When I first moved to San Francisco some 40 years ago, nearly every day I would see a newspaper boy on my block. Actually, he wasn’t a boy; he was a man in his mid-to-late-60s. Delivering papers door-to-door isn’t what most people call a great job and probably it didn’t pay much. Still, this man acted as if this was the most important job in the world. And the way he treated everyone might lead you to believe that he was extremely well compensated for what he was doing.
He would chat with everyone on the block, even if those people who, like me, weren’t subscribers. Nearly every time I saw him, he gave me a free copy of the paper. I’m sorry I never got to know his name. But more than 40 years later, I still remember him and the things he taught me. I learned that it wasn’t the job you have nor what life handed you but your attitude towards those things. I also learned that you can create joyous days even when doing menial tasks. He genuinely seemed to be happy and enjoy what he did even on cold, windy and rainy days.
We may think that in order to be happy we need to have a great job, or the perfect living situation, or lots of money. It might be nice to have those things but they don’t necessarily bring happiness. In fact, studies have shown that people who win the lottery often have a spurt of happiness when they first hear of their good fortune but many of them find that their new-found riches often lead to discontentment. In fact, the National Endowment for Financial Education reports that about 70% of those who suddenly received a large amount of cash lost it within a few years. Others lost their job, ended long-time relationships, or sadly tried to end their lives.
Apparently, especially for many lottery winners, the old adage that “money can’t buy happiness” was true. In fact, instead of bringing them lasting joy, money bought them just the opposite. So what does bring happiness? To answer that question, I’d like to tell you a story:
One day an elderly blind man moved into a nursing home. His wife, who was his sole caretaker, recently passed away, making the move necessary.
As he walked down the hallway to his room, the person escorting him described what it looked like. Even before they got to his new living quarters, the man replied with great enthusiasm, “I love it.”
“But you haven’t seen the room it yet,” replied his escort, “Just wait.”
“That doesn’t have anything to do with it,” the man said. “Whether I like my room or not doesn’t depend on how the furniture is arranged … it’s how I arrange my mind. Happiness is something you decide. I already decided to love it.”
It’s not your job, or your living situation, or how much money you have that can increase the happiness in your life. It’s you. It’s how you interpret all your circumstances and everything in your life. It’s as simple as that. As the blind man says, “Happiness is something you decide.”
There are lots of other ideas of how to increase your happiness, and they will be discussed in future blogs, but this is a basic one. You, and only you, can decide your happiness level. It’s not what happens on the outside. Happiness is an inside job.