Finding the Diet Coke in Your Fridge

The Secret to Happiness and a Life of True Gratitude

I need to be happy. If I had a nickel for every time someone said to me “Well, I had to change this because I just wasn’t happy”, I’d be rich. This phrase has become a daily statement that I think is actually a bunch of garbage. In fact, our society has created a culture that holds happiness to an unrealistic standard that has left many people unhappier than they have ever been. Our suicide rates across the board are higher than they have ever been in a culture that claims to be the “happiest”. The more we have, the easier our life becomes, the unhappier we are. It is a dangerous slippery slope that I’d like to challenge all of you to think about.

We believe outside things make us happy. I’m a genuinely happy person. In the fake world of social media, people would look at my life and say “yeah it’s easy for her to be happy with all she has”. You would be right, I’m extremely fortunate for everything I have and don’t think for one minute I don’t know it. I am also painfully aware it can be gone in a heartbeat. I would challenge this a bit though. Behind the scenes, I work EXTREMELY hard for my happiness. I also believe, it has very little to do with the things I have. Yes, I’m fortunate to have a job I love, a husband who adores me, a roof over my head, and two beautiful happy, healthy kids. I haven’t ALWAYS had that. I’ve struggled with health issues for the past 8 years, I was separated, and was almost divorced 10 years ago, my husband and I were extremely irresponsible and almost lost everything, not to mention disappointing many people who love us. Guess what? Even with all that going on, I remained happy. It doesn’t mean I was without struggle, or extremely tired and anxious at times. My happiness remained constant throughout. Why is that? I will share with you what I believe to be the true secret to happiness and a life of true gratitude, in any circumstances.

