The Pursuit of Happiness

I was in college. Whenever my friends and I were together, we talked and, of course, had the solutions to all the world’s problems. If only someone would listen and use our advice, the world would be a much happier place. Later that night, it occurred to me that I was “someone”.

We had been talking about the “pursuit of happiness” … and choices. What would make us happy? There were the usual dreams and fantasies. you know, winning the lottery, inventing or discovering something that soon became a “necessity” with all the resulting fame and fortune … all the usual suspects.

I had read somewhere that an aspect of happiness was simply acceptance of what happens to you. Well, that was easily — so I thought — testable. I decided that one month would be a reasonable test. I wrote a note and put it where I would be see it in the morning. My “note to self” was pithy and to the point: Choose to be happy today.

It turned out that I had chosen a rather uneventful time to test this theory. That month was, in fact, a “normal” month, with no severe crisis or major disaster. I had to remind myself several times during the first few days to choose to to be happy about whatever happened. I kept a journal about what had happened and my moods.

The results were … fascinating. The first few days were normal. Well, they were what passes for normal in my life. But as the month progressed and I got better at accepting whatever happened, something surprising occurred. My “good” days occurred more frequently. When I had a “bad day”, it was remarkable because it was unusual.

By the end of the month, choosing to be happy had become a habit. I continued with the practice of choosing to be happy. And … it worked. Good days occurred with (almost) monotonous regularity. “Bad days” stood out as aberrations.

By this time, I was convinced. My friends remarked on my mood. They wanted to know what I had discovered. When I told them that “My first thought when I get awake is ‘I choose to be happy’.”, I got strange looks. The usual response was, “That’s it?” My answer always was, “Yes, that’s it.”

It’s so simple that it’s almost insulting. It’s not complex. It can be expressed in a few one-syllable words. It’s easy to understand. A child could understand it. It is harder to put into practice, but it wasn’t even that hard. Perhaps it would be more acceptable (and accepted) if it was more complicated.

When you choose to be happy, you’re happy. ♪ ♫ Don’t worry. Be happy. ♫ ♪ is more than just a catchy song. It’s … instructions.

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