How To Be Happy, Part One

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TechnoBoy and I were talking about happiness the other day, and he made an interesting comment to the effect of, “If I were born a prince, then my life would be perfect.”

I disagreed, explaining that while there are advantages to being a prince such as being wealthy, having people who will clean your room for you, and so on, there are also huge disadvantages. For example, the intense public scrutiny, continual invasions of privacy, and expectations of perfection at all times.

Out of the ensuing conversation came 3 rules that Hubby and I live by. Below are the conclusions we draw from those rules.

  1. There is no such thing as a perfect life.
  2. Hold lightly to the good things.
  3. Blessings are undeserved.

It’s not every day that wisdom comes rolling off my tongue (more frequently it’s direction or correction), so I thought I’d write this down while it’s still in my memory.

You’re welcome.

We do not live in a one-dimensional world. There cannot be up without down, wide without narrow, good without evil, or happiness without sadness. God just didn’t create it that way. In fact, He promised that all of us would face difficulty and sadness in life.

I can choose to fight that and spend my time raging against the injustices as they come. But what good will that do? If I spent my life raging, wouldn’t I effectively be throwing an 80 year temper tantrum? Would that stop evil or wrong or even unfairness in the world?

Nope.

I accept that bad things will happen. I accept that no matter what life I could be born into, there would be parts of it to dislike.

Right along with that: if I’m going to enjoy the blessings that come my way, it’s only fair to deal with the difficulties as gracefully as possible.

I believe that this life…the one I have been given…can be one in which I find happiness. I believe that I was uniquely created to live this particular life. One of the ways I can show my thankfulness for such a wonderful existence is to live it being the best person I can be.

Earnest Parenting: help for parents who want their children to be truly happy.

Image courtesy of LawPrieR via Creative Commons license, some rights reserved.

The editor-in-chief of Earnest Parenting, Amy is the mother of two sets of twin boys. Yes, they drive her crazy, but they also make her laugh occasionally. Amy enjoys writing, quilting, reading, and working on her burgeoning cyber empire.

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  • Lance Nelson July 1, 2010, 2:10 am

    Hi Amy,

    Your words are wise I will remember these. Thank you. A life spent raging against perceived injustices in particular makes us bitter. Feeling bitter makes us unhappy.

    Your articles on happiness, parenting and life skills should be read by everyone.
    Lance Nelson´s last blog post ..Tsvetana Pironkova From Plovdiv- The Next Famous Bulgarian

    Reply
    • Amy LeForge July 1, 2010, 10:38 am

      Lance, great point about the bitterness. I have known bitter people all my life; possibly their existence has influenced me for better because I want no part of that kind of unhappiness.

      Reply
  • Andrew @ Blogging Guide July 1, 2010, 2:40 am

    A couple of years ago I attended a conference when the guy on stage, Paul G Stoltz said, “On average we have to deal with 29 (I think it was 29) different challenges that confront us each day.”

    Challenges that range from ‘there is no milk left’ to ‘the car won’t start’ to situations that are much worse.

    And each day we have to tackle them.

    We have to make a decision.

    We are the ones who decide how to react to such situations.

    We are the ones who decide to get angry or to stay positive.

    Andrew
    Andrew @ Blogging Guide´s last blog post ..The Bloggers Holiday- How To Manage Your Blog While You Are On Vacation

    Reply
    • Amy LeForge July 1, 2010, 10:39 am

      Andrew, if only more people understood the choice part of the equation! And I mean really understand it by living it. Just think how empowered they would be!

      Reply
  • Beat Schindler July 1, 2010, 3:47 am

    Amy, “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” is one of the most famous phrases in the United States Declaration of Independence. “Hi 5” to you and your son and your family, to discuss and pursue happiness! It’s one pursuit you’ll never regret. That said, your son reminds me of someone I personally know very well. I, too, used to convince myself life will be better once I’m [blank] (a prince?) or once I have [blank] (a princess?] Of course, we know the story – it writes itself, doesn’t it? Surely I’ll be happier when [blank]. In truth there is no better time to be happy than right now. If not now, then when?

    Reply
    • Amy LeForge July 1, 2010, 10:42 am

      Beat what a great point. I’ve been thinking a lot about happiness lately, but wow, the idea of actually pursuing it. That makes me think. Thank you! I tend to think more of things as coming my way…I guess I’m more passive that way. Or maybe it’s because I’ve already got what I want, so I don’t think about going out to get more.

