Many years ago, my business partner asked if I were happy. I cynically and defensively replied, “Happiness is over-rated.” With two young children to raise, bills to pay, a traveling husband, a household and a business to run, and no supportive family in town, who had time to think or worry about being happy?
As the years seemingly dragged on, I often thought about that question. I realized I wasn’t even sure what happiness was. It seemed elusive. If I had felt it, it seemed too fleeting and too infrequent to matter.
Then, I stumbled upon a definition of happiness in Psychology Today. It read, “More than simply positive mood, happiness is a state of well-being that encompasses living a good life—that is, with a sense of meaning and deep satisfaction.” The article also explained that, once basic needs are met, many factors can influence how happy one is. These may include one’s choices (of job, friends, activities, etc.), personal achievements, interpersonal relationships, attitudes, and even genetic makeup. But, at the end of the day, much research shows we can control — to a certain degree — how happy we are. It was a big “Aha!” moment. You have to do and be engaged with things that have value or meaning to you. You have to be and surround yourself with people you enjoy.
This perspective helped me make important decisions and changes to live a life that’s better — and happier — for me. While not casual or easy to do, moving to a new home, starting a new job, working on meaningful projects, renewing old relationships and building new ones, celebrating little wins and major events, experiencing new things, and falling in love (with my new grandson!) have made a huge difference in how I feel…about everything. I am excited and happy to face each new day.
This past Sunday I attended two weddings. The bride in the first and the groom in the second were childhood friends of my daughter’s.
It was hard to believe these “kids” were all grown up and ready to get married. Dancing at the receptions, the joy in the air was palpable. Listening to the speeches and mingling with friends, years of memories flashed through my mind.
As I remembered my own wedding, I wished I had known then what I do now. Weddings unite families and communities. They bridge the past and the future. And, they validate and invite hopes and dreams.
But “happily ever after” — aspiring to a lifetime of happiness — requires deliberate and intentional work. You have to make it happen. May we all be up for the challenge.