I’ve spent most of my life trying to please everyone and my results were less than ideal. I just wanted everyone to be happy, and I wanted people to like me. My efforts to please others did not make other people happy, didn’t make people like me, and I was downright miserable!
Today I heard someone say, “you can’t make people happy and lead them.” These are wise words, indeed, and leaders have their work cut out for them if they try to please people and lead people.
I take it a step further and make the distinction that you can’t make other people happy- period. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. People choose to be happy or they choose to be unhappy. What I do, or don’t do, often has little-to-no effect on the happiness of others or how much they like me.
I’m not suggesting intentional harm has no negative effect on others and the world- of course it does! I believe in actively seeking to do no harm. I actively seek to do good but I do not try to control other people or their experience. I have no motive other than simply to do good and treat others with respect and kindness but that’s different than trying to make other people happy.
Image courtesy of Harold Lloyd
Happiness is an experience
There are some that have suffered greatly at the hands of others and have not lost their happiness, their joy, and their faith. They do not hate those that have harmed them. In these individuals I see happiness is a state of heart and mind.
If I accept that happiness as internal experience, not an external experience, then I can acknowledge that we each get to choose our own adventure! I can’t make someone happy or unhappy. I can affect their external circumstances but I can’t change what’s inside. I can’t change their opinion of me by trying to control their emotional state because I can’t change their emotional state.
Happiness is an inside job
When I focused on pleasing others I was ignoring the one person I can truly make happy- myself! I realized trying to make others happy wasn’t benefiting anyone and turned my attention to me. I took responsibility for my own life, for my own happiness. I can be a person I like instead of trying to get other people to like me.
Just as I am responsible for my own happiness, other people are responsible for their happiness. In letting their happiness belong to them, and them alone, I honor their quest to live a life that will make them happy, or not, as they choose. I let their opinion of me be their business and go about my life being someone that treats other people kindly, regardless of what they think of me.
Happiness is an individual responsibility
When I accept responsibility for my own happiness, and allow others the same courtesy, I can focus my energy where I can truly make a positive difference! I can live a life I feel good about. I can be the person I want to be. I can be proud of me.
The really awesome thing about doing good for good’s sake is my behavior usually has a positive influence on others. When I do the right thing because it’s the right thing, people generally like me, and I like me, too. In those situations where another person chooses to be unhappy or dislike me I can let it go- it’s not my responsibility!
Stop trying to please others
I’ve learned I can’t please others, no matter how hard I try. And I’ve learned that pleasing others doesn’t please me!
Try as I might, I can’t make other people like me- especially those people who are suffering in their own lives. Some people won’t like me because they don’t like themselves and that’s not something I can change for them.
Today I invite you to stop trying to please others and please yourself instead. Take responsibility for your happiness and live a life that makes you happy! Do something you can do something about. Be a person you like.
Be happy, be yourself, and do good.