There is a fable about a little girl who was feeling particularly lonely and blue when she happened across a gorgeous butterfly trapped in the thorns of a blackberry bush.  Taking great care not to tear its fragile wings, the girl’s nimble fingers finally worked the insect free, whereupon, instead of fluttering away, it turned into a golden fairy who offered to grant any wish.

“I want to be happy!” the little girl cried.

The fairy smiled, leaned forward, whispered something in her ear and vanished.  And from that day forward there was no more happy spirit in the land than that child, who grew into a merry woman and a contented old lady.  On her deathbed, her neighbors crowded around, desperate that the secret of happiness not die with her.

“Tell us, please tell us, what the fairy said to you,” they pleaded.

The neighbor smiled benevolently, and whispered, “She told me that everyone – no matter how rich or secure or self-contained or successful they might appear – had need of me.”

How true!  Everyone needs to be needed.  It brings tremendous satisfaction to know that you have such a vital purpose in life, one that surely contributes to your happiness and contentment.

HarveySmileI’ve learned over the years that happiness comes from making other people happy.   Successful people, as well as successful businesses, take great joy in finding ways to spread happiness.  Why is Disneyland the “happiest place on earth”?   Is it any wonder that one of the biggest songs of the year is Pharrell Williams’ “Happy”?  How many Happy Meals do you think McDonald’s sells?   Have you ever attended a happy hour at your favorite watering hole?

Businesses that are clued in to what customers want find ways to incorporate “happy” into the sale.  A new car doesn’t drive any better because the dealership was decked out in balloons and offered free hot dogs.  But a happy experience beats an ordinary one most days.

Following that line of thought, it turns out that the conventional wisdom is wrong:  It is possible to buy happiness – when you spend your money on others.  Researchers at the University of British Columbia and Harvard University found that people who buy gifts for others and make charitable donations report being happier than people who spend their money primarily on themselves.  The scientists studied 630 Americans and asked them to rate their general happiness, their annual income, and their monthly spending – including bills, gifts for themselves, gifts for others and charitable contributions.

And again, it illustrates the point that knowing that others have need of you brightens your outlook.

Even our nation’s Declaration of Independence places a premium on happiness, stating that we are “bestowed with certain unalienable rights, which among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  Thomas Jefferson and company left it up to us to figure out how to pursue happiness, but I have some thoughts for you.  Here’s my prescription for happiness.  Use it regularly and you will see wonderful results.

  1. Don’t let little things bother you.  There is always something better to think about.
  2. Keep your perspective.  Put first things first and stay the course.
  3. Only worry about what you can control.  If you cannot do anything about a situation, worrying won’t make it – or you – better.
  4. Do your best, but understand that you can’t always be a perfectionist.  Don’t condemn yourself or others for not achieving perfection.
  5. When you are right, be gracious.  When wrong, be even more gracious.
  6. Trust or believe people whenever you can, and when that isn’t possible, accept them at their worst and weakest.  You can keep your convictions without destroying others.
  7. Don’t compare yourself to others, which is the guarantee of instant misery.  People are different for many reasons.
  8. Brush away the chip on your shoulder so that when something happens to you that you don’t like, you can take the high road.
  9. Give of yourself wholeheartedly or enthusiastically.  When you have nothing left to give, someone will return the favor.
  10. Make happiness the aim of your life instead of bracing for life’s barbs.
  11. Remember, you are responsible for your own happiness.  Others can do kind things for you, but you must be open to being happy.  But don’t let that stop you from trying to make others happy!

Mackay’s Moral:  You are only as happy as you decide to be.

About the author Harvey Mackay

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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