It has been four months since we moved, and surprisingly after only 156 trips to Target to pickup that “one last thing we forgot” life is starting to feel normal here. Different for sure, like way-way-way different from our life in Ethiopia, but its good, and in many ways just what our family needs right now.
Here is the deal though, I have been feeling that I need to write about “happy”, to write about what it is that makes you smile, to contrast the different cultures we have lived in and offer what I believe are the top 9 ways each of us can begin right now to live the life we always wanted but never could have. I’m not saying I live the perfect life and have all of these things figured out, but I am trying, and I am writing this with what I hope is a fresh perspective on how to live a happy life.
- This can be said of every culture, but for some reason I think Ethiopian’s as a whole have a better grasp on this concept than much of the rest of the world. Perhaps it is after so many generations of struggling with poverty, or maybe it is just something that they have learned to teach their children and pass on to them, but it is undeniable that their culture is great at thanking God for their daily bread and enjoying every bite of it without worry about where tomorrow’s meal will come from. I admire that kind of faith and who it makes you as a person. I was reading 1 Peter today and in verse 1:7 says this “When Jesus wraps all of this up, it’s your faith, not your gold that God will have on display as evidence of his victory.” Gold and money are not the answer, and people who live for only money and gain are not happy people. End of story.
- Stop for a moment each day and ask yourself “Who does the things you are doing today make you” Look at your calendar, what are you planning to do? What do these tasks say about you? Who will you be after decades of what you have planned for today? That question right there is enough to break me down and help me see that I need to rethink some things.
- It starts from within you. I read a story somewhere about a man who was in prison during the holocaust and how even after his whole family was killed and he was tortured to near death he as able to come to a place where he began to see that the things outside of him had no bearing on the soul inside of him. He later wrote about his experience encouraging all of us to stop putting the things that happen to us in a place where they define who we are. Crap happens. It always does. I feel that I have a corner on this market, having lost tens of millions in a business that failed, lost family, struggled with so many things, yet when I sit down to get to know someone new and I ask them to tell me their honest story, I am always blown away that the most common thread in all of our lives are the struggles we have had to endure. Life is hard, the choice is ours if we are going to let the pain drive us towards God or away from him. (This week has been particularly hard for me at work, and I am finding a new kind of faith in God again, and I know that the struggle is what brought me back to him)
- Stop saying negative things about other people. (This one is hitting home for me lately.) If you read my post a few days ago you will see the thing that actually spurred this check in my soul. I realized after I wrote about the pastor guy and how he was so self righteous, that the act of my writing about him made me just the same kind of person. I made a commitment to myself that I am trying every day to hold to and that is to never say anything bad about anyone else. There is just no point in it, and I realized that I can do without it altogether. There is honest and true “That person is not to be trusted” and then there is gossip “So and so is such a ____ I never want to be like him” For me this is a lesson I need. Pushing others down to lift your self up or make you feel better does not work. And we all are much happier people when we just give grace to others.
- Be willing to throw out the whole thing and start over when you see that your life is not going the right direction. I could go on and on about this one, but I think this simple sentence says enough in itself as long as you put emphasis on the “whole thing” part. Too often we hold sacred decisions we have made in the past even when they are the wrong ones, guys, sometimes you gotta just let go even if its painful.
- Who you are is more important than what you are. Simple as that.
- It’s all about your people. Netflix, the internet, iPhones, Facebook and all the other crap that steals time from us, its not about people, it may pretend to be, and at times it may even do the job of helping us connect with others, but the people in your life, they have to come first. Cherish them, love them, enjoy them, and for goodness sakes lets all agree to put down our stupid smart phones and have a real conversation as often as we can!
- The eyes have it. Go look in the mirror. Who do you see? What do the eyes tell you? You have no one to blame but yourself for the person you are looking at. Eyes never lie, unhappiness, pain, bitterness, all that you are holding on to and not giving to God, you are going to see it next time you look in the mirror. God wants all of that, he wants a life for you that is not tired, not beat down, not angry. God wants you to be happy. (Notice I didn’t say he wants your life to be easy) I still love the verse in Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
- Stop making your life about what its “not” and start focusing on what it “is” I’m really not sure if this point of view comes to me just because of our unique perspective of just moving back into this craziness called America, but humor me for a moment and think about where the culture around you puts its energy. Much of the culture in this country is focused on convenience, on taking out the hardship, making things easier. “If you live here your commute will be easier” , “If you buy this toaster you can fry and egg on it too without having to dirty a pan” “If you sign up for this service everything you ever wanted will show up in a box on your doorstep every month” All that is good and great, I love me some efficiency, but it is dangerous when we start making the focus of our lives all of the things that we can do easier, and forget to set a purpose for ourselves.
What’s your purpose? Happy people know the answer to that question.