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The Journey to Happiness

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 working toward.

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

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 engaging in?

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 heart's desire.

That area of activity, the area where you can become excellent, is probably what you were put on this earth to do.

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.

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How to Raise Happy, Healthy, Self-Confident Children

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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 area.

Visit Brian Tracy's web site and take advantage of Brian's FREE audio program offer - There are several to choose from. "21 Success Secrets Of Self Made Millionaires" is just one of them.

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© 2011 by David J. Meredith.