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Insights: Happy Things
August 12, 2008

Happy Things

“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success... ”

- Albert Schweitzer

This week-end, my wife and I flew to Port Elizabeth to attend a simple ceremony in honour of my recently deceased mother.

Saturday was a wild day in the windy city. As we gathered on the beach at Schoenmakerskop, to scatter the ashes of Mum – and my Dad who died back in 2003 – I watched in fascination as huge waves crashed on the rocks, the dazzling white foamy water perfectly silhouetted against the charcoal grey clouds that had descended on the horizon.

The occasion, as you can imagine, was marked by a few tears of sadness at the loss of our matriarch – but, strange though it may sound, I believe the whole event brought much happiness to the gathered family.

My sister read a wonderful piece of inspirational writing that made the family smile in understanding and gratitude. Then, as the remains of Mum and Dad swirled around in the gail force winds and came to rest in the sea, rocks and shrubs surrounding us, I felt a sense of happiness, warmth and calmness that contrasted sharply with the local weather conditions.

My happiness derived partly from the beauty of the place that my mother had come to love so much during her years in PE, partly from the awe inspiring demonstration of nature’s power, and partly from the presence of loving family members, united in paying homage to the special people who had brought us into the world.

The occasion – and subsequent reflection on the life and times of my parents – is my inspiration for this week’s newsletter.

I know that for many, the state of happiness is a goal that remains frustratingly elusive. Yet, ironically, happiness is not a goal at all. It is right here now, all around us, just waiting for us to reach out and embrace it.

The problem, as I see it, is that we become conditioned by our environment to believe that the state of happiness is the product of – or dependent on – some other condition or event.

I’ll bet you’ve said or heard the following before:

  • “I’d be so happy if only I had more time to myself.”

  • “If only I could win the lotto – then I’d be really happy.”

  • “If I could just get my partner to understand me better, then I would feel so happy.”

  • “Once I’ve finished my studies, and get out of debt, then I’ll be happy.”

  • “My partner and I are going to have a baby as we know that’s going to bring us the happiness that we so badly want.”

  • “We won’t be happy until we move into a bigger house.”

  • “We’re leaving South Africa in search of a happier life.”

In my opinion, the search for happiness begins and ends with one’s recognition that it is what we are, not what we have.

The New Insights life coaching programme incorporates an exercise called ’50 things that make me happy’. The client is asked to write down fifty things, no matter how seemingly small, that make him or her happy.

And the purpose of the exercise is to demonstrate how easy it is to feel happy.

Let me celebrate the occasion of the past week-end by sharing with you fifty things that make me happy, in completely random order, in the sincere hope that it will encourage you to do the same.

  1. Watching our dogs at play
  2. A windless day
  3. Rainbows
  4. The smell of coffee brewing
  5. Smiles and laughter
  6. Watching the sea
  7. Seeing the sun come up or go down
  8. Eating biltong
  9. Watching my son play football
  10. A hot fire on a cold day
  11. Walking on the beach
  12. A fat juicy steak
  13. Enjoying a glass of good wine with my wife
  14. Mountains
  15. Blue sky
  16. My daughter’s sense of humour
  17. Watching our Persian cat pad through long grass
  18. Friendly shop assistants
  19. The vibrance of life in our local township
  20. Lying in the sun
  21. Family birthdays
  22. Watching rugby with a friend
  23. Writing Insights
  24. Talking with my coach
  25. Reading an inspiring book
  26. Fresh air
  27. Unusual cloud formations
  28. My wife’s perfume
  29. Talking with happy people
  30. Walking with my dog
  31. Helping my children with their homework
  32. The smell of newly laundered clothes
  33. A cold beer on a hot day
  34. Lying in bed listening to the sound of driving rain
  35. A braai with good company
  36. Swimming / exercising
  37. Good comedy
  38. Playing loud music (occasionally!)
  39. Mist in the valley
  40. Giving my family gifts
  41. Random acts of kindness
  42. Flying in an aeroplane
  43. A warm shower
  44. Being adventurous
  45. The smell of bacon and eggs cooking
  46. The sound of birds in the early morning
  47. Watching TV with my family
  48. Memories of my Mum and Dad
  49. Reading good news stories
  50. That first cup of coffee in the morning

I could go on and on. There is just so much to be happy about. The key is just to realize that and make a mental note of thinking about happy things before surrendering to the predominance of sad or unhappy things that the media – and others – like to bombard us with each day.

If you find yourself thinking: “I’ll only be happy when…” then stop yourself, look at your list of things that make you happy, reach out and grab the happiness that is all around you and... happy for who you are!

The New Insights life coach training programme is designed for people who are passionate about discovering their true happiness and developing to their full potential - then helping others do the same.

Call it the happy life if you like!

With warm regards


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