Harvey Mackay Academy's Blog

Happiness Is A State Of Mind

A group of 50 people was attending a seminar.  For a group activity, the leader gave each attendee one balloon and asked each person to blow it up and write his or her name on it with a marker pen.  He collected all the balloons and put them in another room.

Then the attendees were led into that room and asked to find the balloon with their name written on it within five minutes.  Everyone was frantically searching for their name, colliding with each other.  There was utter chaos.

At the end of the five minutes, only a couple people had found their own balloon.  Now the leader asked each one to randomly collect a balloon and give it to the person whose name was written on it.  Within minutes everyone had their own balloon.

The leader said, “Everyone is frantically looking for happiness all around, not knowing where it is.  Our happiness lies in the happiness of other people.  Give them their happiness and you will get your own happiness.”

This story, from the publication “Bits & Pieces,” illustrates that we generate more happiness by working together and helping each other.

“Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” is an often-quoted phrase in the United States Declaration of Independence written by Thomas Jefferson. But Jefferson avoided defining happiness, choosing to leave it to the individual to determine his or her own meaning of the word. 

Benjamin Franklin, one of our nation’s founders, was concluding a moving speech when a heckler shouted out, “Aw, those words don’t mean anything.  Where’s all the happiness you say it guarantees us?”

Franklin smiled and calmly silenced his critic.  “My friend, the Constitution only guarantees the American people the right to pursue happiness; you have to catch it yourself.”

To that I say happiness is like your shadow.  Run after it and you will never catch it, but keep your face to the sun and it will follow you.

“A happy person is not a person in a certain set of circumstances, but rather a person with a certain set of attitudes,” said the late Hugh Downs, whose television career spanned half a century including years as cohost of “The Today Show” and “20/20.” I suspect his thousands of interviews gave him a unique perspective on life and happiness. 

The pursuit of happiness is mankind’s favorite sport.  Happiness is in the here and now, not in the somedays.  Decide to be happy now.  Only when you make a deposit into life will you reap the reward of life.  You will reap the quality of life in proportion to the quality in which you plant.

I’m a firm believer in the adage, “a truly happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery while on a detour.”  These days, given current events and uncertainty, just getting through the day can feel like an enormous task. Happiness seems elusive when you don’t know what the coming days will bring.  But that’s the point at which attitude is everything. 

Helen Keller offered this observation:  “When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.” 

Happiness is subjective.  What makes one person happy – reading, exercising or bird-watching – may make another person decidedly unhappy.

An Indian fable acquaints us with a mouse that, like all mice, was afraid of cats.  A local wizard empathized with him and offered to help the mouse dispel his fear.  So with the mouse’s blessing, the wizard turned him into a cat.  The cat, however, was afraid of dogs.  So the wizard did his thing and turned the cat into a dog.  Afraid of tigers, the dog was soon turned into a tiger. 

The wizard discovered the tiger was afraid of big-game hunters and exclaimed in disgust, “You’re hopeless!  What you need is a change of heart.  And that I cannot give you.”

If we want to be happy, a change of heart might be required.  As Japanese philosopher and poet Daisaku Ikeda put it:  “Genuine happiness can only be achieved when we transform our way of life from the unthinking pursuit of pleasure to one committed to enriching our inner lives, when we focus on ‘being more’ rather than simply having more.”

Mackay’s Moral:  The happiness of your life depends on the quality of your thoughts.

About the Author Harvey Mackay, Founder & CEO

Seven-time, New York Times best-selling author of "Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive," with two books among the top 15 inspirational business books of all time, according to the New York Times. He is one of America’s most popular and entertaining business speakers, and currently serves as Chairman at the MackayMitchell Envelope Company, one of the nation’s major envelope manufacturers, producing 25 million envelopes a day.

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