Useful Is The New Happy

happy-or-usefulWe were sitting in comfy armchairs.  The coffee shop was yet another one of those going for the just-like-your-own-living-room factor.

Calorie-laden designer coffees sat in front of each of us, and we started debating the state of the world.  Different personalities, nationalities and points of view, it was stimulating, funny and interesting.

As usual, I was batting for the positive, create-your-own-future team.  Others preferred a more tempered, take-it-as-comes approach.  Yet another challenged me. “You can’t just pretend everything is fine,” B said.  ”Sometimes you have to face facts, and they are not always pleasant or happy.”

As we discussed each other’s points of view, it occurred to me that this whole stay-positive thing is perhaps misrepresented.

The idea is not to paste an idiotic smile on your face, and pretend to be happy until you become happy.  True, sometimes acting out an emotion does translate into the emotion actually happening.  Don’t believe me? Check out this TED Talk on how body language shapes us.

Back to the idea of the permanent fake smile.  That’s absolutely not what I propone.

The point is not to just pointlessly smile through pain.  The point is to find a perspective that works for you.  It is to give yourself a chance to respond in a way that’s different than the usual knee jerk reaction.

The point is to create new pathways, and experiment with them, and choose the one that is most useful for you.

For some, getting angry works and gets them galvanized past obstacles.  For others, seeking out the silver lining in an otherwise hopeless situation works better.  For yet others, reframing the ‘bad’ situation to diminish its impact and importance works best.

Different people, different models, different approaches.  The important thing to know is that it is up to you to choose what works for you.

The even more important thing is to get unstuck from the place where you have no control and get to some place where you can make choices, physically, mentally and emotionally.

Often times, your ego is so busy feeling bruised and slighted, that you can’t get out of your own head.  Think of your ego as a small, extremely spoiled child with an inflated sense of superiority.  Yet, it is a small child, and can be easily distracted.

Distract your ego from its wounded pride – even for just a few minutes – just long enough to find a new perspective, a different angle or, better yet, a new toy to get excited about.

Just like distracting a 3-year old, you would be surprised at how quickly you can turn your feelings from heavy and hopeless, to light and hopeful.

You would be even more surprised at how powerfully resourceful you become when you feel good about yourself.

So the next time you feel swept by a wave of unhelpful emotion, ask yourself: Does this feeling serve me? Is it useful? Is it opening up choices or making me feel trapped?

Thank you B, for reminding me that it’s all about choosing what’s most useful, and sometimes, useful is anything but a happy smile.

I wish you a day full of useful choices.


  1. Basel Samara says:

    Hi Naima, I love your article. Simple, easy to read, and meaningful.
    It is a insightful. I am yet to find the model, and the different angle. As you say, reframing the situation is key and distracting the ego is even more important. Thanks for the tips

    • Hi Basel,

      I find that zooming out both in terms of space (50k feet view), and time (where does this moment, this day, this month fit in the overall scheme of things), helps give me a healthier perspective. From there, it becomes a bit clearer to reach for angles that help and recapture what we love to do and experience, so we can explicitly *create* a new reality.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the article – all the best creating your own personal angle!

      Thanks for stopping by.

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