Today is July 22 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you rely on others for your happiness?" To spark today’s reflection, recall the words of Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard who wrote “A man who as a physical being is always turned toward the outside, thinking that his happiness lies outside him, finally turns inward and discovers that the source is within him.” The research is overwhelmingly clear: “the pressure to be happy makes people less happy. Organizing your life around trying to become happier, making happiness the primary objective of life gets in the way of actually becoming happy.” Research within the field of positive psychology continues to illustrate that having purpose and meaning in life increases overall well-being and life satisfaction, improves mental and physical health, enhances resiliency, enhances self-esteem, and decreases the chances of depression. "Happiness without meaning characterizes a relatively shallow, self-absorbed or even selfish life. What sets human beings apart from animals is not the pursuit of happiness, which occurs across the natural world, but the pursuit of meaning, which is unique to humans.”
People who navigate the chaos like actor Taraji P. Henson understand they are responsible for their own happiness. Another extension of this question is ‘why would you ever rely on others for your happiness?’ What is it in you that rejects the notion you provide your own happiness? Translating your dreams into reality is your responsibility and therefore, so too is your happiness. Henson graduated from Oxon Hill High School in Oxon Hill, Maryland, in 1988. She then attended North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University where she studied electrical engineering before transferring to Howard University to study drama. To pay for college, she worked mornings as a secretary at The Pentagon and evenings as a singing-dancing waitress on a dinner-cruise ship, the Spirit of Washington. With her one-year-old son in hand, she walked across the stage to receive her diploma at Howard University.
After college she set out for Hollywood and wondered if she had made a mistake dragging her then 1-year-old far away from her family, her hometown, everything she knew and loved. In an interview Henson said “I remember when I said I was going to move out here [L.A.] and my son was like a year old at the time, and I had no money. Fresh out of college with dreams and stars in my eyes. Some people thought I was crazy. My mom was like ‘You’re going to starve!’ But they are all proud because I had a dream. In my opinion, if you’re not dreaming, you’re not living.”
At 26, she found an agent and landed a number of TV roles, including ER and Felicity; then things turned around even more. In 2001, she co-starred in director John Singleton’s Baby Boy, a drama addressing the absentee father epidemic, and in 2005, made a head-turning splash in Terrence Howard’s urban drama Hustle & Flow, which garnered her a Best Actress nomination from the Image Awards. She also sang the film’s Oscar-winning song, “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp,” performing it at the 2006 Academy Awards – just two weeks after her father lost a battle with cancer.
In 2016, Henson starred in the film Hidden Figures, a major box-office success nominated for numerous awards, including three Oscars (Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actress for Octavia Spencer) and two Golden Globes (Best Supporting Actress for Spencer and Best Original Score). It won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture. In a speech given at the 2018 Women in Film awards ceremony, Henson said:
“I finally get to L.A. graduate, have a kid in college and I have to pursue my dream because if I don't what am I teaching my son? So, I moved to California with seven hundred dollars in my pocket and my toddler. And I had to fight the good fight because people are telling me ‘You can't do this.’ They say ‘Are you crazy? You're moving to California with your son? You'll never make it.’ I was twenty-six when I decided to come here. There's the age thing. Oh, you're too old. If you listen to people and if you allow people to project their fears onto you, you won't live. What if I believed those people who told me that when I became pregnant in college that I wouldn't finish? … Everything in life that is coming to you is going to come through you. It starts inside of you. Whether it is love from another, that love must start within you. If you do not know how to take care of yourself or care for yourself first, how are you going to teach someone else to? You need to fight for your goals with such tenacity. You are the temple, and you have control. If you are in a bad situation it's up to you to get out of it. You can't give another human the responsibility of your happiness.”
How often do you rely on others for your happiness?
How often do you remind yourself that ‘the source of happiness lies within you?’
How often do you let others drown out your dreams?
How often do you realize that ‘everything in life that is coming to you is going to come through you since it starts inside of you?’
How often do you remind yourself that you are in control of how you pursue your goals and leverage your mind, body, and spirit to navigate the chaos?
How often do you get out of a bad situation?
How often do you give another human the responsibility of your happiness?