I can scarcely believe that you, my baby, are about to go out into the world on your own. At eighteen, after twelve years of school (fourteen counting Pre-K and kindergarten), I’m sure that you think you know everything you need to know about the world and how to navigate it. I am confident that you have learned enough to be successful in college, to find the right friends, and make the best choices. You have already proven that time and again. However, there are many lessons still to be learned. The lessons I feel you most need to concentrate on are the Five Simple Rules To Be Happy.
I’m not sure who originally came up with the list. A former yoga instructor of mine finished every class with the rules, and you can find them listed in books, blogs, and articles everywhere. They’re available on mugs, paperweights, and T-shirts. While these rules make sense, and I do want you to follow them, there are important things to remember about each of them.
1. Free your heart from hatred. ‘Hate’ is one of the most overused words I ever hear. People hate everything from broccoli to music to people. Because it is so commonly used, I think people tend to forget what it actually means. Hate is intense. It is passionate. It can lead to death and destruction. It can tear apart lives and poison the soul. Psychologist Dr. John H. Sklare warns, “The more you hold onto hatred, the more likely it is that the hot coal of the emotion will burn you. And the more you feed it, the stronger it becomes.”
Never let hate be the emotion you feed. It will zap you of your energy, steal your happiness, and elude you of peace. It will take away your joy and turn you into a bitter, resentful person. Instead, always look for ways to love, even toward those who hurt you. Perhaps Mother Teresa’s advice is all you need to know, “I have the found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.”
2. Free your mind from worries. Oh, my dear child, how I’ve seen you worry. I’ve watched you fret over the large and the small, and I’ve seen you become anxious over things that you cannot change or control. Remember that you cannot control all things and all people. You can only control how you react to them. React with patience, with kindness, and with love. Seek peace from your faith, and no that God has a plan for you. Put your trust in Him, forsaking all worries, and know that He will lead you down the path for which you were chosen. When in doubt, pray. When prayers don’t easily come, hold fast to this one,
Prayer for Serenity
God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time,
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardship as a pathway to peace;
taking, as Jesus did,
this sinful world as it is,
not as I would have it;
trusting that You will make all things right
if I surrender to Your will;
so that I may be reasonable happy in this life
and supremely happy with You forever in the next.
When times of worry strike, when anxiety overtakes you, find solace in the things that bring you joy. Take a break and visit someone who always makes you feel good. Spend just a few minutes with the Lord. Treat yourself to something that makes you happy. Reflect on all the good times you’ve had. Turn to someone who makes you smile. There are many times in life when a smile is all that is needed to cure whatever ails you.
3. Live simply. Do not hold onto things, people, grudges, money, or time. Let your heart delight in the small things: a child’s laughter, a puppy’s kiss, an afternoon with friends, a hand to hold, a shoulder to lean on, a delicious meal, a good book, and a refreshing cry. Know that one true friend has more worth than fifty others who won’t be there when you need them. And always be that friend to others. Don’t take on too many responsibilities or neglect the ones that matter.
Take the time to breathe. Never underestimate the value of walk in the woods, a dance in the rain, or a snowflake on your tongue. Take time for yourself. Allow yourself to experience silence. Keep in mind the words of St. Pope John Paul II, “only in silence does man succeed in hearing in the depth of his conscience the voice of God.”
4. Give more. When you live simply, you will find that you have more to give. Give your time to help those in need. Give your ear to those desiring someone to listen. Give your words to those seeking comfort and reassurance. Give your talents to the causes that are most worthy. Give money to the poor and your coat to those in need. Share what you have, and never be selfish.
“Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’
5. Expect less. I’m going to admit that I have a hard time with this. I agree that you should never presume, but there are many things in life that you should expect. The motivational speaker, David Jospeh Schwartz, said, “Think little goals and expect little achievements. Think big goals and win big success.” Expecting less may allow us to feel less pain or experience fewer falls, but it can also lead to lower standards. You often asked why I always expected you to get As. What would you have said if I had only ever told you I expected you to get Bs? How hard would you have worked if I told you I only expected you to pass? Setting expectations is necessary in order to achieve goals.
You should expect your partner to be faithful. You should expect your friends to be loyal. Expect to be treated with kindness. Expect nursing school to be hard!
I believe that this rule is more of a reminder to keep in mind that what you expect will not always be what you get. Sometimes, life will far exceed your expectations, and other times, it will fall short. You may need to adjust your expectations (like the year you took Physics). You may need to reassess your goals. You may need to find new friends. When faced with those times, remember that there is always a greater lesson to be learned. Sometimes you have to recognize that expectations are unrealistic, and that’s okay!
“You can’t expect perfection. It is important to sort of acknowledge some of our imperfections. I write them down. There’s something about acknowledging mistakes and being able to put them down on paper; they become facts of your life that you must live with. And then, hopefully, you can navigate the road a little bit better. “
Ron Howard, actor, director
The bottom line is, only you can create your happiness. Only you can control what you feel. Only you can find contentment with the world, with others, with yourself. By sowing love instead of hate, by freeing yourself of worries, by living simply, by giving more, and by setting the right expectations, you can experience profound joy, delight in all that matters, and find peace in your heart and mind. Of all the things you should remember as you march to Pomp and Circumstance, remember this, you have the power to live the happiest life possible. Go out there and seek joy, and everything else will fall into place.
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What I was writing about a year ago this week: It’s Summer Reads Time Again!.
Amy Schisler is an award-winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me, Whispering Vines, and Island of Miracles are all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Island of Miracles has outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her follow up, Island of Promise is a reader favorite. Amy’s children’s book is The Greatest Gift. The suspense novel, Summer’s Squall, and all of Amy’s books, can be found online and in stores. Her latest novel, Island of Promise, was recently awarded First Prize by the Oklahoma Romance Writer’s Association as the best Inspirational Romance of 2018 and was awarded a Gold Medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards 2019 for Inspirational Fiction. It is a finalist for the RWA Golden Quill Contest and the Eric Hoffer Award of Fiction.
Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017), Island of Promise (2018).