How my 4-year old reminded me that being happy is better than being right
I love the quote – "I would rather be happy than right any day" – from the great book, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
Choosing happiness over a sense of being right is one of my guiding principles that has brought peace and calm into my life.
But before I explain how I reached that conclusion, allow me to illustrate a simple example of choosing happiness over being right that involves one of my
greatest life teachers – my 4-year old daughter:
When my daughter and I were driving around town one day, she told me we were on the freeway. I explained that we weren't actually on a freeway. She insisted, with complete confidence, that we were indeed on the freeway.
I continued to argue with her for a few more rounds. It went something like this:
Me: "No honey, we’re not on the freeway. THAT is the freeway. We are on a ROAD."
Her: "Noooo, THIS is the freeway Mama!"
We were actually starting a heated debate over a technicality. An absolutely meaningless one, at that. What on Earth was I doing arguing with a 4-year old over such an insignificant detail?!
And then I stopped myself, took a deep breath, and realized that I was engaged in a losing battle. Yes, she was wrong and I could have persisted in pointing that out to her, all the while becoming increasingly frustrated and annoyed. But what’s the benefit in that?
Instead, I ended the conversation, saying, "Maybe you’re right and that IS the freeway. Thanks for telling me honey." Her response, said with a big smile on her face: “You’re welcome, Mama.”
We both were happy (me to move on from the conversation and her to hear me say she was right). Aaaahhhh, MUCH better!
That story ended peacefully. But it wasn’t always sunshine and roses.
I used to argue and argue...and argue with anyone who would listen (perhaps my daughter has inherited this trait?). I wanted to show I was intelligent, that I was aware and knowledgeable of a wide array of issues, that I was strong and capable of standing up for myself.
But really, I was constantly arguing because I was trying to establish my own worth.
As I’ve moved along my personal spiritual journey, I’ve learned that always trying to be right comes with a lot of stress.
It takes loads of energy to continually engage people who disagree with you and then try to convert them to your point of view.
And, honestly, few people changed their minds just because I laid out a perfectly reasonable case for them to do so. So what was the point of expending all that energy anyway?
The only guaranteed outcome from these conversations was that I endured tension and stress (both between me and the other person and within my body).
By regularly acting in conflict with other people and their opinions and ideas, I was actually giving up my own personal power.
I can only ever control MY own thoughts and actions. So by choosing to engage in potentially contentious conversations with others where I believed I was right and the other was wrong, I was operating under a false belief that I could change their thoughts and actions.
Then I stopped trying to persuade anyone to change their minds. I had my thoughts, opinions, and beliefs and everyone else has theirs. Since changing my approach, I have absolutely felt happier and less tense.
Here are some phrases that have been key for me. I use them when I sense an argument is bubbling to the surface.
That’s not how I see it.
Let’s agree to disagree.
Thank you for sharing that [opinion, information, tip, advice, fact] with me.
I see where you’re coming from.
I understand what you're saying.
Then you can add: "I have a different point of view and that's okay."
The only caveat is to ensure you say these phrases with love. If you speak them with disdain and frustration or even judgment, you could easily be adding fuel to the fire. By using love as the backdrop for the statements, you’ll instead be putting out the fire and maintaining peace.
Like this blog post? Then you'll love my free weekly newsletter filled with tips & strategies. Subscribe here!