Happiness is…

February 28, 2018

What is happiness for you? In a recent post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Jack used this quote from Rousseau – “Happiness is a good bank account, a good cook and a good digestion.” Jack went on to explain that Rousseau was not happy with many things of his day and died at age 66 of what might have been a stress induced stroke. Too many of us are on the same path as Rousseau.

There has been tons of stuff written about happiness – what it is and how to achieve it. There are T-shirts with happiness designs on them, many featuring Snoopy from the smiling-sunCharlie Brown comics. Snoopy is often used as the epitome of carefree happiness and a large emoji industry has grown up built upon creating variations of the well-known happy face emoji.

Happiness is a very personal thing. It is different for each of us and largely self-defined. It might be defined as being the absence of fears or concerns or other distractions in our minds. One has only to watch a young child playing contentedly by themselves to “see” happiness. Contentment is a synonym for happiness and a part of the definition of the root word happy.

Many of us seem to know more about being unhappy than we do about being happy. We don’t allow ourselves to feel happy because we focus too much on the things that we don’t have, which we imagine would make us happy. The entire advertising industry was built to play upon those feelings and to encourage us to continue to strive for that happiness by buying the products that they are selling. We tell ourselves, “I’d really be bored2happy if only I had this new car or that bigger house or whatever shiny thing we see on TV”.  Maybe we think that happiness awaits us at that next promotion level at work. Whatever it is; it nags at us and keeps us unhappy. For some there is unhappiness in their personal relationships because they have a nagging feeling that they would be happier with someone else.

So, how do we achieve contentment and happiness? First, we must strip away the concerns of the world for a moment and re-establish the foundation upon which we stand. We may find that we have wandered away from the solid foundation of our faith in Jesus and God out onto the shifting sands of human desires and concerns. Once we stop believing that God is always with us, knows what we need and will provide for our needs; we begin to let human thoughts about what we need and how to get those things drive our lives. We become unhappy with our lot in life and that unhappiness drives woman-prayingus further and further away from God. We must stop and re-center ourselves back on our faith in God.

If you re-center yourself on your faith, you will immediately find that you also have time to enjoy the relationships that you have with your family and friends. You will not be driven away from them by the unhappy pursuit of more stuff, but rather will re-discover the pleasures that you find in the love of others. You will find contentment with your life, rather than being driven to constantly strive for the next thing that seems to always just out of reach. Your faith will allow you to let go of the unhappy thoughts about what you don’t have and find joy and happiness in what you already have.

So, perhaps happiness is a good relationship with God; rather than a good bank account, a good cook and good digestion. At least that definition of happiness makes more sense and it is so easy to achieve, if you will just let God back into your life. You will find peace, rediscover that child-like feeling of contentment, and be happy again. What’s not to like about that?

So, take that pause. Stick your head up for a minute and think about what is driving you. Re-asses your current relationship with God. Is He off somewhere in the distance, somewhere in a church that you visit every so often; or, is he right here with you each and every day. Do you start each day with that little prayer that I like to use, “Not my will mebut thy will be done” or do you set your jaw and head out determined to face the world and its problems on your own? No matter what level of unhappiness you have sunken to, God is that beacon of light that you can still see off in the distance. Head towards His light. Happiness lives there.

Have a great and happy rest of the week.


Three little words – Don’t give permission…

November 15, 2015

 “Nobody can hurt me without my permission.”  –  Mahatma Gandhi

I was searching for quotes about peace and contentment when I came across this one from Gandhi. It resonated with other little pieces of self-help advice that I have written about in the past. I think we all seek peace and contentment in our lives, although most of us spend time looking in the wrong places. Then, just whining childas we may have achieved some measure of both in our lives, we give someone else permission to hurt us. We take offense and something that they’ve said or done or we react to some slight or slur (real or imagined) and fall back out of our state of contentment.  Gandhi’s advice rings true in those moments. We have invited this external influence into our sanctuary and allowed it to tarnish our contentment or destroy our peace. Don’t give permission.

Ralph Waldo Emerson was on the same page as Gandhi when he said – “Nothing external to you has any power over you.”  Emerson was referring to the fact that you control how you react to all things external to you. If someone says something hateful to you, or about you; how do you react? Do you let it hurt you or is your reaction to feel sorry that they are in such a state of mind that they feel the need to lash out at you. Do you shrink back in offense or offer your help and prayers to them? After all they haven’t really done anything to you, if you didn’t let them do it; but, they have exposed an ugly side of themselves for others to see. They can’t hurt you if you don’t  give permission.

Finally, being at peace means being comfortable with yourself, liking yourself and being confident in yourself. Sanaya Roman put it this way – “Having inner peace means committing to letting go of self-criticism and self-doubt.”  So, in addition to the things and people outside that might be trying to upset your contentment; one must believe in yourself.  I  wrote about that in a post –  https://normsmilfordblog.com/2014/07/31/first-believe-in-yourself/ and I also advised against beating yourself up. What good does it do you to spend time on self-criticism and slef-doubt. Rather you shouls spend that time on self-improvement. Learn from any mistakes and move on, don’t wallow in self-recrimination and guilt. Even for your own thoughts, don’t give permission.

prayingSo, resolve today that you will withhold permission for the actions and words of others to hurt you. Focus instead on how you can offer them help that they may need to get to the place of peace and contentment that you enjoy. I’ve noted here in past posts that the local Methodist pastor Doug McMunn often uses a wonderful little retort when he encounters someone who needs help regaining control. He will just say, “be at peace.” Doug always seems to be at peace and to ready to help other, I suspect because he makes a daily effort to stay ther and when he encounters situations that might otherwise be inflammatory he doesn’t give permission for those things or comments to invade and destroy his inner peace.

