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Handbook to a Happier Life
A Simple Guide to Creating the Life You've Always Wanted
By Jim Donovan
New World LibraryCopyright © 2003 Jim Donovan
All rights reserved.
How many times have you said, "All I want is to be happy"? So many of us get caught up in looking outside ourselves for happiness when, in fact, happiness is something that you can choose at any time. The old saying "Happiness is an inside job" does not refer to working indoors. It means that it — Wayne Dyer is we who choose whether or not to be happy.
I chose the title Handbook to a Happier Life because that is what it all boils down to. Most of us just want to be happy. A wonderful spiritual study, A Course in Miracles, states not only that you should be happy, but also that you should make yourself happy. Although this book offers tools to assist you in your quest for happiness, it is important that you realize that, in the end, it is you who holds the key to a happier life.
In any situation, you can choose how you represent what is taking place. You can give away your power and let outside circumstances take away your happiness, or you can claim your God-given birthright to be happy, regardless of what is going on around you. Think about it. How many times have you become unhappy because of something completely out of your control? How many times have you let other people's opinions of you or even Remember: the weather control how you feel? This is your life, There was a time in my life not a dress rehearsal. when I thought that if I just bought enough "stuff" I would be happy. I thought a new car or a better stereo or bigger house would do the trick. I also used to look to other people to provide the happiness that was lacking in my life. When these methods didn't work and I was still not happy, I would be devastated. I now realize that all the material things and all the people in the world cannot, in and of themselves, make me happy. Only I can.
I wrote this book to help you discover what is preventing you from being happy right now in this moment. You are about to embark on a wonderful journey toward self-discovery. Approach this book with a light heart and a gentle hand, for what you find may surprise and delight you beyond your wildest dreams.CHAPTER 2
The Beginning: Acceptance
If you want to achieve happiness and live your life to the fullest, the first step is to accept where you are and who you are, right now. This is where change begins. All too often we look at a situation, decide how we think it should be, and then act on our perception of it. The problem with this approach is that it is based on pure fantasy. If all we do is wish things were different, we will wind up being constantly frustrated. How many people are in relationships that are not working, telling themselves everything is fine when, clearly, it is not? Instead of living in denial, face the reality of what is happening, accept it, and decide do something about it. Perhaps your relationship would benefit from seeking a marriage therapist or maybe something as simple as scheduling special time together.
We must learn to accept circumstances as they are, not as we would like them to be. How many times have you said, "If only it wasn't raining, then I would be happy"? A happy person will accept the rain and go on with her life.
In all my books I always include a short, simple prayer called the Serenity Prayer, which dates back to the fifth century. While its origins are unknown, it was rediscovered by a theologian named Reinhold Niebuhr, who gave it to the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, because he thought it was a fitting guide for people going through change. This wonderful little prayer reminds us to be more accepting:
God grant me the
Serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
Wisdom to know the difference.
You cannot change the fact that it is raining, but you can change how you react to it. It is important to know the difference between these two viewpoints.
We must also learn to accept ourselves as we are in the moment. We sabotage ourselves by saying things like, "If only I had more money" or "If I were ten pounds lighter, then...." We cannot change what is. We can, however, accept everything about ourselves, warts and all, right here and right now. Only then can we begin to make the changes we desire and become the person we are capable of becoming. By accepting ourselves right here and right now, we will be less likely to allow occasional setbacks to divert us from our goals.
Once we have learned to accept ourselves, we can then identify those areas we want to change. For example, if I am fifty pounds overweight and telling myself it's because I have "big bones," I am living in denial. If I am overweight, it's because I probably eat too much and don't exercise. Once I accept the fact that I have a weight challenge, I am empowered to begin taking action to change it. Until I get out of denial, I am stuck. Acceptance is the first step in making any change.
A good exercise to assist you in developing acceptance is to take a personal inventory. This is similar to a grocer who, when she wants to know the state of her business, will take an inventory of the store's contents. She will count and itemize the good, sellable merchandise, then separate out the unsellable merchandise and get rid of it.
We can do the same, metaphorically, to determine our personal state of affairs. Here is an exercise to help you do just that.
* * *
Taking Your Personal Inventory
What physical traits are you less than pleased about?
What steps can you take to become physically fit (exercising, eating better, and so on)?
How are your relationships with your family and loved ones? What would you like to improve about them?
Do you like your job? What do you like about it?
If you don't like your job, what would you really like to do?
What skills do you have?
What are your hobbies?
What activities do you enjoy?
What do you like most about yourself?
What do you like least about yourself?
Don't forget to list the things you like about yourself along with those things you want to change. We have a tendency to list only the "bad" and overlook the good parts of ourselves. We all have attributes we like, and it is important not to forget about these. Sure, there are probably lots of characteristics you would like to change, but give yourself a pat on the back for the parts you are satisfied with. You may want to come back to this list from time to time to gauge your progress. As you work on yourself and make some of the changes you want to make, your list will look different. It's kind of like peeling an onion. As we begin to make positive changes, we find more things we want to work on. We are constantly growing and evolving toward a better life.CHAPTER 3
Now that you have taken your personal inventory, the next step in creating the life you want is taking responsibility for your "stuff," that is, whatever baggage you're still carrying around with you.
All you need is to listen to any group of people talking, and you immediately realize we live in a society built on blaming outside forces for the conditions in our lives. We point to the government, our bosses, our spouses, our education, the economy, the school system, and, the ever-popular dumping ground, our dysfunctional families. We point to everyone but ourselves.
