The key to happiness is both simple and complex. It is the
sum total result of more than 2000 years of philosophy,
psychology, speculation and discussion about the meanings
and sources of happiness. From Aristotle in 340 BC through
to the modern thinkers, speakers and writers of today, this
key to happiness has hardly changed at all. It is the same
for virtually all men and women, in all countries and
situations and in all walks of life.
The key to happiness is this: dedicate yourself to the
development of your natural talents and abilities by doing
what you love to do, and doing it better and better, in the
service of a cause that is greater than yourself.
This is a big statement and a big commitment. Being happy
requires that you define your life in your own terms and
then throw your whole heart into living your life to the
fullest. In a way, happiness requires that you be perfectly
selfish in order to develop yourself to a point where you
can be unselfish for the rest of your life.
In Edmund Rostand's play "Cyrano de Bergerac", Cyrano, is
asked why he is so intensely individualistic and
unconcerned with the opinions and judgments of others. He
replies with these wonderful words, "I am what I am because
early in life I decided that I would please at least myself
in all things."
Your happiness likewise depends upon your ability to please
at least yourself in all things. You can only be happy when
you are living your life in the very best way possible. No
one can define happiness for you. Only you know what makes
you happy. Happiness is an inside job.
Now, there is a good deal of confusion on the subject of
happiness. When I was growing up, I was told by older
relatives that my happiness was irrelevant. I was reminded
again and again that it was selfish for me to set my own
happiness as a goal and to strive toward it. I was told
that I was here on earth to make other people happy and
that if I got a little happiness on the way through, I
should consider myself lucky.
Many people fool themselves into thinking that by giving up
their own personal happiness, they can make someone else
happy, usually members of their family. But this way of
thinking is completely confused. You can't reap where you
haven't sown. Just as you cannot make someone else healthy
by being sick, you cannot make someone else happy by being
unhappy. People who think that they are unhappy so that
others can be happy are deluding themselves. They are
rationalizing their own dissatisfaction by somehow
pretending that it is noble to be miserable.
Study after study shows that the best thing you can do for
the people around you, especially the members of your
family, is to be a happy person. If you want to raise happy
children, be a happy parent. If you want to have a happy
spouse, be a happy husband or wife. Only happy people can
make other people happy.
A very important point on the subject of happiness is
whether or not you feel that you "deserve" to be happy. The
question of deservedness is one of the most fundamental and
confusing issues that we have to deal with throughout life.
Most of us have been brought up with vague feelings of
guilt and uneasiness. Deep down inside, we often feel that
we don't deserve to be truly happy. In fact, these feelings
of guilt and inferiority can lead us to sabotage our own
happiness when we finally do achieve it.
A starting point for enjoying happiness is for you to
accept that you deserve all the happiness you can honestly
attain through the application of your special talents and
abilities. The more you like and respect yourself, the more
deserving you will feel of the good things in life. And the
more deserving you feel, the more likely it will be that
you will attain and hold on to the happiness you are
Another key is to make happiness the organizing principle
of your life. By doing this, you can compare every possible
action and decision against that standard of happiness to
see whether it would make you more happy or less happy.
Soon, you will discover that almost all of the problems of
your life come from choices that you have made, or are
currently making, that do not contribute to your happiness.
Of course, there are countless times where you will have to
do little things that don't make you happy on the path
toward those larger things that make you very happy indeed.
We call this paying the price of success in advance.
You must pay your dues. For example, if you want to enjoy
the good life of success, prestige, respect, and inner
satisfaction that comes from successful selling, you must
often get up early, make cold calls, prospect with rude or
indifferent people to find business, and stay later than
anyone else. Sometimes these interim steps don't make you
happy directly, but the happiness you achieve from
attaining your goals is so great that it wipes away the
temporary inconveniences and dissatisfactions you had to
endure in order to get there.
As Earl Nightingale said, "Happiness is the progressive
realization of a worthy ideal." You only feel really happy
when you are moving, step-by-step, toward the
accomplishment of clearly defined goals that you feel will
enhance the quality of your life.
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How to Raise Happy, Healthy, Self-Confident Children
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Since you can't be truly happy until you are clear about
your inherent possibilities, it's very important that you
take some time on a regular basis to analyze yourself and
identify your strengths and weaknesses. There is an old
saying: "Success leaves tracks." You can often look back in
your life, and look around you today, to identify who you
really are and what you should really be doing with your
life. One of the best ways to do this is to ask yourself
two powerful questions.
The first question is my favorite: "What one great thing
would you dare to dream if you knew you could not fail?"
