A title like that deserves better writing than my faculties permit; however, what I am about to tell you has been the secret to my success personally, financially and emotionally.
Everyone wants to be happy. People pay, search, and strive for happiness. There is only one way to truly be happy. It requires no money, no new clothing, and no new friends, though you'll have no shortage of people that will like you when you apply the secret to life in your life.
Earlier this year, I had someone come to me and asked me the secret to life. My first inclination was to laugh, but after an almost uncomfortable pause I shared what I felt was the key to my happiness in my life. Disappointment soon washed over her when I shared what I believe.
I think that people expect a formula or something more complicated. It's simple but not easy. People want to have someone to look to, or a rule, something quantifiable, something scientific. But its not complicated or quantifiable. You can't measure a feeling, you can't see it or hear it. You can only feel it.
I truly believe that true happiness derives from doing things for others. It sounds dumb and a little preachy, but it's proven to be true for me.
Let me explain why: The best feeling, no matter how unhappy and tough you are, or at least think you are, is derived from helping others. Doing something nice for a child or a complete stranger often gives us the biggest high. Opening a door for a person you have never seen before, handing something to a small child that they can't reach on his or her own. These are the acts of kindness that give us the opportunity to realize our own humanity and our potential.
Realization of ourselves and our humanity is the key to empathy, which is essential if you want to truly be happy.
It's not about cars, money or houses. While these things are very convenient and can make us feel successful and secure, they will not create real lasting happiness. In fact, as crazy as it sounds, you will be happier longer by buying a car for someone else rather than your self. Sounds crazy? Try it. It doesn't have to be a car. It can be a candy bar. You will derive more happiness from buying a complete stranger a candy bar than you will for your self. Try it. I guarantee results.
Some people say there are two kinds of people in this world: "The haves and the have nots." While I think it's partly true, I think the proper rephrase is that there are two kinds of people in this world: the selfish and the selfless. You can divide the world in to givers and takers. You probably know both. Some people give till it hurts, and others take till there's nothing left, never passing along the kindness, always looking for more.
Some of these takers are very rich. There are a lot of rich jerks. Jerks don't even like jerks -- no one does. So if money doesn't equal happiness, then it's of no real consequence. Basic temporal needs can be met in practically any environment, especially if you live in the United States.
As a society we tend to victimize the poor and condemn the rich. Truth is there are plenty of both types in every tax bracket. So don't assume that a low wage or your old car makes you exempt. It doesn't.
So? Which are you? Are you a giver or a taker? No one likes to be thought of as a taker, but trust me, we all have it in us. Nothing is black and white.
A short story about two wolves. One wolf is greed, envy and selfishness; the other is charity, kindness and thoughtfulness. Both are hungry, only one can be the alpha, the victor is the wolf you feed the most. Be conscious of your inner wolves and remember that it's you that decides which one eats.
So why do we do what we do? Why do we chase? I have said it about money, and I have said it about relationships: Don't chase it and it will come to you. It will fall in your lap if your works are good. Don't chase happiness, it will show up when you learn to forget yourself. It's a hard thing to do, but its not impossible. It's a life-long journey, and it can change your life.
Mother Teresa died with only a bed, a chair and a table to her name, yet she was very happy. No one would call her a failure. She dedicated her life to others. She knew where real happiness comes from. Not everyone can make the sacrifices she did, but we can all live a life of service to others.
Here are three things you can do to apply the real secret of life today.
1. Stop thinking about yourself. It's important to eat, bathe and dress yourself, but at a certain point, the love affair needs to take a break. Look around, the world is full of people that not only could use your help, but desperately need it, and they need It now. Not everyone that needs help lives in a third world country or in a bad part of town.
We spend a lot of time thinking about ourselves these days. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are all great tools. The evolution of the daily "selfie" and the constant showing off wears on everyone, even the person showing off. Our culture is all about individuality and customization. These things are great, but you have to realize it's not all about you. If you recognize this in yourself, don't feel too bad -- it's a virus, and we all have it.
Good news. Like anything, you can retrain your brain and become the person you want to be. You can become the very best version of your self. Start now.
2. Place your needs after others. Have you ever stood in line at a supermarket with a drink or maybe just one or two items in your hand and you're stuck behind the lady with the shopping list from Noah's ark with two of everything in the store? Wouldn't it have been nice for her to let you pass? I think that sometimes, and I have to ask my self, when have I been that inconsiderate?
Most times we feel like if we aren't causing anyone harm that we are fine. Fine is fine, but hardly the word we'd like to have others use describe us at our funeral. Be unusual, be a doer of good things. You have the capacity to change lives. We all do, but we come up with reasons to not help others. We think "ya know, no one does me any favors, why should I do anything for anyone?" Or sometimes we don't even think about it. That the scariest conclusion that some of us make.
We are so used to anonymity that we don't feel obligated to even think about other people. Computers, cell phones and cars all remove the human element and can nurture our disinterest in our fellow man.
3. Do something. Helping others is like anything else: Thinking about it is only part of the process. If you need to plan to help others, do it. Specifically write it down, then do it.
We are all busy, but we all have time to watch TV, go to the mall and have lunch. Take five minutes out of your precious you time and do something with it. You don't have to spend any money or spend half of your day. It can be as simple as taking in the neighbor's garbage can from the street, or picking up their paper on their driveway and placing it on their front step. They might not even notice, or ever know it was you. All the better. The real reward from helping others is the sacrifice, not in the recognition.
When I was a boy my father took the trashcans in for the neighbors for years and not one of them ever thanked him for it. It wasn't till he and my mother moved a few years ago that someone noticed that something had changed. It didn't matter. He didn't do it for the credit. He did it for the sake of doing something good for someone else.
The life you lead is the life you leave. Think about the mark you leave on this earth: Is it a life worth reading about, or merely fine? Fine is fine, but when I die, I don't want people to have to make up nice things to say about me. I want to be remembered as a person who helped and a person who cared. More importantly I want to be happy now.
Live your life the way you want to be remembered. Your future starts now. The secret to life is you.
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