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Your life has purpose and meaning.
You are not here just to fill space or to be a background character in someone else's movie.Consider this: nothing would be the same if you did not exist. Every place you have ever been and everyone you have ever spoken to would be different without you.We are all connected, and we are all affected by the decisions and even the existence of those around us.Take the example of Peter, an attorney in Philadelphia, and his dog, Tucket. Tucket was very sick. Gradually he was becoming paralyzed by a tumor on his spinal cord.Peter could not find a veterinary doctor who could save his dog. Desperate to find someone who could help, he turned to a pediatric neurosurgeon. The doctor agreed to try to help Tucket, and in return he asked Peter for a donation to the children's hospital he worked in.Jerry has never met Peter or Tucket. Jerry is a blue-eyed, blond-haired, five-year-old boy who loves to eat mashed potatoes. Jerry also has tumors on his spine and in his brain.With help from the donation Peter made to the hospital, Jerry underwent successful surgery performed by the doctor to remove the tumors.Tucket's surgery was also a success.Studies of older Americans find that one of the best predictors of happiness is whether a person considers his or her life to have a purpose. Without a clearly defined purpose, seven in ten individuals feel unsettled about their lives; with a purpose, almost seven in ten feel satisfied.
Use a strategy for happiness.
We assume that happy and unhappy people are born that way. But both kinds ofpeople do things that create and reinforce their moods. Happy people let themselves be happy. Unhappy people continue doing things that upset them.What is the first sign of a healthy business? A healthy business plan. That is the argument of the Strategic Management Center, a business consulting firm. They believe every business must define its purpose and then create a strategy to accomplish that purpose.This same approach can be used by people. Define what you want, then use a strategy to get it.Ironically, children are better at this than adults. Small children know when being cranky will get them an ice cream cone. And they know when being too noisy will get them a cross reaction from their parents. Children understand that there are rules and predictable patterns to life, and they use a strategy to help them get what they want.Living a happy life as an adult is like trying to get that ice cream cone as a child. You need to know what you want and use a strategy to get it. Think about what makes you happy and what makes you sad, and use this to help you get what you want.Happy people do not experience one success after another and unhappy people, one failure after another. Instead, surveys show that happy and unhappy people tend to have had very similar life experiences. The difference is that the average unhappy person spends more than twice as much time thinking about unpleasant events in their lives, while happy people tend to seek and rely upon information that brightens their personal outlook.
You don't have to win every time.
Ultracompetitive people, who always need to win, end up enjoying things less. If they lose they are very disappointed, and if they win it's what they expected would happen anyway.Richard Nixon was running for reelection as president in 1972. He directed his campaign staff to take all available measures to win as many votes as possible. Most famous, of course, were the break-ins they staged at Democratic Party headquarters in the Watergate building in order to plant bugging devices. But staff workers also engaged in an endless series of what Nixon himself labeled "dirty tricks." They would call up pizza parlors and order a hundred pizzas to be delivered to the office of an opposition candidate. They would hand out phony fliers telling people that an opponent's rally had been canceled. They would call meeting halls and cancel reservations opponents had made for events. Why did they do these things? Nixon was obsessed with winning-at all costs.The great irony was that Nixon was winning anyway and didn't need any of these tricks. But his inability to deal with the possibility of losing caused him to pursue these extreme methods and ultimately cost him the prize that he had so desperately pursued.Competitiveness can preclude life satisfaction because no accomplishment can prove sufficient, and failures are particularly devastating. Ultracompetitive people rate their successes with lower marks than some people rate their failures.
Thurman 1981 100 Simple Secrets of Happy People
. Copyright © by David Niven. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.