Finding Happiness in Life
"A Short Guide to a Happy Life"
I've read my fair share of books over the years. In fact, we have our own little home library that is busting at the seams. But there is one book, one very little book, in our home, that, for me anyway, is the most profound. Filling up all of 50 index-card-sized pages, half of which contain black and white photos; taking a mere 8 minutes to read cover-to-cover; Anna Quindlen's, A Short Guide to a Happy Life, is all its title professes to be. Each of the 20 or so pages with actual words is packed with meaning, lesson-after-lesson, and pure inspiration on how to find happiness; how to be happy today.
You will discover that finding happiness in life is not about what others can do for you or gathering up more possessions. Finding happiness is not an action, but rather an attitude. It's your point a view - it's the familiar saying about whether you see the glass half-full or half-empty. Understanding what makes people happy seems to be about finding joy in your life, wonder in the little things, amazement at the view, and the ability to not take each day for granted.
If you constantly are thinking, "I want to be happy," then I urge you to pick up a copy of Anna Quindlen's inspirational treasure, A Short Guide to a Happy Life, and take a few quiet minutes to read and reflect. These are some of the lessons on finding happiness within yourself:
Do not confuse your life and your work.
Simply put, your work is part of your life, not the reverse. A full life, a happy life, is not one where the pie chart of your life is 100% work. Quindlen recalls a postcard her father sent her humorously saying, "If you win the rat race, you're still a rat." Funny, but true.
You are the only person alive who is you.
Think about it. You are not unique because you own a restaurant. Nor are you unique because you are the mother of twins. And being employed by Google, Target, Chili's or anywhere else does not make you unique. The only thing you have that no one else has is possession of yourself. It is a gift.
Understand the difference between your life's resume and your professional bio.
Why is it that when we first meet people we often ask what they do, as if their profession is who they are? Here is a bit of how Quindlen writes her life resume: "I am a good mother to three good children. I have tried to never let my profession stand in the way of being a good parent...I am a good friend to my husband...I am a good friend to my friends and they to me." When we realize that we are much more than the black and white text of our professional bios, we can better appreciate our life and its relationships.
Get a life.
Quindlen advises us to get a real life, not one where our mission is to pursue a bigger paycheck, but one where we are present. A life where we turn off our cell phones and notice the details and wonder of life - the smells, the sights. Create a life where you are not alone; fill your life with loved ones. And get a life in which you are generous.
Life is short.
While Quindlen was a college freshman her mother died from ovarian cancer. This tragic event, led her to view the knowledge of her mortality as a gift - each day as a blessing. With her life divided into a "before" and "after" she chose to see each daily gift of life with all its splendor, or as she states, "the dividing line between seeing the world in black and white, and in Technicolor."
Don't forget how wonderful life really is.
This brings us back to, is the glass half full or empty perspective. How do you choose to look at your life? Do you enjoy the things you have? We often work so hard and accumulate so much, but sometimes we just don't stand back and rejoice and enjoy our riches.
Love the journey.
Sometimes we are so focused on the destination that we forget to enjoy the journey. This last spring break my daughter, our puppy Ruby, and I drove from IL to TX so we could spend a week with her cousins and grandparents. This journey was definitely about the destination, not the drive across four states, or so I thought.
As we traveled, we talked, we laughed, we sang, we plotted ways to get Ruby to calm down. My daughter pointed out all sorts of geologic stuff along the way, stuff about drunken trees and various rock formations. I watched my daughter and Ruby run in a vacant field next to an abandoned gas station in the middle of nowhere in OK. They were happy. They were beautiful. Life is definitely a journey and we need to take pleasure in not only the destination, but how we got there.
Look at the view.
I tend to think we are a rather near-sighted nation, focused only on what is in front of us and not the view. The most profound line in A Short Guide to a Happy Life, comes from a homeless man. Quindlen questions him as to why he doesn't go to a homeless shelter in the cold instead of sitting on the boardwalk overlooking the ocean. He stares at the ocean and says, "Look at the view, young lady. Look at the view." Make a choice to be happy. Live by this homeless man's words of wisdom, "look at the view," you are sure to be happier if you do.
How to find happiness
Finding happiness does not have to be elusive. It is about being "awake" to life, inhaling its smells and being aware of its views. It's about noticing the amazing details, yet taking in the wondrous scenery. Happiness includes sharing your life with others, being truly grateful for all its riches, and being joyous enough to be generous. Learning to be happy today or happy again is just that, learning. It is in your mind, not what's in your wallet. Happiness is enjoying the journey of each and every day, even when it seems impossible. Happiness is all about your perspective.
About Anna Quindlen
- Anna Quindlen
Anna Quindlen is a best selling author whose works include 5 novels, 7 non-fiction books, and countless columns for the New York Times and Newsweek magazine. In 1992 she received the Pulitzer Prize for her New York Times column.
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