  1. I believe in God. I pray to God. I trust God. This does not mean I expect God to rescue me from poor decisions. I believe God is the guiding force in my decisions. When I choose to follow the principles I believe he has taught me, I am blessed. Too many people make poor decisions and say “I trust God will make it work out”. He will, it just may not come in a happy pretty package that you expect. It may come in a painful life experience that he wants you to learn from.
  2. I accept I will make mistakes, I also try not to make them, and I take responsibility for them when they happen. I try my hardest to learn from them. My goal in life is to make new mistakes and not repeat the old ones. Knowing I’m a broken person and cannot be perfect, has changed my life. Also, making mistakes and having people in my life love me anyway, has made me far more compassionate to others. We all make them; quit trying to be so damn perfect. It’s not a thing. Find people that love you anyway. This is not a license to be a jackass and do what you want. Notice I said I TRY not to make them.
  3. Forgiveness. I’m incredibly quick to forgive people. In fact, many people see this as a weakness in me and have told me that. I see it as a huge strength. Forgiveness has made it very easy for me to not hold on to resentment. Resentment is a relationship killer. We all need relationships to be happy and all good relationships come with conflict. Without forgiveness, it’s hard to progress to a deeper more meaningful relationship. Be quick to forgive and know that you will need it to at some point.
  4. Intentions. This is a big one. Always assume positive intent. This is extremely hard to do, but it was a game-changer in my life. I even go as far as to assume when people are mean or judgmental and lash out that it’s a result of pain in their lives. Who cares if it’s accurate? I assume they are in pain. It’s not an excuse to act mean ever, but by assuming it doesn’t have to do with me, I can control my reaction better. I feel bad for them instead of being angry. Anger hurts me more than the person I’m angry at. Hurt people, hurt people. I repeat that often and move on.
  5. Expectations. Quit them. Stop expecting things from others without communication. I see this all the time. People expect their friends and family members to read their minds. It is a losing battle. Communicate your needs clearly, patiently, and kindly. Be gracious about what you expect from others. Other people don’t make you happy. You make yourself happy. Ask when you need something. Quit assuming people know what you need. Also, stop assuming people will make you happy. They won’t and will fail every time. It’s not fair for you to ask them to.
  6. Stop making yourself so darn important. Everyone is selfish and that is not necessarily a bad thing. Yet, when you assume (there’s that nasty word again) that everything has to do with you, you are wrong. Most people project things they are struggling with themselves. It has zero to do with you. Choose not to be offended by things. It is extremely hard to offend me. In fact, this is my secret life hack. Everyone has a different value system based on many life factors you don’t know about. Yours is not better than others, it’s just different. Often I will initially get mad, and then remind myself that that person has a different value system than I do. Making my value system better than someone else’s is pretty self-righteous and judgmental. That is not my job. My job is to love others without expectations and be kind regardless of the value system. Again, it doesn’t mean I allow myself to be treated poorly, but I separate myself from the situation without judgment. This allows me to control my reactions. Here is the thing about not allowing other people’s value systems to control your reaction. If you know you react based on your character in any situation, you can lay your head down at night with a clear conscience, knowing you had the best intentions no matter what others think.
  7. Go to a counselor. Stop being afraid of admitting you need help. Let’s face it we are all screwed up. We can all do better and learn more. Counselors can help you navigate through things. They can be an unbiased person to help you learn to communicate better with others. They can also help you learn what is truly important to you. This will help you determine your value system.
  8. Gratitude. Get excited about the little things. I love Diet Coke. But it does not love me. In fact, I try to avoid it most of the time. Occasionally my husband will buy me one and put it in the fridge for dinner without telling me. My entire family laughs at me when I open the fridge and first see. I jump up and down and smile ear to ear. It’s a really special present for me. I feel this way often. Even on my worst days, I can find so many little things like sunsets or pretty flowers even clean drinking water that I know much of the world doesn’t have. The ability to vote as a female, or choose what to wear or where to live. There is always something to make you smile. Instead of looking for bad things, start looking for the little good things. They add up quickly.
  9. Lookout. Know you will not always be happy and accept that. Some days and months are not happy. Life is like a rollercoaster. There are highs and lows. Too often people think they should be happy all the time so when they are in a low they jump off the roller coaster and start riding a new one. Sometimes staying the course and riding the low will actually bring you more joy. It’s pretty rewarding on the other side when you work hard to fix a low and get to the next high. Appreciate the high and ride out the low. Also, when on a high, enjoy it. Too many people don’t appreciate the high because they are so worried about the next low. During a low treat yourself with kindness and love. Beating yourself up never helps anyone.
  10. Stop caring what others think of you. Not everyone will like you. That’s OK! In fact, I’ve found the more successful my business gets the more haters I have. Again, I assume it has zero to do with me. If you are going to stand for anything in life, people just won’t like you. Here’s the good news. There are so many people out there, and if you find true happiness you will attract other happy people. Does it mean it doesn’t hurt my feelings? No, it does. But, honestly, I’ve learned to give it less energy. You only have a certain amount of energy in your daily life, when you save that energy for the people and things that bring joy to your life, and less on the people and things that don’t, your overall happiness increases. So be like a duck…….let that water runoff your back and paddle on.
  11. Stop complaining. Complaining is dangerous. I find when I start complaining it’s easy to get into a very dark hole. Climbing out of that hole can be difficult. The good thing about complaints is that they can solicit change. If you find yourself complaining about the same things over and over it’s time to evaluate your circumstances. This doesn’t always mean jump ship. It can also mean change attitude and find the good in a bad situation. If you can’t find anything good in a situation then that’s a good time to change it. Often, an attitude change and different viewpoints can help you climb out of the hole so you can see the situation more clearly.

Do I know everything? No. Have I learned a lot? Yep. I’ve done a lot of dumb things. I’ve been very selfish at times in my life. I’ve lived away from my value system and my faith. I’ve lost friends because of it and had to apologize to others often. I’m not perfect. I have had a lot of hard days. I also wouldn’t change anything. The dark times in my life have made me who I am, and I like myself. At the end of the day, that’s what it comes down to. Love yourself, be patient with others, and do and say things that are true to your character. Call it Karma, call it the universe, I call it good decisions. Make decisions that make you proud. Make decisions that help improve the relationships that mean the most to you. When you screw up, treat yourself like you would treat a friend and you will be happy.

It’s not about your latest PR, or vacation, or promotion, or new house. It’s about finding the Diet Coke in your fridge.

On Track

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