Be at peace this coming week; and when things try to get to you; remember that they cannot hurt you if you don’t give permission.

 Be happy with what you have…

July 11, 2015

“Just remember there is someone out there that is more than happy with less than what you have.”  (Unknown) From the Jack’s Winning Words blog. Jack went on to write – When I first read this quote, I could not help but STOP and put aside my personal complaints.  I have so much, and there are so many who have so little.  Is it that way with you?  It’s an old saying, but it’s true.  “I complained, because I had no shoes, until I saw a man who had no feet.” 

Sadly, we live in a society that conditions us to be unhappy with what we have and to always be striving for more. Whatever we have is not enough to make us happy because someone else has more or different things.  Now there is certainly nothing wrong with striving to get ahead, but one has to stop every now and then and ask, “Ahead of what?” Very few of us live in survival mode, scraping along for our next meal or a place to sleep tonight; exercise wheelbut there are those people among us. In general we are able to provide at least food and shelter for our family and for most a good deal beyond just those necessities. But, are we happy with what we have; or, do we constantly want more, in the belief that having more will make us happier?

One of the most unhappy men in the Bible was the man who asked Jesus what he needed to do to get into heaven. When Jesus replied that he should sell everything that he had and give the money to the poor and follow him; the man wandered off unhappily muttering to himself, for we are told that he was very wealthy and obviously did not want to give up that wealth. Are we the same way today? Do we reach and reach and reach for what we don’t have, instead of being happy with what we do have and what would we do if Jesus asked us to sell everything that we have, give the money to the poor and follow him? Jesus might be a pretty lonely guy in today’s world.

The key to being happy with what you have, it seems to me, is to change your focus from things to people, from possessions to relationships, from those that you’d love to be like to those who love you as you are. Learn to girls huggingexpress your love for them without holding out a gift of some sort or buying a new possession to share with them. If you ever get to an honest state with them, they’d probably tell you that they could care less about your car or your house or your boat or any other of your possessions. What they value is your time and attention; your love and affection; you sharing of yourself and not your possessions.

What happens when you get to that state of understanding and happiness with your loved ones is that you grant yourself permission to be happy with what you have. That doesn’t mean that you just quit your job or don’t accept the next promotion or even stop looking for a bigger house someday. Giving yourself permission to be happy with what you’ve got just means that you will no longer use the pursuit of possessions as the measure of your life and your happiness. You stop keeping score on that scorecard, because you’ve started keeping score based upon the smiles on the faces of the one that father-daughter danceyou love; and those smiles come because you were there sharing your love and not because of what you brought with you. Once you change to that focus getting the next possession will be much less important to than attending the next little league game or the father daughter dance or maybe going out to dinner with your significant other.

Dale Carnegie  put it well when he said – “Success is getting what you want. Happiness is wanting what you get.” May you find happiness in what you have.

Embrace your little happy’s

November 14, 2014

“I’m happier now, because…”  (Nataly Kogan)  – from a recent post at the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

Kogan’s book – 3 Minutes A Day tells about Nataly who founded “Happier, Inc.”  After discovering that chasing the “big happy” wasn’t working, she began to look for the little happys in her life, like making a smilely-faced pancake for her young daughter…the things that brought her joy.  Her Happier website invites people to share their small, tiny, positive moments.

man mad at himselfFor most people the realization will eventually set in that chasing the big happys often only results in disappointments or frustration in life. Learning to be satisfied with life’s little everyday happy moments is a much better path to take.  Happiness is often accompanied by a sense of contentment, at least for a little while. But, life goes on and it is all too easy for one notice out on the horizon the next big happy that could be chased.  Once that next big thing becomes the thing to chase in order to be happy, the feeling of contentment with the current fades quickly away.

I suppose that we could all say, “I’m happier now, because it’s Friday”, but that isn’t the point that Nataly is trying to get across. I suspect that we all fall into the trap of chasing what she calls “the big happy.” In my mind that is when you have this big thing out there that you just feel sure will make you happy if you ever get it or achieve it. Maybe that thing is a possession – “I’ll be happy of I get that new car”; or, maybe it’s achieving some goal or accomplishing some task, like, “I’ll be happy if I get that promotion.” For some people the key to their happiness is supposedly to travel to some exotic place. For many the belief is that happiness will be theirs when they meet Mr. or Ms. Right.

The point that Kogan seems to be making is that we can all be happier if we focus on all of life’s little smiling manvictories and happy moments that we experience every day, instead of becoming obsessed with chasing a few “big happys.”  What are the little things that make you happy? Would you smile and be happy, if only for the moment, if someone gave you a pancake shaped like a smiley face?  The fact is that we get lots of smiley faces every day, if we just know how to look for them. Sometimes they are gestures of thanks for something that you did, like holding a door open for someone or helping a stranger carry something. Many times they are the small, sometimes hasty, thank-you’s that we get from significant others or children for something rather ordinary that we did for them. Learn to accept them as little smiley faces in your life and be happier because of them.

bathWhat little things in your daily life make you happier? These are your little happy’s. Accept them and embrace them. They are what takes life beyond tolerable and makes it worthwhile. You may find that a strange side-effect of being satisfied and content with life’s little happy’s is that life’s big happy’s just naturally happen, too. It’s all part of living life with a positive mental attitude.

So, listen to the words of Bobby McFerrin’s song and Don’t Worry, Be Happy. As you listen complete the sentence in this post title for yourself –“ I’m happier now, because…”