Through our ups and downs, successes and failures, celebrations and disappointments, we write the stories of our lives. But how can we be sure to write a happy story?
Conflict Creates Stories
As an English teacher, I taught that a story didn’t really begin until there was conflict. Without conflict, it’s not a story, it’s just a journal, and a very boring journal at that. Conflict is what drives action, refines character, and most importantly, creates growth.
Our lives are no different. While we believe we would like nothing more than to sit on the couch, sipping hot cocoa, and watch movies every day, it’s not really what our minds, bodies, or spirits need. Our spirits yearn for growth. And that need for growth is created by conflict: stumbling blocks laid in our path that require determination to overcome.
Comfort produces little result. Conflict is the impetus needed for all learning—even learning that is painful in coming.
“When faced with a challenge…happy people, just add a new chapter to their life story that shows them overcoming the hardship.”Bruce Feiler
The first step to writing a happy story is learning to accept the conflicts that guide your pen.
Embrace All Emotions
I wish I could promise my children, my family, and friends that their lives would be without tragedy. But, it’s an inescapable part of life. It’s not the absence of personal tragedies, but how we respond to them that determine whether or not our story will be happy.
“It is your reaction to adversity, not the adversity itself, that determines how your life’s story will develop.”Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Happy stories can have moments of sorrow, too. All good stories have a little bit of everything: good and evil, love and loss, laughter and tears. It’s what makes stories real and relatable. How can we love stories whose honesty makes them so relatable and then deny our own lives all those same components?
The truth is, the clichés are right: the bitterness makes the sweet sweeter. Experiencing sorrow makes happy moments brighter! It’s just that when we’re stuck in the mire of the low moments, that we begin to lose hope that our lives are indeed a happy story.
Don’t succumb to the lies that surround you when you are experiencing sorrow. Low moments don’t last forever, happiness will return—if you seek it. Happy stories aren’t void of sadness. On the contrary, they are happy stories because they inspire us by how the protagonist overcomes their sadness. Remember, you are the protagonist of your own story.
The second step to Writing a Happy Story is embracing all emotions. Inspire those that read your story by overcoming despair and conscientiously seeking happiness.
Be the Author of Your Own Story
“Everyone is necessarily the hero of his own life story.”John Barth
As much as others might try to dictate the narration of your story, you are the author, narrator, and hero of your story. You choose whether it is a tragedy or a comedy. Whether moments of doubt, fear, and heartache are the foundations of each chapter, or if they are used to contrast the greater, more stirring moments of love, laughter, and celebration.
There may be times in our lives when we stumble. Times when, because we lack self-worth, or are plagued by overwhelm, fear, or any other number of debilitating emotions, that we yield control of our story to another. Others will attempt to tell us how we feel and what we think. In short, they will try and control where our story is going from chapter to chapter.
If you are currently in that state of surrender, I implore you to take control of your story again. And I promise you it is possible. For those who have experienced and overcome this, don’t try and edit those chapters from your story.
Consider those periods as material for flashback! Those periods are only plot devices—opportunities to look back and see where we were, how far we’ve come, and how much stronger and more capable we are now for where we are headed.
Remember, flashbacks in stories are brief, and only serve to move the story forward. Don’t ever get stuck looking backward. Looking forward, as the only author of your story, is a crucial third step to Writing a Happy Story.
Be Honest with Your Story
When writing your story, there’s no reason to not be honest with yourself. One of the most common stumbling blocks to happiness is regret. Sometimes when we feel regret, we want to cover it, hide it away from ourselves to relieve the burden of that difficult emotion. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make the pain go away, and it breaks through the shroud we’ve thrown over it at the most inconvenient times.
Overcoming regret requires us to be honest with ourselves and the mistakes we’ve made. And to do that, we must face our mistakes head-on. Consider this approach:
Take a pause at this very moment to consider one blessing. What you are grateful for NOW, couldn’t have occurred without what you’ve gone through in the past. I am sure that if you took the time to trace the path of this one particular blessing, you’d discover it included a number of obstacles, wrong-turns, and failures to get here. Was it worth it? Was your current blessing worth the trouble to get there?
I believe in exponential increase—our greatest blessings, those things we have to be most grateful for, lay at the end of the bumpiest, messiest roads.
Our mistakes make their own unique contribution to our story. Write a happy story by resolving regrets and being honest with ourselves. (To read more about how to resolve regret, read “How to Erase Regret & Guilt”)
One of the last steps in Writing Your Happy Story, is to Pace Yourself: live your life according to your own timetable.
“Everyone has a different life story. Things happen rapidly for someone, and things move slowly for others.”Barun Sobti
Don’t be guilty of plagiarism: your story was never intended to be a copy of anyone else’s. While we might envy other authors’ adventures, love stories, or triumphs, they are theirs alone, and not any greater than yours!
Don’t be in a hurry to rush from one chapter into another you think will be more exciting. This is a surefire way to miss a multitude of happy moments. While you are comparing your life story to someone else’s, blessings, friendships, and life lessons can be missed. This comparison mires us in anxiety and unhappiness, as “comparison is the thief of joy”.
Find happiness in the moment, no matter what chapter of life you are in. For as we all know when we try to revisit a favorite book, re-reading a chapter is never quite the same as the first time we experienced it! Live your life in the moment, deliberately, and with eyes wide open to the joy available around you!
“She lived joyfully. Not because her circumstances were joyful but because she was joyful.”Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Finally, remember that every day we are Writing Our Story. We make plans for the future and reminisce nostalgically about the past. But never forget to live deliberately today. Live your life with joyful determination in your heart—determination to tackle obstacles and overcome heartaches.
Enjoy moments of bliss.
Seek out happy adventures.
Forgive and ask for forgiveness easily.
Count your blessings.
Most importantly, be ever-mindful that in everything we do, every person we encounter, and every choice we make, we can choose to Write a Happy Story.
How to Write Your Happy Story
- Accept Conflicts
- Embrace all Emotions
- Be the Author of Your Own Story
- Be Honest
- Pace Yourself
- Live Joyfully