      Perhaps framing it as a pursuit would appeal more to my boys, being the active creatures they are.

      Reply
  • Bruce "the Mid-Life Mentor" July 1, 2010, 4:56 am

    Amy, where were you to teach me these lessons when I was a VERY young parent. Your Dad probably had just met your Mom is my bet.
    There is a price for everything. The good things must be paid for in advance. You must have the right attitude and the right actions if you want peace and satisfaction in your life. You have that boiled down to some easy to remember and implement principles. I particularly liked blessings are not deserved. Very humbling. The corollary might be – Blessings should be appreciated and shared. I am an ex-farm boy. Planting and Reaping are ingrained in me.
    Bruce “the Mid-Life Mentor”´s last blog post ..A Breast Lump in Your Breast-Tips on what You do

    Reply
    • Amy LeForge July 1, 2010, 10:45 am

      Bruce my folks met in the early 60’s, if that gives you a time frame. I like the price tag idea too. I’m going to talk about undeserved blessings next (first I have to finish some errands and chores). That part of the conversation was not particularly appealing to TechnoBoy when we had it. Poor kid. 🙂

      Reply
  • Debbie @ Happy Maker July 1, 2010, 9:59 am

    You are so right Amy, “We do not live in a one-dimensional world.” And you are a great mom!
    We do live in a sinful world and bad things do happen, because of this. It is our reaction to this that makes a difference when it comes to happiness. One thing that helps me is when the bad things happen is to look at myself and see if I made a wrong choice to create this. If I had no control over the bad situation then I always know that God will help me through it and I just turn it over to him and work throught it with his help.

    Love is what brings happiness not money and material things. Let your son know that if he was born a prince his parents most likely wouldn’t have the time to spend with him that you and his dad do. He just might get pretty lonely. Does he want the money to buy things or the time and love you give him?

    Happiness is choices.
    Sorry I got carried away on that, Amy.
    This is a great aritcle and I am looking forward to your next ones.
    Debbie
    Debbie @ Happy Maker´s last blog post ..Happiness versus productivity

    Reply
    • Amy LeForge July 1, 2010, 10:52 am

      Debbie, you can get carried away on this topic any day of the week as far as I’m concerned! We talk about choices a lot here, and we do tell the boys that they don’t have an average existence, that they’re fantastically blessed, and that gratefulness is expected of them.

      However, they have no point of reference. What their father and I see as amazing (never abused, never hungry, never lacking for clothes or toys, a solid roof over our heads) they just see as normal. The day is coming, however, when they’ll see what we’re talking about. I don’t know when, or how, but I know it will happen. I long to see their hearts softened (dare I say broken?) for a world that suffers so much more then they ever could have imagined. They just need more time and experience, that’s all.

      In my more frustrated moments, I consider sending them to Bangladesh or other parts unknown. But only when I’m frustrated. 🙂

      Reply
  • Corinne Edwards July 1, 2010, 10:00 am

    This is so important.

    “We do not live in a one-dimensional world. There cannot be up without down, wide without narrow, good without evil, or happiness without sadness. God just didn’t create it that way. In fact, He promised that all of us would face difficulty and sadness in life”

    There can not be too many good articles like this about happiness.

    But I still think it would be nice to be a Princess.

    Could I at least try it?
    Corinne Edwards´s last blog post ..INTERNET VIDEO – 101 – and a few wild ideas

    Reply
    • Amy LeForge July 1, 2010, 10:54 am

      Corinne, you can be a princess anytime you want. 🙂 Especially if that would make you happy.

      Reply
  • Debbie @ Happy Maker July 1, 2010, 11:11 am

    IN my experience the best things that you can give children, so they will be happy and always have happiness is teaching them Love, Respect for themselves and others and a good self-Esteem.
    And go ahead and send the to Bangladesh once in awhile, it helps teach them that respect and gratefulness. ha ha

    I use to tell mine that I brought them into this world and I could take them out. Guess that is not policy correct anymore.
    Debbie
    Debbie @ Happy Maker´s last blog post ..Happiness versus productivity

    Reply
    • Amy LeForge July 2, 2010, 10:41 pm

      Lol. Politically correct is not always a value around here. It’s important to be nice and consider our words carefully. But I’m not going to take it as far as some do.

      I”m not the one who will create the situation in which the boys finally understand how blessed they are and start wanting to give back to the world. I’m confident it will come, it’s just not going to come from me. This is something that they have to learn through their own experiences. I’m just waiting for it, and facilitating as many open doors as I can.

