20 2012 11:47am

Those were the words of wisdom imparted to me from Chameroun during my pedicure yesterday.  You may remember that Chameroun works at the hair salon that I wrote about the other day.  I'm coming back to talk about her because she made a big impact on me years ago, and she never even knew it.

She had talked about what her life in Cambodia had been like, and she'd experienced some traumatic things.  As I said, she was living here without her children and I'm sure that was so hard for her.  Yet, she was always happy and cheerful.  One day I asked her how she stayed so happy all the time.  She answered, "I take each day and enjoy that day."

That reply has gotten me through some tough times since then.  It always pops into my head when I feel sorry for myself, or when I'm in a bad mood.  What it comes down to is being aware of what you are focusing on.  It's easy to focus on how bad things are when it seems like nothing will go right.  But, there's always something good if you're willing to see it.  Sometimes, I think we want to linger in 'how bad we have it' because it usually pays off, at least for a while.  People commisserate, they pity you, they try to help you, and you get a lot of attention in general.  What you don't realize at the time is that some of those people just want to be in on the information.  You are basically gossiping about yourself when you tell too much about your woes.  After a while, everyone gets tired of your downer routine and they go away.  Then you have one more thing to whine about, but now no one is listening.

How often does this happen at work?  One employee comes in with her terrible news and everyone hugs her and tells her how awful it is.  The next day, everyone is just wondering what will have happened since yesterday and they'll be all ears.  That will last a while, and then soon you'll notice a pall over the culture of the office.  The downer is having an effect and it's not good.  She walks around with a pitiful face and an "ask me about my troubles" attitude.  She's still more than willing to share, but she'll find she's worn everyone out.  Rather than healing, she's getting worse, and now you have a problem in the office in general, too.  The atmosphere is crappy, not happy.  Finally, by letting someone vent beyond reason, you are crippling them and keeping them from dealing and moving on.  

There's something wonderful about seeing someone smile through their pain.  One of my co-workers recently lost her husband, but you'd never know it by her demeanor toward patients and other staff.  She once told me that she sees work as a place where she can get away from her problems for 8 hours.  She is sad about her husband, but she doesn't shroud herself in sorrow.  She functions and finds the good in the day.  She's happy, not crappy.  Do you see how that is a choice?  Sometimes you have to choose it minute to minute.  Sometimes you are happy 95% of the day and give in to crappy 5% if the time.  It's a force you either go with, or pull away from.

Yesterday Chameroun told me that she's proud of me for being happy, not crappy.  I was delighted to hear that.  It was sometimes an effort, and it was definitely a conscious choice on my part.  In the end, it feels so much better to be admired than to be pitied.  Next time one of your employees or co-workers (or even your boss) is acting kind of crappy, talk to them about it.  Many times they don't even realize it and you could make a big impact on them and every one around them.

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