Generosity is not only a key
to happiness, but also a determining factor of long term
of Texas Professor Dr. Raj Raghunathan in his book “If You’re So
Smart, Why Aren’t You Happy?”
It’s a conversation I’ll never forget.
When I was about
7, I asked my mother why my father never smiled.
responded, "Because nothing has ever made him happy".
That perplexed me, because he had plenty to be happy about. Like
most people, I thought that if things are good in your life,
you’ll be happy.
But then I read "The Power of Positive
Thinking" by the great Norman Vincent Peale, and learned that
happiness is a choice.
I went to the library to learn
more about this concept, and found an interesting quote
attributed to Abraham Lincoln. It read “Most folks are as about
as happy as they make up their minds to be”.
intrigued by the concept, but confused about one part of it.
It made sense that people can choose to be happy. But why
would anyone “choose” to be unhappy?
I learned that the
choice to be unhappy isn’t a conscious one, but it is a habit.
So many people focus on the negative, which would make anyone
The problem with making our happiness dependent
on outside events is that we have limited control over those
events. This amounts to a form of what psychologists call
“Learned Helplessness”, which leads to a mentality of
Nobody has ever been happy while wallowing in
victimhood, though lots of people embrace it to the point that
they’d lose their identity if they let go of it.
special events like a big promotion, the birth of your first
child, or getting a new puppy will make just about anyone happy,
events like those are few and far between.
want to be miserable the rest of your life, you have to make the
conscious choice to be happy when things are normal, and as much
as possible, even when they stink.
I learned how powerful
this concept is while promoting one of my seminars in 1993.
I was advertising on a Nashville radio station and received
a call from a guy who had a little talk show on that station. He
said that if I’d let him attend my seminar at no charge, he’d
let me be a guest on his show and promote the seminar.
When he came to the seminar at the Opryland Hotel, he gave me a
copy of a self-published book he was selling out of the trunk of
his car. It was titled “Financial Peace”.
When I greeted
him with the customary “How are you today?”, he responded,
“Better than I deserve”. He had recently lost a
multi-million-dollar real estate empire, and was trying to
rebuild his life. I found it intriguing that someone would be so
happy when he had plenty to be unhappy about.
He made a
very conscious choice to be grateful for what he did have, which
made it easier to be happy.
Today, it is my firm belief
that the secret to happiness is to expect nothing and be
grateful for everything.
But in a society with an
ever-growing entitlement mentality where people – especially
young people – think they deserve the best of everything just
because they have a pulse, they’re not going to appreciate what
they do get. For this reason, we may be raising a generation
destined to be the unhappiest one that has existed for many
If you want your kids to be happy when they become
adults, teach them to be grateful when they’re still kids.
The guy who attended my seminar in 1993 was named Dave
Ramsey. Today, he has over 600 employees, and his radio show
reaches over 13,000,000 listeners every week through 585 radio
stations. He was grateful when he didn’t have a lot to be
grateful for, and now he has a lot more to be grateful for. I’m
confident he would not be where he is today if he’d spent the
rest of his life being bitter and resentful about what he’d
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