One of my favorite stories has several different meanings. “One day a man was drowning in a flood. A little boat came by and said ‘Do you need any help?’ He said ‘No thank you, God will save me’. Then a bigger boat came by and said ‘Do you need any help?’ And he said, ‘No thank you, God will save me’. Then a helicopter came by and yelled down and said ‘Can we pull you up?’ And he said, ‘No thank you, God will save me’. Then the man drowned and went to heaven. The man asked God, ‘why didn’t you save me?’ And God said ‘I sent you two boats and a helicopter, you dummy.’”
The moral of this story is that opportunity knocks at your door maybe once or twice – that’s all – and you should be in a position to identify it and grab hold of it. The same concept I believe applies for happiness … do we really know what it looks like? Sometimes it is right there under our nose!
I don’t think I have ever met a person who wasn’t looking for happiness! The sad part is that they have happiness but fail to realize it. People are so busy pursuing what they think will result in happiness and aren’t able to enjoy what they already have. During the past few weeks I have encountered several friends who expressed how unhappy they were. This really disturbed me because in each case I could see so many ways that they were blessed! Why is it so hard to see our treasures that lie in front of us?
If the question was asked: “what would give you happiness?” I wonder how many of you would answer with things you don’t already have … believing that happiness has to do with acquiring some material thing.
You know: After getting my college years behind me I will be so happy! Once I get that new job, then I’ll be happy. When we get that big house, our family will be so freakin’ happy! As soon as the new business takes off, then I’ll be happy! Vacation is coming up, I’m so happy! I love my new car, I’m very happy! I am happy with my life, but….”
News flash! Finding joy in material things does not create long-lasting happiness. It doesn’t bring happiness because you are depending on something other than yourself to be happy. Think about it! … What was the last thing that you purchased that made you really happy? Now think about how long that happiness lasted. That’s what I thought! In order to be truly happy we need to recognize just where happiness comes from. Another News Flash! It comes from within … from your own heart and soul. Happiness comes from experiences.
Happiness is not being in a constant state of bliss. You absolutely cannot be happy all the time – 24/7! Even the spiritual leader, Dalai Lama, said that he had days when he’d rather just stay in bed, or when negative emotions disrupt his normally calm mind. Every one of us has days with ups and downs, and days filled with good times and bad. But often, we feel that if we’re not happy all the time, then something must not be right … then we just give up trying to be happy. Happiness is not something that you can achieve just once and then you’re done … there is no magic threshold that we cross!
True story! As a personal experiment when I was working at the local college, I placed a sign on my office door asking folks to “take a smile.” I tore one of the “smiles” off for myself before putting it up. I let the sign stay up for 30 days to see what would happen! Interested in what happened? I found that no-one in my building wanted a smile! Countless folks walked by my door and never tore a single smile off! Pretty sad … huh!
You might ask: OK Phyllis … just where is this happiness that you say is right in front of me? Well … here are the top 5 things that bring me happiness.
- My awesome family: No family is perfect … but my family is my source of lasting joy. I love to laugh with them, cry with them, love them, and I appreciate their support. Over the weekend during our church’s semi-annual General Conference, Elder M. Russell Ballard said something that touched my heart and brought me to tears immediately. He said “What matters most is what lasts longest.” He was reminding us to remember what matters most … Heavenly Father, our Savior and our FAMILY!
- My many special friends: My true friends love me just the way I am and they do not make me feel like I’m competing with them or have to pretend to be something that I’m not.
- My many blessings: It is hard for me to be unhappy when I count my blessings … and I have truly been blessed all my life with wonderful experiences and talents. This quote says it all: “If we do not feel grateful for what we already have, what makes us think we’d be happy with more?” — Unknown
- My Faith: This is a really big one for me. In our world full of turmoil and chaos, my faith brings me more peace, purpose, and happiness than anything else. I know that I have a loving Heavenly Father who helps me set worthy priorities, helps me make decisions and gives me hope! I realize that not everyone has the same beliefs that I do, but I truly believe that religion in general helps people live more purposeful lives.
- My Surroundings: My family jokes about how I notice everything that surrounds me. Walk or ride with me and you will find that I comment on just about everything I pass. “Look at that pretty red barn or Isn’t that picket fence neat.” I love seeing God’s beauty whether it’s the color of the sky, the beautiful trees and flowers, the green fields with the red barns, or the shapes of the clouds. One riding to Duke I recall commenting to Kimbo that it was interesting how clouds were in the horizon all around us but not a single cloud above us … clear blue sky! Kimbo replied, “Only you would notice!” As one of our church hymns goes … “There is beauty all around!” If you take the time to notice the beauty it will bless your life and lift your spirits.
Please do not try to gain happiness by looking in all the wrong places. Don’t seek happiness in possessions, jobs, or people around us. Happiness is a choice we make to focus on what we have in our life that pleases us and brings joy!
Just to prove my point I’ll end with this question to ponder… Suppose you had the opportunity to move into the home of your dreams. A home with everything you’ve ever dreamed of having. A great view, perfect layout, amazing furniture, pool, the works… Are you picturing it? Good!
Now you have a decision to make. Would you rather live in that house by yourself for the rest of your life? Or would you rather live under a bridge in a tent with your family all around you? I definitely know what I would choose!
When we stop chasing the world’s definition of happiness, we begin to recognize the decision to experience happiness has been right in front of us and around us all along. Please read that sentence again!
Yep! True happiness doesn’t come from material things. I rest my case! So together let’s make the rest of our life the best of our life!