The problem with this kind of attitude is that it completely takes away our personal power to make changes.
Think about it. If the cause of my unhappiness or lack of prosperity is something outside my control, then how can I possibly expect to change it? If I am broke because of something the government did, like not raising Social Security payments, then I am stuck being broke! I can blame the government all I want, but I still pay the price.
But if I take complete responsibility for my problems, I then — Frank Crane have the power to do something about them. This may sound like an oversimplification or a mere play on words, but it is a critical distinction. We are always 100 percent responsible for our lives. Whether or not we "caused" our problems in our conscious or subconscious minds is irrelevant. The fact is, these situations are present in our lives, and if we see that we somehow contributed to their being there, we are then empowered to change them.
If, for instance, you blame the fact that you don't have the kind of job you would like on your lack of education, then you are stuck right where you are. But if you accept responsibility for this lack of education, you can do something in the present to change it. You could go back to school, take a correspondence course, study on your own, and so forth. The point is that once you take responsibility, you are empowered to change. Author Louise Hay once stated, "The point of power is always in the present moment." At any given time, we can choose to change. It is good for us to recognize that while we may move forward and backward in the course of changing, at least we do not remain "stuck" in the powerless position of blaming. Begin now to take responsibility for creating the life you want. As Wayne Dyer suggested, "Make your life a work of art in progress."CHAPTER 4
If you talk to anyone who has overcome an addiction, you will learn that he or she first had to be willing to go to any lengths to get help. In some cases, this meant moving to another state, changing jobs, or, in extreme cases, leaving their families. Whatever it took, those who succeeded were willing.
While you may not have an addiction, no doubt there are some changes you wish to make. The key is willingness. This does not necessarily mean that you will have to take drastic steps, but it does mean that you must be willing to do whatever is necessary to change your life.
If, for instance, you want a new career or a better job, perhaps you must become willing to go back to school to get the necessary education. If you would like a better relationship with your family, you may have to be willing to become more flexible in your demands. If you want to be able to take walks on the beach and you live in Kansas, you must be willing to move or to accept a different type of experience to give you pleasure.
The following exercise will help you to think about what you want to change in your life. I have broken this process down into fours steps: Write down one or two things you want to change, then ask yourself what you must become willing to do, what you must become willing to learn, and what you must become willing to change to make these changes.
For now, you just need to be willing to complete this exercise!
Take out your journal and respond to the following:
1. Based on your personal inventory, list one or two changes you want to make in your life.
2. What are some of the things you can do
3. — right now — to make these changes?
4. What must you learn to implement these changes?
5. What needs to change for you to progress? For example, what changes do you need to make in your daily routine? What lifestyle changes do you need to make?CHAPTER 5
Purpose: A Reason to Expend Energy
Many years ago I read a statement made by Benjamin Disraeli: "The secret of success is consistency of purpose." Since then, I've been amazed at how often I have seen the effectiveness of this attitude. Why, for instance, do people age differently? What keeps some people going strong, while others seem to have given up on life and are just waiting for it to be over? I am convinced the difference lies in having a purpose. We need a reason to get out of bed in the morning. We need something outside ourselves to keep us going.
There is a wonderful story about a priest who goes to his doctor because of stomach pains. The doctor informs him he has a terminal illness and suggests that he go home and put his affairs in order, as he does not have long to live. Having done this, the priest decides to make his final pilgrimage a visit to a church in Mexico he had always wanted to see. As he is approaching the church, he sees a young boy running off with the poor box. Grabbing the youngster by the scruff of the neck, he demands to know why he is stealing from the church. The priest learns that the boy, and many of his friends, is an orphan and has no food. He had stolen the poor box, the boy says, to buy something to eat. The priest is very moved by the boy's story and goes off into the village to see the poor conditions for himself. To make a long story short, the priest is so moved by what he sees that he begins an orphanage, and today, twenty-five years later, he is still running it. He had found a reason to keep going. The following exercise is designed to help you gain a sense of your purpose. It will help you understand what's important in your life.
The secret of success is consistency of purpose. — Benjamin Disraeli
What Is Your Purpose?
In your head, or perhaps in your journal, answer the following questions:
What gets your juices going? What makes you want to jump out of bed in the morning?
What is important to you?
What would you like to be remembered for?
What do you stand for?
What would you defend with your life?CHAPTER 6
Keep On Keeping On
Coco Chanel began her life in abject poverty, being raised in an orphanage. She taught herself how to sew and went on to become the first woman fashion designer, changing the style of women's clothes from Victorian to casual in the process. Her perseverance in overcoming enormous odds resulted in her building a fashion empire. Today, some eighty years later, the Chanel brand remains one of the benchmarks of quality and style. Thomas Edison tried almost ten thousand times before he succeeded in creating the electric light. If he had given up, you would be reading this book by kerosene lamp!
The original business plan for what was to become Federal Express was given a failing grade on Fred Smith's college exam. And in their early days, the company was struggling so much that their employees cashed their paychecks at retail stores rather than at banks. This meant it would take longer for the money to clear, thereby giving FedEx more time to cover their payroll. Sylvester Stallone was turned down a thousand times by agents and was down to his last $600 before he found a company that would produce Rocky. The rest is history!
To truly succeed requires total commitment to your goal. Too many people make the mistake of quitting when they're just short of success. Keep going, no matter what. If you really believe in what you are doing, give it all you've got, and don't give up. You will succeed.
Excerpted from Handbook to a Happier Life by Jim Donovan. Copyright © 2003 Jim Donovan. Excerpted by permission of New World Library.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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