I’m sitting in one of the most beautiful settings on the globe: the stunning Gold Coast of Australia, just south of Brisbane. The sun is glistening on the ocean as if glitter were strewn over the surface. The sand is soft and powdery — perfect for taking long walks, splashing in the salty sea and savoring every second. There’s a reason they call it Paradise.
So how on earth is it possible that I have experienced frustration, disappointment, sadness and even anger in the last couple of days? I’m in PAR-A-DISE, people! Well, I’ve experienced a plethora of things: from technology issues, to an ER visit to the doctor for a very surprising UTI (urinary tract infection) and then to the Chemist (as they call it Down Under) for the antibiotic so I can be well enough to take the stage in two days as the guest speaker for the conference I’m here for. Yes, those things are challenging, but very transparently, I didn’t handle them as my best self. I didn’t do the things I know to do.
Quite frankly, I wasn’t being consistent with the happy habits that help me stay on track. One of which is to remind myself that no matter what is happening, “I Get To!”® choose how I respond. I mean, c’mon! That’s the name of my book, my trademark and programs. The “I Get To!”® gal should have this down, right?
In the verse, “Be transformed by the REnewing of your mind,” (Romans 12:2) the Latin prefix re actually means to do again and again. It’s not a one-n-done kind of thing. Just like brushing our teeth, drinking water, eating well, exercising, these are all things that we keep doing over and over again to get the ongoing result we want.
The surveys of thousands were tallied and it was clear that everyone wanted MORE in life:
- More happiness
- More meaningful relationships
- More energy
- More career success
- More finances
- More giving
- More freedom
Of course it’s not surprising that everyone wants more of the good things in life.
It’s fascinating that most will put happiness at the very top of their list — happiness for themselves and their loved ones. Of course! We all want that, right?
I’ve never heard anyone say, “I’m asking God for more struggles since that’s where I really grow closest to Him!”
So what is happiness?
Happiness: (noun) the state of being happy; well-being and contentment: joy
Synonyms: contentment, pleasure, satisfaction, cheerfulness, joy, lightheartedness, good cheer, well-being, enjoyment, etc.
I understand that the words happy, content, and joy are all derived from different root words, but for purposes of making the point that we all get to choose this for ourselves, I’m throwing the above synonyms all in the same pot — using them interchangeably today. But I do believe, at the very heart of the matter, for happiness it’s about experiencing a spirit of being content. “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world and can take nothing out of it.” — 1 Tim. 6:6-7
What does happiness mean to you? How happy are you? What determines your happiness? Everything around us shouts that it’s all about attaining a certain position in life, and the more possessions you have the better. Also, our stock increases when there are certain people we know, or places we go…pleasures we experience. Don’t all those pretty much guarantee happiness?
If that’s true, why aren’t the wealthiest and most popular, the happiest? Remember the beloved Robin Williams? He should have been one of the happiest people on the planet, yet sadly, he died by suicide.
Disney® claims their parks are “The Happiest Place on Earth.” To that I say, it certainly depends! It depends on the attitude they bring in with them when they walk through the gates! You see, I’ve been to Disney parks a few times and I witnessed bawlin’ babies as well as all ages of kids (and parents) having tantrums and meltdowns.
So, it’s clearly not about where we are, what we’re doing, or how we “do” life. It’s about how we “view” life.
I’ve been fortunate to observe and study people in a variety of contexts over the years, from extreme poverty to extreme prosperity. It’s quite clear that, beyond having one’s basic needs met, someone’s happiness is not dependent on what they have externally, but what’s happening in their heart, mind and soul. Some of the happiest people have the least, while some of the most miserable, have the most.
One of my all-time favorite examples of this was a few years ago, having observed kids sitting poolside in the midst of a multi-million-dollar resort — angry at their parents for not having upgraded their cell phone service to an international plan while they went on this elaborate vacation. (I could say a whole bunch about that, but I won’t!) Rather than fully enjoying what they’d been gifted, they wasted their time and energy pouting and complaining.
Days after returning from my trip, I was driving through a neighborhood with the windows down on a beautiful warm summer day and heard the sweetest sound of small children laughing, giggling and squealing with delight. I quickly grabbed a glimpse of three little ones who would be considered poor as church mice by some, who were in a yard with a hose and a big dirty bucket that they were all trying to fit into. They were bursting with happiness that spilled over and filled their neighborhood.
It’s just more evidence that happiness is not an external issue, rather, internal. It’s not about where we are, rather where our heart attitude is.
I love Abraham Lincoln’s quote: “I’ve come to realize people are about as happy as they make their minds up to be.”
We can quote scriptures about happiness and joy, such as:
Whoever trusts in the Lord, happy is he.” — Ps. 16:20
“The joy of the Lord is my strength.” — Neh. 8:10
“O taste and see that the Lord is good. How happy is the man who trusts in Him!” — Psalm 34:8 NLV
It’s important that we see God’s promises come with a condition of action on our part. God promises something and tells us what our responsibility is. Two of those verses call us to trust. He always does His part — we get to do ours!
So, what’s the deal? Why does it feel so hard at times to get to — or stay in — that happy place? If we could only have that Cinderella fairy tale moment when we simply recite words like “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo” and — poof! — we start our happily ever after! (Thus, the words ‘fairy tale’.)
When Paul says, “…I have learned to be content in whatever state I’m in,” (Phil. 4:11b) the word ‘learned’ indicates it’s not automatic. Learn means: to gain or acquire knowledge of or skill in (something) by study, experience, or being taught.
Habit is overcome by habit. Regardless if someone is naturally pessimistic, neuroscience has proven that, aside from an actual disorder, anyone can replace habits of grumbling and griping with gratitude, if they choose to. But you first need to want to. Sadly, some people are happy being unhappy. Remember, your happy is your responsibility. Their happy is theirs. So, for those of us who want to level up our happy habits, here’s a few proven ideas (no specific order) that happy people do more consistently:
- Practice spiritual disciplines (prayer, mediation, music, scripture, etc. List what works best for you.)
- Be present (mindfulness)
- Forgive self / others
- Be generous
- Exercise regularly
- Don’t compare to others
- Enjoy outdoors
- Spend time with loved ones
- Practice positive thoughts / words
*I’m offering much more on this topic in online videos. If you’d like more details, just sign up on our website to get information when it’s ready! See you there, my friend!
Joan Endicott is an Award-Winning Keynote Speaker, Author of “I Get To!”®, founder of GIANT-Slayer Coaching and “WOW!” Women Owning Their Worth©. Her coaching reaches over 25 countries — across 6 continents. Meet her and get FREE videos, book excerpts and content at www.JoanEndicott.com.