I try very hard to learn from people who are unhappy, for I believe that they are the people who can best teach me how to be happy. Ironically enough, these are often the people who put up the greatest facade of happiness–always bright and cheerful among company, but when you talk to them alone, you find a great deal of discontent or frustration or anger or discouragement.
I’ve found that happiness isn’t all that difficult. It’s been very important for me to do several things on my path to happiness, and here they are, in no particular order:
Be true to myself, my principles, and my faith. This faithfulness to myself keeps me from beating myself up over actions that I’m not proud of. If i base my actions on principle and truly follow that principle, I won’t engage in the self-denigration that Ive seen so many others (especially alcoholics) engage in.
Give up the thoughts of being HAPPY. Somehow our culture has turned happiness into this unobtainable permanently ecstatic state–a result of too many people in entertainment and advertising who have no idea of what happiness truly is trying to tell us how to be happy. They’re not the problem–the problem is, we listen.
Not worry about things or events. As andy rooney says above, happiness has less to do with major events or the versions of success fed to us by unhappy people from Hollywood or Madison Avenue than with acceptance and awareness and appreciation of the little things in our lives, like this wonderful computer that allows me to build this website and share these great people’s words with so many others. And it’s one of the cheaper computers, certainly not a top-of-the-line model. But it does a great job, and I love it, and I don’t spend time wishing for anything more.
Focus on others and their needs, without getting obsessive about it and robbing myself of quiet time and recreational time. I’m useless to others if I’m not rested and in full command of my senses. I work at balancing what I give of time and effort with what I need to keep going and to stay happy. I often say yes when people ask me to help, but I often say no, too. It depends on where I am and how it will affect other aspects of my life. Some of the least happy people I know give so much of themselves that they’re always tired and cranky, and they often start resenting the very people they’re supposed to help.
Find my niches. I would love to play the guitar and piano, but I’m not that good at either. I am good at other things, so instead of spending tons of time trying to learn a little bit of everything, I try to focus on my strengths. I can play chords on the guitar and enjoy it, but to spend hours and hours trying to get really good–well, there are plenty of great guitar players out there who can make up for my absence in the world of music.
All in all, I know that happiness is obtainable, and the first quotation of this page is a very telling one. Ask yourself if you don’t have everything in your life that can make you happy, and then ask yourself if you’re happy. Look at yourself through the eyes of someone who doesn’t have what you have–material goods, health, intelligence, ability, creativity–and hear that person telling you, “I would be so happy if I had only a part of what you have."
And don’t answer, "Yes, but…” answer, “You’re right–I do have many gifts. I’ll try to be happy with them.”