Choosing Happiness

My former students can tell you that I am a sucker for inspiration.  I collect inspirational stories, videos, quotes, and pictures to remind myself of the positive things in life.  Some of them are a bit abstract, but if they contain even a little nugget of truth, or if they make me think about something in a different light, then I add them to my collection.

The other day I was talking to a friend who is trying to decide which college to attend.  I ended up giving some advice that I stole directly from the story below.  I don’t think this story applies to every situation, but wouldn’t it be great to choose this attitude every day?

She is 92 years old, petite, well poised, and proud. She is fully dressed each morning by eight o’clock, with her hair fashionably coiffed, and her makeup perfectly applied, in spite of the fact she is legally blind.
Today she has moved to a nursing home. Her husband of 70 years recently passed away, making this move necessary.
After many hours of waiting patiently in the lobby of the nursing home where I am employed, she smiled sweetly when told her room was ready. As she maneuvered her walker to the elevator, I provided a visual description of her tiny room, including the eyelet curtains that had been hung on her window.
“I love it,” she stated with the enthusiasm of an eight-year-old having just been presented with a new puppy.
“Mrs. Jones, you haven’t seen the room … just wait,” I said.
Then she spoke these words that I will never forget:
“That does not have anything to do with it,” she gently replied. “Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time. Whether I like my room or not does not depend on how the furniture is arranged. It is how I arrange my mind. I have already decided to love it.”
“It is a decision I make every morning when I wake up. I have a choice. I can spend the day in bed recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no longer work, or I can get out of bed and be thankful for the ones that do work. Each day is a gift, and as long as my eyes open, I will focus on the new day and all of the happy memories I have stored away … just for this time in my life.”

Can you see why I added this one to my collection?  I have decided that today is going to be a great day!  I am going to enjoy everything I have to and get to do all day long.  I have too many things to be thankful for in my life and will not waste my time dwelling on anything else.

    • Anonymous
    • April 25th, 2010

    Thanks for the inspiration Tim. I’ve been suffering from a bit of Dubaitis, and it helps put things in the proper perspective. 🙂

    • No Problem! Dubaitis! This is funny! I am not sure if that is from too much or too little Dubai!

    • Ditty
    • April 25th, 2010

    love it Catty!!! Gonna hang it up in my classroom!! Miss you!

    • Karl
    • April 26th, 2010

    This ‘choosing happiness’ blog post could be a good ground for a discussion.

    To begin with, many people have said that we should always be happy and look happy in all situations, but aspects of this philosophy actually annoyed me and my friends.
    After some debate we come up with ideas that in order to be happy all the time, we’d have to numb down our senses when times are bad. Another issue is that if we are smiling and saying all is good when in reality we are suffering, we are living behind a mask and are fake. Also, times of mourning can often be better than times of rejoicing for it can bring positive change within ourselves and our life.

    Another concept to explore is the philosophy of ‘holding on to what brings us true joy’

    Anyway, up for discussion

    • Good stuff Karl! I agree that being happy all of the time would be impossible and that smiling our way through the bad times might seem a little fake.

      What inspires me about the story, is that she chooses to focus on the good things rather than dwell on the bad. This is a choice that will directly impact her happiness. If she laments the parts of her body that no longer work or the house she left behind, she is more likely to be unhappy than if she is thankful for what she can still do and the good things about her new situation. This is not the same thing as being happy all of the time, but it is about increasing happiness by choosing to focus on the positive rather than the negative.

      When the Grinch stole Christmas and the Whos woke up to find all of their gifts, and trees, and decorations missing, they could have sat down and cried and felt sorry for themselves, but instead they gathered around outside with their families and sang songs and were happy.

      We cannot be happy 100% of the time. Bad things can and will happen from time to time, but I think if we choose to focus on the positive, and practice being happy, then we can increase the amount of time we spend being happy.

    • Sandhya
    • May 16th, 2010

    Love it Tim…. How are u…Take care….

    • Nancy Mock
    • June 14th, 2010

    Tim, I just discovered your blog and it is brilliant, vintage you. This story reminds me of my mom who, as you may remember from Honduras, was quite the upbeat octogenarian. It also resonates Buddhist philosophy, which Tony and I have taken to heart..We miss you. Megan and Amanda came to my room for a visit the other day and reminisced about you and “Lile”, and the good ole days…..but I see that you are continuing to inspire young and old alike! We are excited about the book, and will continue to follow your progress. xx

    • Ahhh the good ole days! How I miss them! Good to hear from you Nancy! Big hug!

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