I am blessed to live in the United States, a country that boasts “the pursuit of happiness” as an unalienable right. If doesn’t, however, guarantee that you will be happy or that anyone has to be forced to make you happy. It just decrees that you have the right to pursue being happy. Nor are any of us given a path to happiness, a guarantee of some sort that we will be happy. That is up to each of us as individuals. And the only way to be happy is to pursue a life of happiness, not from others, but from the things that you, yourself, do every day. Unfortunately, many people are searching for happiness in ways that leave them feeling empty, unfulfilled, and even sad and sometimes lonely. In my observations of the people and situations around me, here is what I see that they’re doing wrong.
1. Allowing others to dictate your mood. Nobody can make you unhappy but you. I tell my children this all the time. Others can criticize you, put you down, attempt to take away your self-esteem or lessen your accomplishments; but at the end of the day, you are the one who lives with your choices, your beliefs, the person you are or are becoming. Only you can determine how you should feel, and only you can take the reins and make your life be what you want it to be.
After his first audition, Sidney Poitier was told by the casting director, “Why don’t you stop wasting people’s time and go out and become a dishwasher or something?”*
2. Letting failure get the best of you. You’re never going to be perfect. That role belongs to only one being, and He doesn’t expect you to be perfect; but He does expect you to try to be. So what if you failed at something. Are you going to let that be the end of life as you know it? Stick that chin out, roll up your sleeves, and try again.
Thomas Edison failed 1,000 times while trying to invent the light bulb. When asked how it felt, Edison replied, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”*
3. Not appreciating what you have. Do you have a roof over your head? Do you have food on your table, clothes on your back, shoes on your feet? Then what are you complaining about? There are many people in the world who are far worse off than you are, but they are able to find happiness. How? By appreciating what they have and not what they lack. We aren’t supposed to get everything we desire in life, or there would never be anything to strive for, hope for , look forward to. Enjoy what you have without complaining about what you don’t have, and you will find that what you have will increase tenfold.
“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” Oprah Winfrey**
4. Letting worries win. I am willing to bet money that the happiest people you know are the ones who worry the least. They know that life has a way of working things out. Personally, I believe that God will do my worrying for me. Remember the saying, “Live and let God.” Whether you believe in a divine presence or not, you will be a happier person if you do not dwell on worry. Some things in life are out of our control. Don’t try to control them. They will only end up controlling you.
“There is no cross, big or small, in our life which the Lord does not share with us.” Pope Francis***
5. Not allowing yourself to catch the joy of others. Embrace other peoples’ happiness. So you’re not having a good day, or a good experience. Is that any reason to bring others down or to not try to lift yourself up? Share in the joy of others. Allow their joy, their inner peace, to enter your life. Someday you will regret the time you spent alone nursing your wounds, continuing to make yourself unhappy; but you will never regret the time you spent enjoying life with friends and family and seeking joy.
“To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try.” Roger Ebert****
6. Ignoring the golden rule. To enjoy true happiness, you must create happiness and share it with others. Smile, and others will smile back. Hold the door for someone, and they will hold it for someone else. Speak kindly to those around you, and they will speak kindly in return. No further explanation is needed.
“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6:31
“Love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:39
“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” Mahatma Gandhi
Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her latest book, Picture Me, is the recipient of an Illumination Award, placing it among the top three eBooks of 2015. Her next book, Whispering Vines, is due out in the summer of 2016.
You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com.
Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015)