This article is a follow-up to my previous article "The Five Habits of Happy People."
Happy people have at least three things in common: a sense self-worth, selflessness and sure direction.
Sense of self-worth
Happy people are comfortable in their own skin. They do not allow the petty contentions, jealousies and criticism of others to move them to anger or to shift their moral center. They are strong without arrogance and self-assured without pomp.
For Christians, knowing we are literal sons and daughters of God should give us great hope and a sense of awesome self-worth. After all, since we are God’s children and he loves us, our value is priceless and our potential eternal. God created his "plan of happiness" (Alma 42:8) so that we might learn, grow, be happy and return to him.
A friend of mine has spent his life serving God and others. He genuinely thinks of pleasing others first and serving himself last. He rejoices in the success of others while empathizing with their sorrows and helping to shoulder their burdens. When I asked him his secret to happiness, he simply paraphrased a Book of Mormon prophet by saying, "I choose to live ‘after the manner of happiness’ ” (2 Nephi 5:27).
In other words, serving others is a choice. Selfishness is also a choice, but a choice of empty acquisitions.
Happy people have a sense of sure purpose. They know where they’re going and why. Though life may detour our "best laid plans," happy people never allow those detours to derail their character.
Some folks feel they can’t change direction so they choose a directionless life. Others are certain they can impact the here and now as well as their direction and destiny.
Two stanzas from the Don McLean song "Crossroads" illustrate this dichotomy:
You know I’ve heard about people like me,
But I never made the connection.
They walk one road to set them free
And find they’ve gone the wrong direction.
But there’s no need for turning back
’cause all roads lead to where I stand.
And I believe I’ll walk them all
No matter what I may have planned.
Perhaps there’s some truth to the notion that "all roads lead to where I stand," but religiously, it is untrue that any choice we make leads to the same place.
Our direction matters, as noted by a Book of Mormon prophet who taught that mankind is "free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil" (2 Nephi 2:27).
Things always look better in the sunshine than in the shadows. Happy people are optimistic about the road to their potential. They prefer the sunshine.
Maybe the optimistic road is laced with a few potholes, but at least the journey brings discovery, challenge and lessons to be learned along the way.
For Christians, optimism stems from faith. Faith is not only a principle of action but a principle of power. Faith in God leads one to repent and change and grow. If we nourish that faith it can "take root; and behold it shall be a tree springing up unto everlasting life" (Alma 32:41).
Faith is a testament to a sure direction — a journey of growth leading away from the detour of self-pleasing. The selfless road allows a full measure of self-worth because as we lift fellow travelers who have lost their way, their rescue is the surest roadmap to our own happiness.
William Monahan is a 1980 graduate of BYU Law School. He practices law and teaches law and ethics. A former Phoenix stake president and current high councilor for the QC Chandler Heights Stake, he is active in Interfaith and a U.S. Air Force veteran.
Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company