07/14/2014 04:10 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Alphabet of Happiness: O

Randy Taran, author of the Project Happiness Handbook talks about the many ways to experience more happiness. Here are a few reminders from the letter "O" of how even a simple shift in perspective can cause a big change in how you experience your world.


A person experiences life as something separated from the rest - a kind of optical delusion of consciousness. Our task must be to free ourselves from this self-imposed prison, and through compassion to find the reality of Oneness." -- Albert Einstein

There is a giant colony of aspen trees, known as "Pando" that grows in Central Utah. It appears to be a huge forest of 40,000 individual trees, but though it stretches over 100 acres and weights nearly 13,000,000 lbs., scientists have classified this forest as a single living organism. How could that be? The 40,000 trees share one thing in common - they are all connected at the root system, which is estimated to be 80,000 years old. Technically this colony is considered to be one plant. Even if the surface looks separate, and most trees average 130 years old, all the trees are connected to one another by an ancient root system, which is invisible to the human eye.

We are also connected to one another in ways that we cannot see. Have you ever felt that someone you were meeting for the first time felt so familiar? Essentially we are made of the same stuff, and linked together in ways we may not imagine. Have you ever had moments when you felt connected to all that is? It could be watching a sunset, a lake, or the stars in the sky. What was that like? Even if you could not hold on to that feeling for a long time, recognize that even in those blinks of time, you were communing deeply with an energy that unites us all. You are part of something greater.

Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence. -- Helen Keller

Working on your optimism is a game-changer. Defined as "a tendency to look on the more favorable side of events or conditions and to expect the most favorable outcome," optimism can actually set the tone for our lives. Our attitudes and expectations (whether positive or negative) influence our experiences. Can you take on a "what if" attitude? What if it worked out well; what if the universe is conspiring to move you forward along your path; what if as you focus on the happy moments, more and more of them surround you? One thing for sure: an attitude of optimism energizes any effort and propels you forward.

That is not to say you should go through life with rose-colored glasses, always assuming things will be OK, and denying anything that messes with that picture. Being discerning is a real advantage. It honors your intuition and acts as a counterbalance for what some would call blind faith. One eight-decade study found that people who worried moderately, took better care of their health and lived longer. When a nagging feeling comes up, can you consider looking at it with eyes open? Ask yourself one question: is it true? Whether the answer is yes or no, direct your energy towards a favorable outcome. Lean into the positive, as your attitude affects not only how quickly you respond, but also how life shows up. Optimism + discernment is a powerful combination; use both to build the life you were born for.

The most valuable possession you can own is an open heart. -- Carlos Santana.

When people close themselves down to keep out the pain, they are also keeping out joy. By opening yourself to all the goodness that life can offer, you become more receptive to experiencing it. Yes, there is a sense of safety in the familiar; we know the drill, we know how others will react. Even if the situation is stifling, whether in a relationship or on the job, it's clear what to expect...and in a weird way that is comfortable, even if it does not support us. Here are two ways to improve the situation: the first is to dare to open up to a new perspective. Dig deep to find the positives in a situation. If you cannot change your job right now, try to change your attitude about it. Make a decision to deliberately shift your focus and notice how you are growing by doing so. The second path is to open up to something new. Though that can be scary, it also introduces you to untold possibilities. If you have had enough of "the way things are" and are ready to be pleasantly surprised by life, you will find the courage to explore new areas outside of your comfort zone. In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, "Do one thing every day that scares you." Open up, to what is around the corner, to the magic of synchronicity, and to adventures you may have never imagined.

What other "O"s remind you of happiness? How do you experience oneness? When did being open help you return to your heart?