What Would a Happy Person Do?

The question that changed my way of being

janine davis
Forge
Published in
4 min readJan 22, 2019

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Close up of a man smiling with his eyes closed.
Photo: Gen Nishino/The Image Bank/Getty Images Plus

It’s funny how the smallest, silliest thoughts can have a catalytic effect on a person. I had one of those thoughts recently, and it 180’d me into a new way of being.

I’d been thinking about how I spend far too much time dwelling in dark feelings, or what I call “emotional murk.” I’ve lived this way for most of my life: When I was growing up, my dad always valued negative emotions more than positive ones — to him, feelings such as anger, depression, sadness, frustration, and anxiety gave someone depth. Those emotions were valuable. They were real. In his mind, things like happiness, love, peace, and fun were superficial wastes of time. He lived his life convinced that the other shoe was always lurking somewhere nearby, ready to drop and squash all that was any goodness that came his way.

Reflecting on my own relationship with emotions, I realized that this apple did not fall far from its paternal tree. I spend far too much time dwelling in the murk, and when I do come out to play, my mind makes sure not to get too comfortable there (since the positive feelings are bound to end soon anyway). But as I reached middle age, I started to come to the painful realization that I’m in danger of missing out on the experience of ever being happy, truly happy.

I knew I didn’t want to waste another second of my life. But how the heck was I supposed to change a mindset that had been ingrained in me over the course of a lifetime?

And that’s when the thought, the one that altered everything, came to me, in the form of a question:

“What would a happy person do?”

It’s the simplest thing ever, I know. But it changed my vantage point instantly.

When I asked myself the question, I doodled the image that sprouted in my mind.

Photo courtesy of author

You can see that there is light. Underneath the light is this big, dark abyss, the part I’d labeled “icky.” A happy person simply does not let the darkness weigh them down. They exist in the white space. There was something about seeing…

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janine davis
Forge
Writer for

Exec Coach & Facilitator @evolutionsvc, BoD Women Founders Network. Allstar Mentor at @techstars