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A Roadmap to Happiness

In last week’s article, I wrote about how most people sacrifice their own happiness because they fear being talked about and criticized by others. They avoid doing things that they want to do because they’re too concerned about their image.

I ended the article by stating, “If you really want to experience happiness as often as is humanly possible, you have to be willing to commit image suicide on a regular basis, and follow through on what your heart is telling you to do.”

Everyone desires happiness. Some people turn to drugs to achieve happiness, but never seem to find the happiness they are seeking. Others hire “life coaches” to teach them how to be happy.

Why is it that people need drugs and coaches to help them achieve happiness when the people who lived 100 years ago got by without drugs and coaching? They had to figure out a way to be happy without taking drugs or paying a coach to assist them.

Is it possible to be happy 100% of the time? The answer is no, but I believe that it’s possible to be happy at least 80% of the time.

The happiest people I know are children who reside in secure, loving homes. They hate going to bed at night because they don’t want to end the day and miss out on something. They love getting up in the morning because they’re excited about what lies ahead for them. Each new day presents opportunities for happiness and growth.

Children don’t know anything about setting goals, yet they’re constantly dreaming up new goals for themselves. They do everything in their power to achieve their goals. They don’t care what other people think about them. They know what they want, and go after it.

Now granted, children don’t have to worry about money, work, or any of the problems that are associated with adulthood. But there’s a reason why Jesus admonished us to “be like children.” He wanted us to trust in His Father and to be able to overcome fear, guilt, and the opinions of others.

We can learn a lot about happiness from the way children think and behave.

The happiest adults I know are people who dream big and set goals that will move them measurably closer to their dreams. They learn how to overcome fear, guilt, and the opinions of others so they can continue to move closer to their goals.

We humans are not happy unless we have hope, which requires that we consider what is possible for our future.

The month of January is traditionally a time that we are encouraged to make resolutions for the new year. We are not animals who are driven by instinct. We are individuals who were made in the image and likeness of God. We do best when we have a clear plan in place for our future, which means that we need to periodically stop what we’re doing, reassess where we’re at in life, and when necessary, change course. This should probably be done more than once a year, but at a minimum, we need to do it at least once a year.

The development of a new resolution is nothing more than the setting of a new goal. The one thing that most people don’t realize is that to achieve a goal, they must be willing to change. Children welcome and thrive on change. Most adults are terrified of change.

To embrace change, you must be willing to die to yourself and be reborn as a new person. This requires that you replace long-term habits with new habits.

You already know the formula for setting goals: (1) determine what you want, (2) write it down in a measurable and specific way, (3) review what you have written on a regular basis while imagining what your life will be like after the goal has been achieved, and (4) take action to achieve your goal.

It was Saint Matthew who said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7.

The key words in Saint Matthew’s statement are ask, seek, and knock. That’s what children do. They ask, seek, and knock — energetically, enthusiastically, aggressively, tirelessly, and relentlessly.

Do you desire happiness? Of course you do. But true happiness requires a willingness to establish and achieve the goals that are necessary for happiness to occur.

So what’s the easiest way to set new goals for the year? I use a process that I learned from John Carlton, a well-known marketing expert and business coach. Carlton recommends that every January, you write a letter to yourself that is dated one year ahead, and reflects back on the previous year (the current year).

If you write your letter on January 31, 2017, the date of the letter should be January 31, 2018. In your letter, you need to describe how your life is going to be on January 31, 2018. If your goal is to lose weight during the year, you describe the amount of weight you lost during 2017, the food you ate, and the other things you had to do to lose the weight.

If you have a goal to make more money, you describe everything you did to increase your income and how much you made during 2017. If you want to enhance your relationships with the people you love, you describe what you did to accomplish that goal.

You should include goals for each important area of your life, which would normally include your physical, financial, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being.

It’s important to see yourself as achieving goals that are almost out of your reach. You don’t want your goals to be impossible, but you do want to have to work hard to achieve them. That’s what children do. They set goals that appear to be out of reach, but are achievable if they really work at accomplishing them.

Writing a letter that is dated one year from now forces you to look into the future and dream about what your life could be like. Most people are terrified of the future and avoid thinking about it. Children don’t fear the future. They dream big and then go after their dreams with a vengeance.

We’re already halfway through January 2017. It won’t be long until we’re into March. Now’s the time to dream about what you can accomplish in 2017. It doesn’t matter whether you’re 9 or 99 years old. God still expects you to set some new goals and improve yourself this year.

Are you going to write that letter? If you don’t, there’s a good chance you’ll waste the year by watching TV, fiddling around on your computer, reading about events you should be ignoring, worrying about what other people think about you, and gossiping about and judging others.

What’s your life going to be like a year from now?

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2 Responses to “A Roadmap to Happiness”

  1. Sister Roberta Houlihan, CSJ Says:


  2. Daniel Smith Says:

    Good practical advice. Daily, pray the rosary meditations, too. They take us out of our worries and troubles. Happiness is one of the goals which follows.

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