I’ve had the privilege of being able to live in four different countries in my 36 years of life. I’ve lost count of how many countries I’ve travelled to. During my travels I’ve met people from all walks of life: young, old, rich, poor, etc.
The people that have made some of the most lasting impressions on my life are those who, I believe, have found the secret to happiness. First off, I’m not even sure if they’ve realized that they have found the secret, or if they even know that they are happy. But when you meet them and get to know them, you know it. You see it in their smile. In the way they live their lives, and most especially – in the way they treat others.
So what is the secret? I believe it’s simple. It’s choice really.
Happiness is a mindset. It is an intentional mindset. To have happiness, one needs to choose it. That’s why when you go to a developing country and you see people who have far less than you smiling and at peace with their lives. There’s a good chance that many of these people don’t focus on what they don’t have or what they could have; they focus on what they do have. They choose to see the goodness in their lives. They have chosen to be content with their lot. This is a big deal. When you can be content with what you currently have at this present moment; being happy with your current lot and not seeking contentment in the past or the future, your world changes. You feel at peace with life, because you realize that all you possess is found right now, in the present. Moreover, the present moment can be measured differently for each person. The child might find their present moment in the day – especially in playful summer days which seem to last forever. A young man or woman might find their present moment in the hour – a budding romance, where an hour means complete bliss with their beloved. The old man or woman might find their present moment in the brief minute – perhaps on their hospital bed, surrounded by their loved ones as they express their final gestures of love. The common thread is that all of these people have chosen to find their contentment in the present moment.
When you are content with all that you have at this moment, everything can be seen as a blessing. And I mean everything – from the warm food in your belly, to the dry roof over your head, to your healthy body, to the loved ones in your home that can drive you crazy, yet you love them immensely. When you find these things as blessings, your choice of happiness is further magnified. This attitude leads to being grateful. Those who are grateful realize this concept of gratitude. That’s why saying “thank you” is so crucial. It’s not merely for the person who is giving you the blessing; it’s also for you – to realize that everything given to you can be a blessing and that we should ALWAYS be grateful when someone gifts us with something. Regardless if that gift is a kind word, compliment or even a gift. Be grateful.
My daughter is in a stage where she wants to be able choose everything. Her food, her clothing, even who tucks here in at night. The problem with this is that there are numerous choices which can take up a lot of time. Oftentimes, when there are too many choices for her, she has a tendency to get frustrated and throw tantrums (she’s three). The same goes for money. My mother always told me as we were growing up, “Money doesn’t solve your problems or make you happy. It does, however, give you more choices.” And that’s not always a great thing. Maybe that’s why we read so often of movie stars and celebrities (who can have unlimited choices on things) who check into rehabilitation centres for drug/alcohol use, or worse, when we read about them overdosing. Money doesn’t make you happy – it gives you choices. Like I said earlier, happiness if found when you are content with what you have at this moment, whether you live in a brush hut in Africa or a beach house in the Hamptons.
It’s no coincidence that some of the happiest people I know are also some of the most selfless people. It’s not that they think less of themselves, they just think more about others. People who are truly selfless do things for people not to get things in return or to be liked by others, but because they genuinely care about the other and they want the best for them. This is what real love is. Wanting the greatest good for the beloved, even at the expense of your wants and desires. Those who truly love know happiness and those who are truly happy know love. They know that a life of happiness and love is not found in isolation. To truly be happy you need others. You need love – to give and receive.
Happiness is choice. When you choose contentment in the moment, when you choose to be grateful and when you choose to love – you choose happiness. What do you all think the secret to happiness is?
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