Here’s an interview that appeared in Psychologies Magazine (April 2012, p. 32) with Alan Cohen. His perspective: Happiness does not depend on others. What do you think?
Do you believe most people are content?
I think many people settle for less than they should. We put up with relationships that are abusive, we do jobs we hate, we walk around with health conditions that irritate and frighten us. But many of us are afraid that if we make a change it will hurt us more than help us. We find security in the known. Take an unhealthy relationship: people think ‘if I let this go maybe my life would be worse’. So they don’t confront their partner. But a good, honest discussion with yourself would liberate you and help you move on to something better.
How can we do that?
We have to realize that we are the source and cause of our own wellbeing. You can find happiness and peace and opportunity in surprising circumstances. For example, some people don’t try to succeed while the economy is floundering because they don’t believe they can. But others thrive because they realize their happiness and success do not depend on an external source.
How can we achieve contentment?
It requires a certain degree of reframing – to look at a situation from another angle so that it brings empowerment rather than debilitation. Robert De Vincenzo, an Argentinian golfer, won a tournament and afterwards was approached by a young woman in tears who said that she had a baby who needed an operation otherwise he would die. De Vincenzo very generously gave her his winnings, but later found out that she was a con artist. In response, he said, ‘You mean there’s no dying baby? That’s the best news I’ve heard all week.’ This story shows that you can find wellbeing in any situation.
Check out Alan Cohen’s newest book Radical Content: The Power of Enough.