A few weeks ago I was substitute teaching in an elementary school. A bunch of second graders were in the gym and walking laps around the gym to warm up for exercise. I was sitting in a chair just watching the kids walk. There was not much for me to do at this point except to relax. So, I did.
Three little girls stopped right in front of me and one of them looked me in the eye and asked me, “Are you happy?” I laughed and said, “Well, yes I am!” She said, “Then keep doing what you are doing.” Wow, that was pretty deep coming from a child so young. She asked, “Do you know what I would have said if you told me you were not happy? I would have said then change what you are doing.”
I laughed again and thought “Out of the mouths of babes.” I don’t know where she heard that advice, but it is worth remembering. However, happiness is circumstantial and can come and go depending on the circumstances we face. What we should be seeking is joy. Joy and peace go hand in hand. When you are at peace you are joyful, and visa versa. You can have joy even in the middle of the storms of life because it is not dependent on what is going on around you.
A few lessons worth remembering out of this:
- Children sometimes have more wisdom than we give them credit for. Listen to them.
- If you are not a happy person, change what you are doing. To change what you are doing, you have to start with your attitude. A sour attitude will never produce happiness. Start by not whining about everything. Nobody likes being around a whiner, by the way.
- Seek to have joy and peace. Wrap them with faith, hope and love and you will fare well despite what life throws at you.
I was coaching an executive this week and I told him the story. He realized afterward that his attitude was pretty bad. It had caused him to have a broken relationship with his son because he was not “happy” with him. His son did not know what he was going to do with his life, and he was 19 years old. Wow, that was a revelation for me. I did not know what I was going to do with my life till I got half way through college. I know some people in their 30s that still don’t know what they want to do, so I think 19 is still on the good side of having time to figure out what you want to do with your life.
My observation to him was this: neither of them were happy. Something needed to change. You cannot change other people; you can only change yourself. Work on yourself and start looking for the positives in the other person instead of projecting on them what you would have done. They are not you. Allow them to be themselves. Quit assuming they are lazy just because they don’t know what to do with their lives yet. At 19 years old, the majority of people still have not figured out their purpose in life. You can help them identify what they are good at. Help them identify what they have a passion for, then help them pursue it. Praise them for what they do well. Catch them doing good instead of looking for what they have done wrong. Encourage them. Believe in them and they will likely bloom.
I advised him to ask his son what he could do to be a better father, and then just take what he told him without argument, without debate. After getting the feedback, all he had to do was say, “Thanks for the feedback.” He thanked me for the advice and said he was going to do that that very day. I hope he did, for his sake as well as for his son’s.
So, let me ask you, “Are you happy?” Now you know what to do.