Author's note: I am a compulsive advice-giver-always have been. When my own son was in high school, he wasn't interested in his old man's advice so I wrote it down in the hope that he might change his mind one day. What follows is one piece of the that advice. I trust it applies to all of us, regardless of age.
Nobody really cares if you're miserable, so you might as well be happy.
Let’s clarify the difference between happiness and gladness. Gladness is a temporary feeling brought on by some good event or circumstance. Happiness is a permanent state of mind that remains unaffected by events or circumstances.
You were glad when you graduated from college or high school. You’d be glad—thrilled—if you won the lottery. Even something as momentous as the birth of a child causes gladness, but not happiness. As important as all these events are, they are circumstances—things which happen to or around you. They do not have the power to make you happy or unhappy. That power rests with you alone.
It’s quite simple, really. We create our own happiness by what we think and do. Earl Nightingale put it this way: “Happiness is a by-product of something else. It comes from the direction in which we’re moving.” This sentiment is in perfect accord with Martha Washington’s notion that happiness depends on our dispositions rather than our circumstances.
In other words, if you seek happiness directly, you’ll surely fail. It comes as a result of (1) making a decision to be a happy person, and (2) living the kind of worthwhile, useful life that leads to happiness.
Easier said than done? Not really. We’ve already established that you control both your decisions and your behavior.
I’m not asking you to become a different person—far from it. You are uniquely you, and that fact should be celebrated. But you’re not the exact same person today that you were at ten years old, are you? You’ve even changed some in the past year or two, right? And you’ll continue to evolve as you work your way through adulthood.
Most important, make the decision to consciously direct your own thinking and attitude. As you go through this book, let the lessons soak in. As you incorporate them into your daily living, I suspect that over time your behavior may change as well. After all, your behavior is bound to evolve over the years anyway, is it not? Why not exercise control over that change in a way that benefits you and those around you?