      Reply
      • Sherri--Hurricane Katrina Pictures July 3, 2010, 10:39 pm

        Amy, great article, and if not us, who? If not now, when? Happiness is the journey itself, not the destination. And the next time he has to clean his room, remind TechnoBoy that if he didn’t have so much stuff, it wouldn’t take as much time and effort to clean it. I have also come to realize that eventually, the stuff you own can end up owning you. There is such a thing as too much stuff.

        I have exposed my son to just how fortunate he is by taking him on my volunteering activities at the food bank and at a homeless shelter. He’s 15 now, so it’s a good time to start showing him how much he has. He has always been very generous with his things, his money, his time and his kindness. But it seems to deepen his natural nurturing self to help people outside of his circle of friends and family. I spend a lot of time listening to what he has to say about the people he encounters on these trips. He doesn’t understand why the richest country in the world won’t take care of its own people. I don’t understand it either. Their are many things that could be done that would help people in need.

        He once asked why we volunteered when we first started doing it. I told him it’s because it’s the right thing to do, and because we can. And we must do it with the humbleness to give freely and ask nothing in return.

        Sherri
        Sherri–Hurricane Katrina Pictures´s last blog post ..Why Wetlands Are So Important

        Reply
        • Amy LeForge July 5, 2010, 11:27 pm

          Sherry, well put! I’m so glad you shared your volunteering experiences. I feel the same way, and the boys are still….working on understanding why it’s important. Maybe someday.

          Reply
  • Lisa July 1, 2010, 11:15 am

    Hi Amy — Very wise words. It’s funny — at my ripe old age of 44, I am finally starting to understand life — what’s important, and what’s not. Once you get that understanding, happiness seems to follow. I love your words:

    “We do not live in a one-dimensional world. There cannot be up without down, wide without narrow, good without evil, or happiness without sadness. God just didn’t create it that way. In fact, He promised that all of us would face difficulty and sadness in life”

    Thanks for the reminder!

    Reply
    • Tina@RideOnToys July 2, 2010, 6:39 pm

      Hey Lisa! I’m the same age as you and I feel the same way – like I’m just finally starting to get what life is all about. The trials and tribulations that come along are just part of our path and we’ve got to handle them to the best of our ability in order to become the best person that we can. Great post Amy!
      Tina@RideOnToys´s last blog post ..A Toddler Motorbike Will Increase Balance And Coordination While Still Being Fun-

      Reply
      • Amy LeForge July 2, 2010, 10:45 pm

        🙂 Thanks Tina! Sometimes I’d rather we didn’t have to learn that way….I know it makes us stronger to go through trials but they’re quite frequently not fun.

        Reply
    • Amy LeForge July 2, 2010, 10:42 pm

      Lisa, I’m only 4 years behind you and it seems like every year I get a better idea of what’s important and what’s not. I think that gets refined and focused the more we’re here, don’t you?

      Reply
  • Michelle Vandepas July 1, 2010, 1:26 pm

    Hi Amy
    This its fun to teach my daughter about being a princess – that means growing up to be a QUEEN! with grace, responsibility, talents put to good use, and helping others. That is my definition of King and Queen! Too bad we can’t just be that fairy tale type of spoiled rotten…. but somehow I don’t think it would really be as fun as it seems.
    Michelle Vandepas´s last blog post ..Voting Party for Michelle on OWN

    Reply
    • Amy LeForge July 2, 2010, 10:47 pm

      Michelle what a fantastic definition of princess and queen! I don’t know that the boys would go for the king definition at their age (the older ones). But I bet they’d love superhero. Did you ever see that TV show Who Wants to be a Superhero? It was totally cheesy but a lot of fun and did encourage people to embody some pretty strong values.

      Reply
  • Joel July 1, 2010, 4:36 pm

    It was great reading your post, and all the other comments (you should turn on threaded comments by the way, so you reply next to the comment – just the techie in me!).

    It’s easier said than done a lot of the time, sometimes I struggle with letting injustices go – life is too short and yet it still bothers me often for days. I need to be better and will try. Thanks for the clear reminder and putting it in perspective.
    Joel´s last blog post ..More Income Blogging Guide Feedback

    Reply
    • Amy LeForge July 2, 2010, 10:54 pm

      Joel, what do you think!?? I still have some fixes to do, but thanks to your advice Hubby got the comments changed to threaded. YAY! and THANKS!!

