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VICTOR KANNAN explores the idea that ultimately we are responsible for our own happiness.

When I was a teenager, one day a thought flashed in my mind that had a profound impact on me. It was that people are unhappy because they are not willing to be happy. Later I realized what this meant. Happiness is a matter of choice.

So, then the question is: how can we make choices that are conducive to happiness – choices by which we create a destiny of happiness?

I was also puzzled by the many situations that appear to have been thrust upon us, where we have no choice in the matter. Birth and death themselves seem to be the bookends of life that we do not choose.

So, let’s look at choice-less-ness first.

Our choice-less condition is largely due to our evolutionary past, with its animal tendencies (See the Maslowian Hierarchy of Needs at Our choices evolve as we satisfy the lower needs and move higher up in the aspirational spectrum towards fulfillment.

The problem comes when we have a high dependence on fulfilling materialistic and egosatisfying things. We begin to lead a life of sensory and ego-satisfying pursuits, which reflects a very limited idea of self-fulfillment.


As a result, we compel ourselves towards choiceless-ness. How? We develop habits and tendencies and then become slaves to them. Whether it is smoking, drinking, shopping, watching TV, or getting angry and being argumentative, we reach a stage of helplessness. Our tendencies control us so tightly that our thinking ability is suspended. Our discrimination suffers, we rely on our habits and patterns, they become stronger, and we enter a vicious cycle.

We blame others, our parents, our bosses, our environment and everything else for the poor choices we have made. We suffer terribly because we are slaves to this behavior.