Don’t Worry, Be H.A.P.P.Y.

Making something more out of this popular 80s four-word philosophy than just a catchy tune.

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Photo by Cleyder Duque from Pexels
Photo by Cleyder Duque from Pexels

I’m sure you’re familiar with this popular 80s song by American musician, Bobby McFerrin. It has a very catchy melody to it, guaranteed to get you all finger-snapping and toe-tapping, and help lift your spirits the moment you hear it.

But today, I would like to make something more out of this pretty neat four-word philosophy than just a melody we often spontaneously sing or whistle along to…

… and hopefully, the tips that I will share with you will add more meaning to this mantra, so much so that it does add more HAPPY-ness to your life.

Don’t Worry, Be H.A.P.P.Y.

H is for Hope.

I define Hope as a confident or firmly held belief or joyful anticipation of a desired outcome. This is a very difficult concept to grasp for a lot of people. When I talk about Hope, I often get reactions like, “But how do you know that what you’re hoping for is going to come?”.

My answer to that is, “It depends on who’s delivering it.”

Back when I was still living in Manila, I once had to ship out a package to a friend. I had to choose between using a well-known and reliable shipping company but for a higher rate, and one other company that quoted me a significantly lower rate but has unfortunately earned a reputation for a variety of shipping issues and delays. Long story short, I chose the less pricey option due to budget constraints at that time.

Both companies offered the priority shipping of 3 to 5 days which I opted for. But if you ask me if I counted on the second shipping company to deliver my package within that time frame, not a chance. In fact, I made the conscious decision to lower my expectations given the company’s reputation.

And I can say that it was a well-founded assumption. Sure enough, the package arrived at my friend’s doorstep more than a week later. So you can say that my expectations were only commensurate with the company’s ability or inability to deliver on time.

So you gotta have Hope but for Hope to work, you need to anchor it on something or someone that you can confidently count on to deliver on that hope. I put mine in God. Where are you anchoring yours on?

A is for Appreciation.

So much of the heaviness we carry around in our hearts today can be due to a lack of gratitude or appreciation for what we already have. However, it’s tough to feel grateful when things start falling apart around you… When things don’t go as planned… When all we see in the news and on social media are reports of people suffering and dying and losing their jobs and businesses.

That’s why it’s important to understand that:

To be grateful doesn’t mean that you deny the existence of challenges in your life. What it means is finding the blessing in the difficulty, and making a choice to FOCUS on that blessing… Like the umbrella on a rainy day. The four-wheel-drive on a muddy road. The pack of toilet paper at the supermarket (heck, yeah!).  We often take for granted how in many cases, even the little things can turn out to be huge life savers!

To be grateful, also in no way, means you’re merely “settling”, or that you can’t have ambitions, or you can’t desire something better or greater. What gratitude means is that while you recognize, honor, and appreciate the value in what you already have, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to improve the situation; there’s nothing wrong with wanting something better for your family; and there’s definitely nothing wrong with wanting to make this world a better place. Remember that you can’t seek to add value to something without first recognizing the value in it.

P is for Perspective.

The way we view what we’re experiencing can either alleviate or aggravate stress.

Thanks to this method developed by psychologist Albert Ellis in the mid-1950s called Cognitive Reframing, you now have a way of looking at your experiences in ways that reduce, if not eliminate, stress in your life and create a greater sense of peace instead.

This method has four steps:

  1. Notice your thoughts. Take a moment to become aware of your thoughts. No judgment. No criticisms. Simply notice them, acknowledge them, honor them and let them be. It’s okay, and you need to believe that with all of your heart. You can’t address, let alone correct something that you’re not willing to bring to light.
  2. Examine your thoughts. The most important thing you can do next is OBSERVE your thoughts because your thoughts create your emotions. What emotions are these thoughts bringing up for you? What has triggered these emotions? Again, no judgment. Simply observe what is.
  3. Challenge your thoughts. Are these thoughts based on facts? Are they grounded in truth? If the answer is “No”, are there other possible interpretations or explanations for what happened?
  4. Replace your thoughts. If the initial thoughts were not grounded in truth, then they are lies. What is true then? What do you know in your heart to be true? Choose to believe that instead because—and you know this—the TRUTH will set you FREE.

Notice that the predominant requirement for effectively ‘reframing’ your perspective is training yourself to withhold judgment—so that instead of quickly passing judgment or adding your interpretation to a situation, take a moment to ask the question, “Could it be possible that things are not what they seem?“. So many potentially stressful situations can be avoided by a simple choice to consider the possibility that your initial impression of an event may not be accurate.

P is for Progress.

In order to experience the fullness of joy in Life, you need to embrace CHANGE. To deny and resist change is to deny and resist the very essence of Life—Evolution.

You need to constantly make room for PROGRESS in your life. This means you have to:

  • Stop constantly looking back. Have you ever tried running while looking back and fixing your eyes on what’s behind you instead of what’s ahead? You’re right, it doesn’t work. You’ll trip and fall flat on your face. You need to focus on where you’re headed.
  • Know where you’re going. It would be difficult to plan for the journey ahead if you don’t even know your destination.
  • Ditch Perfectionism. Nothing can hold you back from fully stepping into your power and purpose better than the addiction to perfection. “The perfect timing” should never be a prerequisite for taking action. It’s futile to continue to sit idly by, waiting for the perfect opportunity to happen because that moment will never come. Meanwhile the time you have wasted on waiting and chasing after something that doesn’t exist is time that can never ever be regained.
  • Keep getting up and keep walking. To progress is to move forward. That would involve picking one foot up, putting it in front of the other, taking one step, and then taking another. In life, you will stumble and fall. It’s just part of life, and it happens to everyone, even to the best of us. But if you are to keep progressing in life, then you will need to make the choice to rise up when you fall, dust yourself off and continue walking… Every. Single. Time.

Y is for saying YES! to Life.

How do you say, “Yes!” to Life?


If ‘Life is a party‘, saying “Yes!” means making a decision to show up at the party and be willing to mingle even though you don’t know who else is invited, or to be ready to hit the dance floor even if you don’t know what music is playing.

If ‘Life is a game’, saying “Yes!” means making a decision to be coachable and play by the rules but to always bring your ‘A’ game.

If ‘Life is a stage’, saying “Yes!” means making a decision to give your best performance every single time, no matter what role you’ve been appointed to play.

If ‘Life is a teacher’, saying “Yes!” means making a decision to show up in class with curiosity and eagerness to learn, to do your homework and apply the lessons you’re learning, and to show up the next day… and the next… eager to learn something new.


To keep worries at bay and be truly HAPPY in life, you need to find ways to hold on firmly to HOPE, practice APPRECIATION for Life and all its gifts every single day, choose to adopt a healthy PERSPECTIVE especially in difficult situations, pursue PROGRESS, and say YES! to Life.

And that, my friend, is how you give the mantra, “Don’t worry, be H.A.P.P.Y.” a new and deeper meaning.

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