The Happiness Myth…


Summer-happiness-photoHappiness is admittedly something we all desperately want in our lives, right?! There’s the “Happiness Advantage,” “The Happiness Hypothesis,” “The Happiness Project” and countless other books on the topic. Happiness is perhaps one of the most contemplated subjects in the world today. And although there are many wonderful books that offer the elusive promise of enduring happiness, there’s one thing I know for sure. Happiness is a dish best served…

I don’t know if this has ever happened to you, but I found myself going through a “bit of a rough patch” as my British ancestors are wont to say. As a self-proclaimed promoter of happiness, I felt embarrassed to find myself a teacher who no longer believed in his own message. So, I analyzed my life piece by piece looking for an answer. I tried blaming others and their apparent lack of support for me. I made the usual excuses, “I’m so busy.” “I need to get organized.” “I need to finish unfinished business” etc. etc. etc. Maybe I needed to start saying ‘no’ to other people’s requests. And, the more I searched for the cause the more lost I became. I thought I needed to be more selfish and devote more time to myself and what I wanted. Maybe it was not enough sleep or a bad diet or maybe it was my thinking and not paying attention to what I was thinking about. I knew better than to blame God, so I thought maybe I wasn’t devoting enough time to God or praying enough or studying. I searched myself from here to breakfast and the more I searched the more unhappy I became. I became critical of myself and judged myself harshly, rehearsing my shortcomings and my faults. Maybe I just needed to get better at… Or work harder to… Or exercise more discipline to… And, in the end, more of that pervasive misery.

Then something interesting happened. I received a call from a gentleman explaining that the Dale Carnegie franchise had returned to Utah and he wondered if I wanted to be a facilitator again. I vividly remembered how much I loved doing Carnegie classes, but I felt a hesitation in my heart. I couldn’t explain it, but I felt like I didn’t want to do it anymore. Yet I couldn’t shake the memory of how much joy I felt doing the classes. So against my own feelings, I reluctantly agreed. Fast forward a month or so and I found myself sitting in an immersion class (accelerated), learning or relearning the principles again. At first I was challenged and agitated because I knew I would be forced out of my comfort zone (that place I dwell in day by day where nothing happens!). But, I persisted and then it happened! As I made the long commute home, I recognized something that had been missing for a long time. Joy. Indescribable, all-encompassing joy!

So what happened to me? What took place that moved me so suddenly from misery to happiness in just under 8 hours? Well, while learning and practicing the principles in that unmistakable Dale Carnegie way, I finally took the focus off myself and on to other people. I practiced showing sincere appreciation and listening and seeing things from another’s point of view. I became more interested in helping my fellow-man than I was in helping myself. It was no longer about me…

One of the great paradoxes of life is that the more you seek the fulfillment of your own needs, the less they are fulfilled and the more you seek to take care of others, the more your own needs are met. The Bible states it this way. The more you lose yourself for others, the more you find your real self. And conversely, the more you seek to find yourself, the more lost you become. Crazy I know, but oh so true!

Despite the multitude of claims circling around the globe today, focus on yourself and only yourself can only result in misery. It has to; it must! Focus on yourself as the great starting point for all endeavors almost guarantees a negative outcome because all you’ll end up with is yourself; full of flaws and mistakes and weaknesses. Focus on yourself as an attempt to make yourself happy defies the laws of life. You want, you desire, you seek, but when done exclusively for yourself, subtracts life, instead of adding to it. Conversely, when you seek the good of others (giving) the laws of life cooperate by returning back to you (receiving). It really is more blessed to give than to receive. Read this little poem that I think says it best:

The Man in the Glass

When you get what you want in your struggle for self                                                                                                                   And the world makes you king for a day,

Just go to the mirror and look at yourself,
And see what that man has to say.

For it isn’t your father or mother or wife,
Who judgment upon you must pass;
The fellow whose verdict counts most in your life Is the one staring back from the glass.

He’s the fellow to please, never mind all the rest. For he’s with you clear up to the end,
And you’ve passed the most dangerous, difficult test If the man in the glass is your friend.

You may be like Jack Horner and “chisel” a plum, And think you’re a wonderful guy,
But the man in the glass says you’re only a bum If you can’t look him straight in the eye.

You may fool the whole world down the pathway of years. And get pats on the back as you pass,
But your final reward will be the heartaches and tears
If you’ve cheated the man in the glass.

Dale Wimbrow (c) 1934

And the only way not to cheat the man in the glass is by living your life in service to others.

So, if you my friend, find yourself searching for the elusive happiness and finding misery instead, don’t work any harder to find a way to give happiness to yourself, but instead find a way to give that happiness to others. And in so doing you will find what every truly happy person has found, you have to give in order to receive. Happiness is a dish best served…

Just some good thoughts…

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