In honor of football season starting, I thought I would offer you, my beloved readers, a little Happiness Playbook. If you are following the wrong playbook, there’s no time like the present to redirect!
PLAY #1: Nice & Easy: What is Happiness Anyway?
First of all, happiness isn’t a state of perfection. It’s not a milestone, a degree conferred upon us, or a destination achieved by crossing a finish line.
Happiness is a state of mind. It’s the ability to say, “I will not allow myself to be a victim of my circumstances, my faults and my failures.” It is emphatically declaring that I will perceive life with a happy heart and a determination to seek for joy.
PLAY #2: The Enemy’s Playbook (A.K.A. The “Belichick”)
Second, happiness is the ability to be content. I think “contentment” has become a dirty word these days. Society tells us that to be content is to be stagnant, that we must always want bigger or better or we are selling ourselves short.
One of my favorite books is The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. The story is a collection of letters written by a devil named Screwtape, as he tutors his nephew, an apprentice devil, in how to tempt and try us humans and ultimately turn us away from God. It is a devil’s playbook.
In one letter to his nephew, Screwtape says,
“The horror of the ‘Same Old Thing’ is one of the most valuable passions we have produced in the human heart…[we] twist it into a demand for absolute novelty.”C.S. Lewis
Peace and contentment with our lives, our families, our goals, our marriages are twisted by the adversary, until we are led to believe we aren’t happy. To believe that we are, in fact, horrified to be settling for the “Same Old Thing”.
However, the truth is, when we are content, we are happily living in the present. Living in the present erases the disappointments of yesterday and ignores the imagined worries of the future.
Play #3: Never Let Them See You Sweat
I confess, while I know the things I write to be true, I am not perfect, and I stumble…often. Yesterday, I was getting worked up and worried about something, until I said to myself OUT LOUD, “I am actually worrying about something right now that I don’t even know is going to happen in the future.”
For me, former reigning Anxiety Queen of America, I was ecstatic and so proud of myself! Ecstatic that I could stop, recognize those False Expectations Appearing Real, and course-correct back into the present.
Our circumstances might say to us: be stressed, be disappointed, be scared. But, it is our disposition, our determination that says, “Even though I am scared, I know I am strong enough to face this problem.”
You can say, “I am disappointed, but there will be new opportunities for me tomorrow. I feel stressed right now, let me pause and assess what’s really upsetting me.” In doing so, you are redirecting your focus away from negativity and back toward happiness.
Play #4: Slow & Steady
Fourth, in the world of instant gratification, is the expectation of having a blissful, problem-free life “The New Normal?”
Gordon B. Hinckley said it better than I ever could:
I’ve definitely experienced delays and sidetracks. I can’t imagine there is anyone who hasn’t. While some of these “delays” have been my responsibility, others have not. But, I would say that I am mostly responsible myself for the smoke, dust, and cinders in my life. I allowed the grime of depression and the filth of anger to overtake happiness and positivity.
However, because of second chances, (and third, and fourth…) I can dust that dirt off and start again. Because of my acquaintance with anger and sorrow, I have developed a more fierce determination to be happy.
One of the best things I overheard my husband say was, “I waited 38 years to get married and I hit the jackpot!” His life certainly had its share of sidetracks. Actually, it “sidetracked” him right around marriage, and man, I’m sure glad it did!
Even though I’m thrilled I got to scoop him up after his “delay”, I’d be ignorant (and selfish) to think he didn’t experience “beautiful vistas” before he entered the blissful state of being married to me! After all, these moments are what remind us that life is meant to be enjoyed.
Play #5: The Key Play
Fifth, I’ve said it before, and I have no doubt I will say it again…Gratitude is one of the key components to happiness.
Gratitude has the ability to erase anxiety and depression. Let me say that again: Gratitude has the ability to erase anxiety and depression. If depression is the state of living in the past and anxiety is living in the future, then gratitude is the antidote that says, “I am grateful for the here and now”.
Gratitude is the companion of contentment.
“Gratitude turns what we have into enough.”Aesop
Having a grateful heart allows us to recognize blessings more readily. When we adopt an “attitude of gratitude”, our lives are suddenly filled with things to be grateful for!
Play #6: When in Doubt, Learn From the Pro’s
Lastly, I have been blessed to know a few people in my life who I perceive as an embodiment of “happiness”. Two of whom are my brother and sister-in-law. I have never heard a mean word out of either of them. I have never heard their voices raised in anger. On the contrary, they are almost always laughing and smiling. They are the measuring stick I hold up against everyone else.
Now, if we were to apply the World’s message, we would think they have lived lives of privilege and ease. Actually, the opposite is quite true. They have had more than their fair share of trials.
Yet, they are selfless, compassionate, patient individuals. And they are more deserving of happiness than any other people I have ever known. Truly, they ARE happy. Why? Because they embody the idea that,
“You do not find the happy life, you make it”.Thomas S. Monson
They have built their lives on the premise that amidst their lives of imperfection, that through the mire of trials they are asked to endure, they remain determined to be happy.
Playbook in Review
So, let’s review (I’ll try and keep it as easy as possible for you to memorize, so no one leaves it laying around for the Patriots to steal!):
- Nice & Easy: Simply put, happiness isn’t a destination, it’s a state of mind.
- The Enemy’s Playbook: Happiness allows us to be content. Don’t be fooled into thinking contentment is bad. Contentment is the ability to live 100% in the present.
- Never Let Them See You Sweat: Even though our circumstances knock us down, we can redirect our focus away from negativity and back toward happiness.
- Slow & Steady: “Anyone who imagines that bliss is normal is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting that he’s been robbed… The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride.”
- The Key Play: Always remember gratitude is one of the key components to happiness! It is the companion of contentment.
- Learn From the Pro’s: When in doubt, look for people in your life that emulate a spirit of happiness. Strive to live your life more like them!