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How to Stay Happy

How are you always so happy?

Recently, while managing a very challenging project at work, my boss made a comment while in a meeting.  He said that he was so impressed because no matter what obstacle we faced, and we had plenty, I always remained optimistic and looked for ways to overcome rather than blame others involved.  

At the time I didn’t think much about it but over the next few days coworkers approached me and asked me, “How are you always so happy?”  At first I was taken back and simply responded, “What’s not to be happy about?!”

After a few occurrences I started to really analyze my attitude and realized that it isn’t by accident.  In fact, if they had known me 10 years earlier they would not have the same perception of me.  I was unhappy and blamed everyone around me for my unhappiness.  

What changed?

I realized two things have shaped me as a person and allow me to remain happy and optimistic regardless of the circumstances.  Yes things still affect me at times, but even during those times I am able to bounce back quicker and not hit the lows that I did in my past.

The first thing is that I learned to be grateful.  Gratitude is about more than saying what you are thankful for at Thanksgiving or making sure to send a thank you card when someone sends a gift.  It is a way of life.

Several years ago my fiancé at the time (now my wife, Heather) and I decided to take a camping trip.  We invited my brother, sister-in-law, and niece and picked a date.  As the date approached we packed our gear and checked the weather forecast.  It was expected to be a very hot weekend, but we were prepared with lots of water and fans.  

Regardless of how much we thought we were prepared for the heat, we weren’t ready for the 97 degree daytime temperature and the 91 degree nighttime temperature.  Simply setting up the tents turned out to be an exhausting task.  As the sun went down we thought we would finally have relief.  All through the night the tent remained extremely hot and nothing we did seemed to make it better.

We decided after a few days that we had enough and went home.  I can still recall getting home to an air conditioned home, taking a cool shower and laying in my comfortable bed.  I never appreciated those things more then at that moment.  I never truly understood how much I had taken for granted until then.  

Over the next few weeks I spent as much time as I could, thinking of things that I appreciate and that make my life easier.  I can easily call people whenever and wherever because of my cell phone, I have unlimited information at the touch of button from my computer and can travel all around in my car.  The more I thought of things the more I realized how incredibly blessed I am, even thought these things seem to be basic aspects of modern life.  

You may hate your boss, but at least you have a job.  With the unemployment rate as high as it is today, I’m sure many of those people would take your job to be able to support their family.  You may not like the president but because of the Bill of Rights you are allowed to say that don’t like him.  Your car may not be a $100,000 luxury vehicle but at least you don’t have to take the bus.  

If you are able to habitually see things in this light, you will start to realize how much you have, rather than focusing on the few things that you don’t have.  

The second thing I realized is that having the right systems in place means everything.  Having the right financial systems, exercise systems, spiritual systems, etc. means that you have everything headed in the right direction.  

A few years ago a friend of mine, Ted, was telling me that he hit a pothole coming home from work and it would cost him $500 to fix the damage and adjust the alignment.  To Ted this was an enormous amount of money.  Ted was not great at managing his finances.  He spent every dime he made on video games, his cell phone, and his satellite TV.  In fact, he had about $17,000 in credit card debt and wasn’t paying that off any time soon.

The $500 charge was extremely troubling for Ted and he didn’t know how in the world he would pay to have the car fixed.  

Coincidentally I was talking to a coworker, Jim, the next day and he mentioned that he was in a car accident the night before.  He was ok but his deductible for his insurance was $500.  Jim had previously used the Dave Ramsey Total Money Makeover financial system to pay off all of his debt and build a $10,000 emergency fund.  

The $500 was nothing more than a slight blip of a concern for Jim.  

I was intrigued by these two similar situations.  One had caused major anxiety and stress yet the other, with the same unexpected cost, wasn’t much more than a slight inconvenience.  The difference between these two situations is simply the financial system that each person used to manage their finances.  Jim had a great system for managing his finances while Ted did not.  Having the right system made it easy for Jim to remain happy but having a poor financial system caused Ted a great deal of stress.  

To me these two factors are very encouraging.  They are encouraging because having gratitude and developing the systems we have in life are 100% dependent on us!

It doesn’t matter what anyone else does.  It is up to us to be happy.  As long as we focus on these two principles we will be able to get away from the entitled, unappreciative mindset and build the systems in our lives to take us where we want to go.  

The answer to those that ask me how am I always so happy is easy.  I remain grateful and I have built great systems!