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Happiness is a choice

Alan Findley / Mid-Life Clarity
Grand County, Colorado

The last few months have been a time of uncertainty and concern as the stock market has fallen record levels in a single day, several large banks have become insolvent, gasoline prices are at records highs, and our choices for president leave a bit to be desired.

We wonder if we should leave money in the bank or withdraw it, whether we should sell all of our stock or buy more, and whether there really is such a thing as “bi-partisan cooperation.” All of this leads us to a place of where we find ourselves feeling hemmed in, anxious, frustrated, angry and just plain unhappy.

The news offers no respite and only piles on more and more sensational despair on top of all the other concerns we have in life. But on occasion we meet someone that seems to be unfazed by all the concerns and hysteria going on in the world. I met just such a person on a recent business trip to Hawaii (I know, how can you not be happy if you’re in Hawaii?).



Her name is Kacey and she is a waitress at the Hilton in Honolulu. What is remarkable about Kacey is her attitude and presence. The first time I met her, I was sitting near the pool enjoying the sunshine having just flown seven hours from Denver to Honolulu. Unfortunately, I was in Hawaii for business and not pleasure, but that was of no consequence to Kacey. I ordered a diet Coke (no, really) and she cheerfully brought me my drink taking care not to disturb the conference call I was participating in.

For the next hour, she brought me bowl after bowl of fresh pineapple with a bright smile and an energy that I wish I could bottle. After my conference call, I visited with Kacey and discovered that she had worked as a waitress for the hotel for 19 years.



Yep. 19 years. Now, I don’t know about you, but I can not comprehend working at the same job, doing the same thing for 19 years, but you could tell that Kacey absolutely loves what she does.

I returned to the pool-side bar several times during my visit and each time Kacey was there eagerly and lovingly serving the resort guests. I marveled at her energy and love for every person she met and I began to wonder what it was about her job that made her so happy.

Then it occurred to me that it wasn’t her “job” that made her happy; it was the fact that she was there to serve others that filled her with such joy. Her happiness came from within, and Kacey maintained a positive attitude regardless of what was going on in the stock market, how high oil prices climbed or how poorly Sarah Palin interviewed with Katie Couric.

I watched Kacey work her magic at pool side and thought about what makes me happy. For most of my life, I believed that happiness was the result of something physical, and tangible. I believed that things would make me happy (watches, cars, money). But as I got older (and lost more hair), I began to realize that things can’t make me happy.

At some point in my journey, I began to think that happiness might be a place ” “I will be happy when I have $1 million in the bank, all of my bills are paid off, my kids are through college, and I’ve won the Nobel Prize.” Not quite. If happiness is a place, then what happens along the way as you move toward that place? What happens if you never get there? What if the destination changes?

As I pondered the concept further (and lost even more hair), I began to think that happiness was found in a job (common misconception in America). I believed that if I found “the right job,” then I would be happy. That statement is a conditional statement ” “if this occurs, then that will result.” (Insert buzzer sound here) Wrong Answer! You can certainly find enjoyment and a sense of accomplishment through a job (I have a time or two), but the job of and by itself will not produce happiness.

Fortunately, after many years of searching (and an unfortunate increase in hair loss), I discovered happiness is what happens along the path of our life’s journey ” it’s a journey, not a destination. It’s what you learn, how you grow, the people you meet, the challenges you overcome, the love you share, the joy you exude, the new discoveries made along the way.

We can certainly find happiness through the process of having a job, interacting with people, learning new things, overcoming challenges, loving, caring, experiencing, but that is a result of our engagement in life; not the result of a job. Kacey is a wonderful example of what I’m talking about. A job will not make you happy, only you can make you happy and happiness begins with a decision to be happy ” happiness is a choice.

But implicit in all of this is the understanding that the resulting happiness requires active participation on your behalf to come to fruition. Kacey exudes happiness not because of her job, but because she made the choice to happily and cheerfully serve others. For her, it’s not about money, title, or prestige; happiness is the result of service to others and making them happy.

Happiness is an elusive treasure that we would give anything to find. Happiness is a powerful driver for our lives, but many of us never truly find it because we are looking in the wrong places. Happiness is not a place or a thing or an event ” it is a journey that requires our full participation and involvement. If we are to be happy, in my estimation, it begins with the choice to be happy regardless of circumstance and position in life.

I have found that the greatest and deepest sense of happiness I have ever known is when I am focused on serving others and not myself. I have learned that we don’t need all of the stuff we have been told we need (the cars, the houses, the material items). What we need is a warm place to sleep, good food to eat, someone to love and to be loved, something to drive and challenge us, something to hope for, someone to serve, and the laughter of our children. The rest is just details and things we can live without.

So the next time you find yourself unhappy, make the choice to change your attitude and perspective. Perhaps your challenge is that you are too focused on serving yourself and not focused enough on serving others.

Be well, be strong, and be happy. It’s your choice.


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