      Absolutely it is easier said than done. No question about that. The whole thing is a process though. First you let go of the things that are easy to let pass. Then you let go of something that’s just a little harder to deal with, and so on. That builds the strength, you know?

      I grew up in a family where the angry silences and held grudges could last for days. I was a total expert at the whole angry thing 15 years ago. Hubby broke me of a lot of it. I’d never known anyone who thought you should get done being angry right away. I still need time to recover if I lose my temper, but it’s definitely shorter: hours instead of days.

      I’ve also developed the habit of absolutely avoiding someone I’m angry with until I’m truly calm. It’s super hard, but when I do it, 95% of the time I find that there’s no need to address the issue because it’s over and done. In the rare occasion where I do need to speak to someone, I can do it peacefully and things go better.

      I didn’t manage that with a friend late last year and got into a massive argument that still has repercussions in my life 9 months later. So…..it’s a painful lesson learned. And sad that the friendship will never be the same.

      Reply
      • Joel July 2, 2010, 11:22 pm

        Looks great! That’s what husbands are for 🙂

        I do try not to write emails when angry. Writing them even 10 minutes later is much better. I should do that in person too.
        Joel´s last blog post ..More Income Blogging Guide Feedback

        Reply
  • Raymond Chua July 1, 2010, 9:05 pm

    Blessings are undeserved?

    I don’t get it. Can you elaborate more about this?

    Thanks.
    Raymond Chua´s last blog post ..Attracting Wealth With the Law of Attraction

    Reply
    • Amy LeForge July 2, 2010, 10:56 pm

      Raymond, I can! Do you mind coming back for part three?? I think I’ll put it up Monday. I’ve got #2 done, but had to do the Fun For Your Friday today so #2 will go up tomorrow.

      Come back for part 3 and we’ll talk once you’ve read it, okay?

      Thanks, friend!

      Reply
    • Amy LeForge July 6, 2010, 7:09 pm

      Hi Raymond. I got the post up finally. 🙂 Had a few problems with my computer (translation: the laptop almost died but Hubby helped me create a new boot sector in DOS and it’s running for now – tonight is the big “backup the computer” night. Phew.)

      I’d love to know your thoughts on part 3.

      Reply
  • Eat Smart Age Smart July 1, 2010, 11:47 pm

    Amy,

    I feel like Lisa and feel that now I’m starting to understand life. I don’t have kids myself, but I always like your posts and your approach to parenthood.

    Krizia

    Reply
    • Amy LeForge July 2, 2010, 10:56 pm

      Thanks Krizia! I’m hopeful that they won’t need too much therapy when I’m done with them.

      Reply
  • Cheryl from thatgirlisfunny July 2, 2010, 6:39 pm

    Hi Amy,
    When I think about things like the oil in the gulf, I get overwhelmed and just feel like giving up. What difference does recycling make when oil is gushing and we can’t stop it? It brings me down. The other day I realized, as you mentioned, that we’ve been placed here on the planet at this time to do what needs to be done to deal with each problem that is presented – even the seemingly insurmountable ones. Just keep doing what you’re doing…you made me smile today 😀

    Reply
    • Amy LeForge July 2, 2010, 10:59 pm

      Wow, Cheryl. I’m honored.

      Sometimes it’s not a good thing to look at the big picture. When I get overwhelmed I break things down into short tasks. Then I just do the first one. Later, the next and so on. Before I know it, I’ve made progress. Woohoo!

      Reply
  • Jen @ Blog writer July 3, 2010, 1:24 am

    Hi Amy,
    I liked your comment about blessings being undeserved, and agree with it. I have been working with a few people recently who feel that their life is not to their liking, and it’s because life is tough. From a personal perspective, I believe that we each of us have the power to make our life a great as it can be, and we all need to work hard to get our lives in shape. People who sit in their lives expecting bad things to happen, and never taking responsibility, make me frustrated! I think as long as we work, laugh and love hard, life can be as near to perfect as we could ever hope for.

    Jen
    Jen @ Blog writer´s last blog post ..How to title your messages effectively

    Reply
    • Amy LeForge July 5, 2010, 11:30 pm

      Jen, you used some key words there: power, work, responsibility. Those are fightin’ words, they are! I think there are elements out in the world (regardless of individual cultures) that draw all of us to want life to be wonderful without putting in our own effort. Heck, I’d like that myself; wouldn’t you? I hope that my boys learn the value of being responsible for their own well-being sometime before they’re 18.

      Reply