How to Be Happy
Janet Hostetler

  
So let's talk about happiness, or rather how we can go toward that goal.  I think we can all agree that to be happy we should live a positive life.  That makes sense.  So, how then, can we make sure that we live positively?  One way is to surround ourselves with positive things and positive experiences. Read good books, see good movies, have beautiful artwork hanging on our walls.  We should eat delicious food, buy ourselves fresh flowers to greet us when we get home and attend all kinds of concerts frequently. . . .

It is important to remember why we are living on this earth.  What are our priorities:  our family and friends or getting that extra bonus by working 100 hours a week?  Which really and truly makes us happier?  We only have one life, so let's treat ourselves well, with massages and bubble baths.  Never pass a playground without stopping to swing.  Throw away our watches and maybe even try living without a planner for a day.

Find the little things, like sunrises and sunsets, or tequila shots and pet rocks, that make a day worth living.  And always, always, always have a reason to get out of bed in the morning--whether it's the brownies you baked the night before or the realization that Thursday means "ER" is on at 10:00.

That way of positive living doesn't sound too bad, does it?

But I'd like to introduce another way of living positively.  This previous way is inward-looking.  The goal is to bring positive or happy things of the world into our lives.  A second manner of positive living is more outward-focused.  The goal is to direct our own positivity (if I can take the liberty of inventing a word) on the world.  To perhaps even seek out the negative things in this world and work to make them positive.

This lifestyle might not appear so much fun, at first.  We no longer can claim that it is for "positive" reasons that we don't read the bad news in the newspaper.  To the contrary, we must open our eyes and ears to what is happening in all corners of this world that is our global community.  Sure it does no good to numb ourselves to all the horrors of the world by repeated contact.  But we cannot solve problems without knowing they are there.

In this life, maybe instead of going to a concert, you will perform for others.  Maybe instead of buying cut flowers, you will plant flowers in a vacant lot for others to enjoy.  Maybe you will teach, heal, counsel, or write policy that changes the world.  Building a house with Habitat for Humanity may come before that weekend at the spa.  But look at what you've made at the end of a day!  The beautiful artwork that a schoolteacher hangs on her wall may come from a yet undiscovered talent.  But when it is given to you in appreciation of your love, there is no art so beautiful in the world!  The hours at the rape crisis center are not always conducive to watching sunsets.  When you take responsibility for the world, bubble baths sometimes have to wait.

But once again, I ask you to think about why we are here on earth and what is really important in life.  What is the most positive way you can lead your life?  As I said before, the key to a positive life is to always, always, and always have a reason to get up in the morning.  I know of no better reason than that you are needed and that the world will be a better place for your having lived.

I cannot tell you what to do in your life.  You must find your own causes, based on your own convictions.  Each of us must use our own talent and our own strengths to give what we can.  But each of us must give.

~from a commencement ceremony, 1997

  
  

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