Imagine that you are absolutely guaranteed success in the
pursuit of a particular goal, big or small, short term or
long term. Imagine that you had all the money, all the
time, all the education, all the contacts, all the
resources and everything else that you could possibly need
to achieve any one big goal in life. What would it be? This
is a very important question because when you remove the
limitations from your thinking, you often get a very clear
idea of exactly what you should be doing with your life.
All successful men and women are big dreamers. They imagine
what their future could be, ideal in every respect, and
then they work every day toward their distant vision, that
goal or purpose. And step-by-step realization of their
ideal makes them genuinely happy.
The second question you can ask yourself is this: "How
would I spend my life if I learned today that I only had
six months to live?" If you could only do one or two things
before your time on earth was over, what would they be?
Where would you go? Who would you spend your time with?
Often, when you think about only having a short time left,
you become very clear about exactly what it is that you
should be doing with your life.
Both of these questions assess your values. They go right
to the very heart of the person you really are. They give
you indications of your natural talents and abilities, of
what is really important to you.
You get indications of your heart's desire, the key to your
happiness, throughout your life. The things that you did
with the greatest joy and happiness between the ages of 7
and 14 contain the seeds of what you should be doing as an
adult if you want to fulfill your full potential and become
everything you are capable of becoming.
Think back to your early teenage years. What did you most
enjoy doing? What kind of people did you most enjoy
associating with? What sort of things did you most enjoy
learning about? What sort of activities did you most enjoy
Dr. Viktor Frankl, who wrote the book "Man's Search for
Meaning," said that you can divide the things you do in
life into four categories.
The first category consists of the things that are hard to
learn and hard to do. An example in this category for many
people is mathematics. Many of us struggled with math in
school, and still struggle with bookkeeping, accounting,
financial statements, and tax returns as an adult. If you
find mathematics hard to learn and hard to do, this is the
sort of activity for which you are clearly not suited. No
matter how much of it you do, or how good you get at it,
you will never achieve any lasting satisfaction or
happiness from it.
The next category consists of things that are hard to learn
but easy to do. Riding a bicycle and driving a car are hard
to learn but easy to do once you've practiced enough. Tying
your shoes is another example. These are seldom the sort of
activities where you feel terrific about yourself when you
engage in them. They do not demand your best.
The third category consists of things that are easy to
learn but hard to do. Physical labor falls into this
category. Digging a ditch with a shovel or chopping wood
with an ax are easy to learn but they are hard to do. And
they never get any easier.
The fourth category is the key. These are things that are
easy to do and easy to learn. You seem to have a natural
proclivity for them. When you are engaged in this sort of
activity, time flies. The things that are easy to learn and
easy to do for you are the sort of things that you should
be doing with your life. They indicate where your natural
talents and abilities lie. It is engaging in these
activities with your whole heart, and committing yourself
to becoming better and better, that will give you all the
joy, satisfaction, and happiness you could want in life.
Everyone has an area of excellence. Everyone has something
that he or she can do in an outstanding fashion. It may
take weeks, months, and even years for you to develop
yourself in that area so that you can really perform in an
extraordinary fashion, but you will be strongly attracted
to that sort of activity from the beginning.
You will enjoy reading about it and talking about it and
thinking about it. You will find yourself admiring people
who are outstanding in that area. You will look longingly
at that field and wonder what it would be like to be in it
and to be successful at it. And that is very often your
That area of activity, the area where you can become
excellent, is probably what you were put on this earth to
There is a direct correlation between the feeling of growth
and the feeling of motivation or personal power. It is when
you are growing progressively, becoming better and better
at something that is important to you, that you really feel
alive and in touch with your world. And remember,
excellence is not a destination; it's a lifelong journey.
So resolve to persist until you succeed. The first part of
courage is the resolve to launch in faith toward your
objectives; the second part of courage is your willingness
to endure in the face of the inevitable disappointments and
setbacks along the road.
Happiness is not an accident. Happy people are those who
deliberately do the things that invariably lead to
happiness. Happy people are those who know what they want
and then throw their whole hearts into using their unique
talents and abilities to make a contribution to the world
in the achievement of their goals.
You were put on this earth with a special purpose,
programmed with unique talents and abilities that have not
yet been fully tapped and utilized. When you focus all of
your energies on unlocking your true potential, you can
claim your ultimate birthright: happiness.
Featured Program: Brian Tracy's...
How to Raise Happy, Healthy, Self-Confident Children
Copyright © 2001 Brian Tracy International. All Rights Reserved.
About Brian Tracy
Brian Tracy is one of the world's leading authorities on
personal and business success. As Chairman and CEO of
Brian Tracy International
he is the best-selling author of several cutting edge Personal
Development books and over 300 audio and video learning
programs. His fast-moving talks and seminars on leadership,
sales, managerial effectiveness and business strategy are
loaded with powerful, proven ideas and strategies that
people can apply immediately to get better results in every
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