I’d like to ask all parents out there (and future parents) a question: What do you think are the most important aspects of being a parent?

My then 11-year-old and I discussed this last year. We were talking about what we (as parents) want most for our children. I explained to him that in the workshops, the big three things parents say they want for their children are for them to be:


  • Happy
  • Successful
  • Good people


However, I then went on to explain to my son that, unfortunately, you can’t actually be in charge of someone else’s happiness or success. In fact, the only thing that you can truly be in charge of is whether or not your kids are good.


I mean, at the end of the day everyone needs to be in charge of whether or not they are successful. Now, I can teach my son certain things and show him certain techniques that will help him be successful. After all, I teach these in my trainings, and many of our students have become very successful. However, to ultimately become successful, one must practice these techniques. And, by that time, my son will be over 18 and his success will be in his hands.


With happiness it is the same thing. It would make everyone’s life easier if they had control over other peoples’ emotions! I am a father, a teacher, and a boss. If I could make my kids, students, and employees happy with a wave of a wand, that would be great. However, it doesn’t work that way. Even as kids (I explained to my 11-year-old) we all have to be in charge of our own happiness in life.


Ultimately, as a parent, I think I’m only going to have a true influence over whether or not he is a good person. I can talk about being polite and having respect. I can assist in changing behaviors, and that is my focus. Yet, interestingly enough, the conversation gravitated back towards happiness.


A Child’s Perspective


My son began to discuss how he really works hard at making people happy. It was very interesting because he explained how he wants to make his teacher happy with his grades and work, and he wants to make his parents happy with his behavior, and he wants to make his friends happy while he is with them. In fact, it seemed like trying to make other people happy was a good portion of his day. And, to make it worse, he said he was not happy!


So I said to him, “A moment ago we both decided that you can’t make someone else happy.” Now as a parent I might have a misconception that I have control over my kids and might be able to make them be happy. However, I know I don’t have control over my friends and teachers. I asked him if he has that level of influence (like a parent to a child) with his friends. He of course said “no”.


“You don’t have any influence over someone else to force them to be happy. So what is it that you really want? See, you can’t make someone else happy, and in fact, if what you want to do is make someone else happy, and then fail, it makes you unhappy. So here you are, wanting to make another happy, only to be unhappy in the process.” My son agreed! I also asked him, “What do you think your friends want?” And he replied, “For me to be happy.”


Is it worth it?


I said, “This is actually funny, you are each trying to make the other happy, becoming unhappy in failure. Let’s get this straight: You realize that it’s not your job to make others happy and that’s what you want to see. You also realize that you, yourself, are unhappy in this process.” The weird thing is that I think we all experience this in our life.


Now here’s the kicker – we spend all this time miserably trying to make other people happy – which we obviously can’t do. The reason why we do it is because we want to see other people happy all around us. But the paradox is that the harder you try, the more miserable you get. Plus, when those around you see you feeling unhappy, that  probably makes them unhappy in return. This process just keeps spiraling down.


Ultimate Responsibility


Question: Why don’t you just be happy yourself and do what makes you happy? Then, other people will notice your happiness, and feel happy in return. If most people did this with the goal of seeing others happy, then it would work. I think most of us want to see happy people, and all we have to do is be happy ourselves to begin that process.


With everything I’ve learned from psychology and communication skills, I think it’s a good idea to give up trying to make other people happy. I know that sounds weird, but give it a shot. Give up on trying to make other people feel happy. It’s impossible to have that level of control over someone anyway.  Instead, begin to focus on making yourself happy. If you do, you will start to see more happy people around you, and the world will become a happier place.


This will be like a happy epidemic!