Please don’t think you are about to read how wonderfully rosy the world is and we should all just put on a happy face and dance through the streets; although street dancing does sound appealing. There are times when I would much rather pull the covers up over my head and wait for 2016 to arrive, deeming it the beginning of a new era, cutting ties from all clamping burdens. As the alarm clock buzzes at O-dark-thirty, once again I am reminded that I have obligations and people who count on me, not to mention, if I stay too long at the pity party I am likely to set up camp for a very long time. In those selfish self-wallowing moments, I am reminded of the ability that lies within through the soft echoing voice of Viktor Frankl–our happiness is a choice and responsibility sits squarely on our shoulders.
Shawn Achor vividly describes the mind as having the ability to create patterns through conscious choice. We have the choice to rise in the morning and view everything as going wrong, or we can rise and start our day being grateful for the smallest and simplest of things. Braco Pobric, the author of Habits and Happiness, describes one of his early morning rituals as rising and verbalizing what he grateful for in his life. This is a positive cue that sets the course for the day; patterns are beginning to build through choice. This phenomenon always reminds of this story that I share now with you, the story of The Two Wolves:
The Two Wolves
An old Cherokee was teaching his grandchildren about life. He said, “A battle is raging inside me…it is a terrible fight between two wolves. One wolf represents fear, anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other stands for joy, peace, love, hope, sharing, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, friendship, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.”
The old man looked at the children with a firm stare. “This same fight is going on inside you, and inside every other person, too.”
They thought about it for a minute, and then one child asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee replied: “The one you feed.”
Choose Your Wolf
Regardless of what woes and stresses capture us in their jaws, we have the ability and knowledge to fight through the battles that attempt feed on our happiness and devour or positive outlook. We cannot change other people, and we cannot change circumstances, but we can change how we see the world through acknowledging even the smallest triumphs and being grateful for every positive marble dropped into our jar each day. This is our ability to take control and be the feeder, feeding, and strengthening our positive outlook while weakening the negative. It will not rid the negative wolf from lurking, but it will keep your positive wolf strong and healthy.
 Frankl, V. E. (1963). (I. Lasch, Trans.) Man’s search for meaning: An introduction to logotherapy. New York: Washington Square Press. (Earlier title, 1959: From Death-Camp to Existentialism. Originally published in 1946 as Ein Psycholog erlebt das Konzentrationslager)
Achor, S (2010).The Happiness Advantage: The Seven principles of positive psychology that fuel success and performance at work. New York, NY: Crown Business.
Pobric, B. (2014). Habits and happiness. Mercerville, NJ: high Impact Consulting, Publishing Division.
 Unknown author (2015). The two wolves. Retrieved from: http://www.nanticokeindians.org/tale_of_two_wolves.cfm
About the author: Dr. Lynn Soots has been teaching psychology at the higher education level for over ten years. She is proud to integrate Positive Psychology applications in each of her courses to support growth and student goal attainment. She specializes in higher education online course-room design, adult learning, and diversity appreciation.