Count decisions, not blessings.

Brit McGinnis
May 13 · 4 min read
Source: Pixabay.

Everyone has had conversations like this:

“Wow, you look so well rested! What’s your secret?”

“I make sure I get eight hours sleep a night.”

“You’re so lucky! Oh, to be young and have no kids/a remote job/free time.”

Just once, I’d like to reply, “Yeah, it’s awesome!”

But that would probably lose me a few friends.

We’re not supposed to be happy about being happy in these modern times. To be happy about our own happiness (or even just about things working out) implies that we look down on the other saps that didn’t make our same decisions.

Instead, we’re supposed to externalize our happiness. We’re “blessed” to have the jobs we do, free time available to us, the kind and considerate partner, etc.. It’s all just such a blessing. We should be so grateful!

I have a problem with being grateful, and it’s this: To call something a blessing is to deny yourself of any agency in achieving your own happiness.

Why conscript something as important as happiness to an abstract gift? I have PMDD; if happiness was something given to me by something as abstract as the universe I’d be rolling a monthly deficit on the regular.

No one is born happy. We are born wailing into the world, freezing and pissed off that we were ripped away from the best home we’ve ever occupied. To say that happiness or “blessings” are given from on high is to deny reality.

Yes, people are given advantages in life. Some people are born white, male, rich, with rare beauty, or in a liberated nation. They are advantages. Not blessings.

To call advantages in life “blessings” reeks of prosperity gospel and I am not fucking here for that. You are not blessed by God, capitalism or the ghost of Steve Jobs for being born advantaged.

The word for this is “lucky.” That sounds much more arbitrary than being blessed, doesn’t it? That’s on purpose.

If happiness is something that’s given through an abstract system of blessings, then we have a lot of explaining to do to people with depression. Or people born into poverty. Or people stuck in dangerous situations and have no idea how to get out.

If you’re in a great place in life right now, look back at all your past decisions that led you there. That will give you much more information on how to be more successful in the future. It will also drastically lower your capacity to be a hater.

People are not “blessed” to have a great romantic partner. They were lucky to meet them and made the decision themselves to pursue and/or be good to that person. Presumably, they’re also making the decision to not fuck up that relationship.

A good job is not a blessing. Even if someone got through the door because of a good family name or a contact, they still have to do that job. And if they suck, they will get fired. If they don’t, they’ll suffer in some other way (even if it’s through formal complaints from their underlings about how much they’re a pain in the ass).

Some people just succeed against all odds. It can seem like pure luck or “blessings” from Anubis or Buddha. That feeling is perfectly understandable.

But to think this way takes away one’s agency to make things better in their own life. I can’t be jealous of the success that the fabulous Dr. Tara Isabella Burton has enjoyed, as much as I would like to on my worst days. I had the choice to go to grad school and my response was “hell no” multiple times. I had the opportunity to pitch outlets I considered shady and I said no.

Yes, Dr. Burton likely has advantages I never will have. But she also made the decisions I wasn’t willing to make. I can’t ignore that fact. It disrespects us both.

If I’m struck down by breast cancer in the next year, I won’t blame myself. Nor would I blame anyone who’s ever suffered ass-ripping bad luck. It’s not their fault.

But if that person decides to get second opinions, follows their doctor’s advice, asks for help when they need it, and doesn’t futz around with support organizations that they don’t believe in, that person’s allowed to call it as they see it. They’re doing everything they can to better their help. They deserve all the credit they’ve earned if they get better thanks to those decisions.

Decisions give us data. If I’m happy with my partner, my skin, my health, etc. and determine what steps led me along to my state of satisfaction.

Decisions help us cope with a random universe. No one has any interest in our own happiness except us, at least not as much.

Stop pretending that the credit belongs to anyone but you.

Brit McGinnis

Written by

Copywriter and CEO of Black Bow Communications. Author of several books. Host of the You’re Not Helping podcast. Tips and leads: @BritMcGinnis

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