It’s not just musicians like Bobby McFerrin and Pharrell Williams encouraging
us to be happy. There are scads of others—psychologists, motivational speakers, ministers, physicians, artists, philosophers, counselors, visionaries and writers—all telling us to live in the moment and, in so doing, improve our lives. Of course, there’s more involved than merely listening to uplifting music, more than merely training your brain to think positively, more than slowing down long enough to smell the metaphorical roses.
Action is required, too. It could be as simple as reading affirmations or finding quotations to inspire you.
Abraham Lincoln may have said it best when he noted that “folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.” You’re off to a good start if you’re reading this far. Ideally, you’ve made a decision to learn ways to enrich your life, to expand the positive influences upon it; to raise your HQ (Happiness Quotient). Taking action is more than a first step—it’s a declaration of your intention to improve your life.
FOLLOW MARTHA WASHINGTON’S ADVICE
The unofficial Mother of Our Country said she was “determined to be cheerful and happy” in whatever situation she found herself. She added that our unhappiness is the result—not of the situation—but of our disposition.” Being happy is a decision, a choice, an option we can exercise if we want to. And why wouldn’t you want to?
Is it fear that is holding you back? If so, just think of all the fear-filled things you’ve already done, and done quite well. Learning to crawl, to walk, to run. The danger in all those actions was less important than the exhilaration you experienced with your accomplishment. Think about being five years old and leaving your house and your mother to spend your first day in kindergarten. All those strangers. Those teachers with an authority that meant you couldn’t get your way by wheedling. And yet, you survived. You probably even learned to thrive in the academic environment.
You tried out for sports teams. You applied to college or to your first job. You went on your first date. When you look back on all you’ve managed to do, you shouldn’t have any qualms about opting to be happy.
DON’T LOOK OUTSIDE YOURSELF FOR HAPPINESS
Why not? Because it can only be found inside you. It is the derivative of your own actions. Leo Tolstoy may have said it best: “If you want to be happy, be.” You have some barriers in your life—we all do. The important thing is to move beyond them. If those barriers seem insurmountable, consider what Cara Dunne-Yates accomplished in her short lifetime. She worked as a law clerk for the Public Council on Children’s Rights. At the same time, she studied for the bar exam. Before that, she graduated Harvard University magna cum laude and then went to UCLA Law School. After law school, she became a new mother and then trained for the Paralympic Games.
As if all this was not enough to make Cara’s life full, she was a downhill skiing legend who had earned ten medals in the sport. But it wasn’t just skiing that interested her. Cara won both Silver and Bronze medals in international tandem bike races. One other thing: Cara has been blind since age five. She also developed osteosarcoma, cancer of the face that required the removal of both her cheekbone and palate. She won that battle to cancer but lost the return battle eight years later, when Cara was just 34.
If you have any doubt about your own capabilities, read biographies of people who started out with nothing and built empires of one kid or another. Or, people who overcame obstacles to achieve their self-set goals.
And, if you believe that what gets measured gets done, keep a monthly log: On the first day of the month, record your HG. If you don’t see improvement after a few months, recommit to the actions you can take. And keep in mind what Ralph Waldo Emerson had to say, “For every minute you are angry [or unhappy], you lose sixty seconds of happiness.