Sunday, March 21, 2004

Happiness is a Choice

"Happiness is a choice
For a long time it seemed to me that life was about to begin – real life.
But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first,
some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid.
At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.
This perspective has helped me to see there is no way to happiness.
Happiness is the way.
So treasure every moment you have and remember that time waits for no one.
Happiness is a journey, not a destination"
. - Souza

I've always believed happiness is a choice, not conditional upon any circumstance. I've written about that before. In all the time I've been coaching, never before have I heard the line "I'll be happy when..." so many times from so many people as I did this past week. It's been an intense time across the board. I recently joked with some clients that it must have been a full moon kind of week because so many bizarre things happened. And I've never before come across so many stressed out, unhappy people. I was in a taxi with someone who works for a client and she started teasing me that being a consultant I was making the megabucks while she, being a public servant, was scraping by. I'd love to know the consultants she's talking about, but that's for another time. My first question to her was "What do you need?" And she listed off "A vacation, a new car, new dress shoes..." and went on and on. When she stopped, again I said "Actually what I asked you was, what do you need?" Now she was looking at me puzzled. So she answered again in a similar way.

Once more I looked at her and without going into explanation, I asked her "What do you NEED?" Now she stopped and asked me why I was asking her the same question three times. And I said "Because what I asked was what you needed, not what you wanted. There's a difference." What one needs is food, a roof over their head and clothes on their back. And I would add another and that would be wonderful people to love and be loved by. The rest is wants. And when I hear someone add that they'll be happy when they get a new car, new clothes, a new job, new boyfriend or girlfriend, my first question is "Why are you making your happiness conditional on things or situations? And what happens when those things become old and used. Does that mean you won't be happy any more? How about just being happy? The rest is gravy so to speak."

Friday night I spoke to a friend in Panama who I miss dearly. She had always told me that on your birthday, as in Finnish tradition (her heritage) one should celebrate for a week. Your birthday should be somewhere in that week and you should do something special every day. When we spoke about me turning 50 this year, she told me that I'd have to celebrate at least twice that. And we both heard the smiles in our voices. I thought about it for a while and decided, why wait until a birthday to celebrate life? Every day there's something that happens that should be celebrated. And I do. Every day I come home and journal about the extraordinary things that happened in an ordinary day. I never have to struggle to find something. That in itself is a celebration.

Then on Sunday I called my aunt. I try to speak to her once a month or so to see how she and my uncle are doing. Actually they're my great aunt and uncle. My uncle hasn't been well and my aunt has to care for him. Whenever I speak to her she's always cheerful and happy and I asked her about it this week. She really is amazing and a joy to talk to. She told me we're all given one life to live. We can choose to complain and bring everyone down around us or we can choose to thank God for every day we have on this earth and make the most of it. Words of wisdom from someone who lives them.

In a past blog, I quoted someone who said "One should be less afraid of dying and more afraid of an empty life" Anyone who chooses happiness will never have an empty life, because they'll create a full life. Enjoy the journey. It's the only one you've got (as far as we know at any rate) so shouldn't it be one of your choosing?

All the best..
Donna Karlin

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