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What is happiness? That is for you to decide. For me, happiness is a state of mind. Itís a mindset free from fear, self-pity, and negative thinking. Itís a way of thinking that says, yes, the world is unfair, and often horrible things happen, but I can rise above it all and still enjoy life. In a nutshell, happiness is freedom.

In the book, ďThe Art of Happiness: A Handbook For LivingĒTenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama says, ď. . .the highest happiness is when one reaches the stage of Liberation, at which there is no more suffering. Thatís genuine, lasting happiness. True happiness relates more to the mind and heart.Ē

He continues by saying,

I believe that the very purpose of our life is to seek happiness. That is clear. Whether one believes in religion or not, whether one believes in this religion or that religion, we are all seeking something better in life. So, I think, the very motion of our life is toward happiness. . .

Happiness is energy. When you are in a state of happiness, you are energized. You are motivated to create, move, and develop. Happiness is purpose. Those who are truly happy know their lives count for something. They are creating their world Ė achieving their destiny. Whether their purpose is to write a book and share their joy with others, find a cure for cancer, teach, or train and mold their children to be the best they can be, happiness abounds.

Happiness is a choice. We may not be able to control all the things that happen to us or come into our lives, but we can choose to decide how we will respond to them. The events and people that affect our life are just facts. The emotion we attached to these facts are up to us to decide. We give them meaning.

Our choices have consequences Ė joy or misery Ė freedom or bondage. The more I research and develop as a person and expand my happiness potential, the more I am free from being chained to bitterness, hurt, and self pity. Freedom is such an exquisite feeling. I am still on my journey Ė I donít think it ever ends but itís a journey filled with wonder, hope, and joy.

I canít tell you what is going to develop your Happiness Potential. That is your journey. What I will tell you is that you have the power, the ability, and the responsibility to find it. I am going to give you ideas that can help you to find it in your life, but itís up to you to make the effort to see what works for you.

Everyone is born with a certain kind of character. Then, as he/she goes through life, events happen that can modify that character, either for the good or bad. Your life is shaped by heredity, environment and even more powerful, the choices you make.

Our bodies are made up of many chemicals which need to be in balance in order for us to function properly. Heredity, environment, and choices can affect this balance. How we choose to care for our body or manipulate our environment can also affect the balance and dramatically influence our overall view of the world.

Of all the things that shape our lives, choices have the greatest effect. We often do not realize we have made choices or that we even have options. We donít try to improve because we are under the false belief that things are the way they are, and we canít do anything about them. This inaction is a choice as well, and may be the worst choice of all.

We all have what I like to call Happiness Potential. Some people seem to have a more natural tendency to be happy than others, but we all have the potential for happiness. Sometimes it seems that some of us need to work at it harder than others. This is because on some level, we have agreed to believe lies about ourselves.

The purpose of this book is to share ideas, concepts, and practical strategies that can help you choose a better life, to find the truth about our magnificence. Much of what I share here can be backed by research. However, this is not my focus. Itís not as important to know why it works Ė just that it does if you let it.

These ideas may not be new. You may have heard them a million times before. Often it takes a number of times in the telling before you actually internalize ideas and make them your own. Thatís when the miracles start.

Why Should You Care About Happiness?

When you develop your Happiness Potential, you are excited and pumped each day, you have a sense of purpose and you enjoy what you do Ė you have learned how to deal with the nasty that life can throw at you. This is what it means to succeed.

Does this sound selfish? Actually, itís the most unselfish thing you can do. If fact, I think everyone should be self-centred, in a constructive way. If we concentrate on what makes us the most happy and healthy, our joy will overflow and touch others. You can then share this joy with others, who in turn can also share and spread the joy even more.

When people talk about happiness, they often refer to the people, the places, and the things that make them feel good. Or they think about pleasure. Though these things can be good, they are not the point of happiness. The kind of happiness I am talking about is not just a good feeling, but an overall mindset Ė a way of being.

Happiness is made up of three basic components: Awareness, Attitude, and Action.

Awareness: What do you think about yourself?

The first step is awareness. If you are not aware of the thoughts you are thinking, and of the options that are available to you, you cannot begin to figure out what action you need to take in order to change. If you donít know what the problem is, it is difficult to solve it.

Awareness is understanding the way you are thinking and viewing yourself as well as seeing how it affects the quality of your life. Do your thoughts enrich you, or are they destructive?

A dictionary definition of awareness is ďhaving or showing realization, perception, or knowledge; Awareness implies vigilance in observing or alertness in drawing inferences from what one experiences.Ē We need to be vigilant and learn to tune into our innermost being. We need to be able to gauge our mental state, and become crystal clear about the things that are causing us pain, and then decide what to do about them.

Iíve talked to people who say, ďThis is the way I am. I canít change.Ē They have already decided that they canít change, so they donít. They are not yet aware that they have options. Once a person is open to the reality that options exist, they start moving towards what is possible, even if it doesnít happen right away.

Our thoughts reveal what our attitude is about ourselves and our world. Being conscious of our thoughts help us determine what beliefs we need to modify in order to realize our happiness potential.

Attitude: What do you believe about yourself?

Happiness is a mindset Ė a way of thinking. What is your present state of mind, your attitude about you and your life? Once you are aware of your thoughts, you need to examine what your attitudes are. No great change can happen unless you are aware of your thoughts and have claimed that you are responsible for what you have chosen to believe.

Others may negatively affect your life, but only you can decide what the outcome will be. Taking responsibility does not mean you are taking blame, it just means that you are taking control of the outcome.

What are the attitudes we hold about ourselves and those around us? What do we need to change, embrace, enhance and celebrate? Having claimed responsibility, you need to look at all the attitudes you own.

Happiness comes from having a posi≠tive, constructive mindset. Filling your being with love, gratitude, appreciation, and courage will build a defence against the nasty of the world. Nasty will still get in, but with the proper attitude, you are better suited to defend yourself.

I find that many people say they canít change, when in reality, on some deep level, they just donít want to change. They have justified in their minds that their behaviour and attitudes are normal and unchangeable because they are either enjoying the negative pattern or because it just seems like too much work to change.

Itís like being stuck in the mud. It is hard to pull yourself out, but once you do, you are free. You can have a shower, wash off the dirt, and it feels good. So many people would rather be stuck in the mud of the negative than put in the effort to pull themselves out. I donít know about you, but a shower sure sounds good to me.

Our beliefs dictate what actions we allow ourselves to take. If we believe we can accomplish something, we will do it. Otherwise, we just wonít try. As Henry Ford once said, ďIf you think you can do a thing or think you canít do a thing, youíre right."

The wonderful thing is, that we have choice, and we can choose to change our attitudes about anything, as long as we make that choice and then take action to make it happen.

Action: What do you choose to do about your thoughts and beliefs?

The most important thing we need to become aware of is that we do have the ability to choose Ė we can choose to change our belief system. We can choose to change the way we react to negative situations.

We can choose to accept that there are some things in our lives that are beyond our control but at the same time understand that we always have options. Or we can choose to give up and drown in our pain.

Every one of us has issues, and it is important that we deal with them. Sometimes our greatest block to resolving issues is our own belief system. If we believe we cannot solve our own problems, there is no power on earth that will change how we see the problem. Only you can decide to make the changes you need in order to break through. You do have a choice. Choose to be happy, and then find the tools to make it happen. It is in your hands. Building happiness Ė reaching toward your personal Happiness Potential Ė should be one of your primary goals.

Some of you may remember the old commercial saying ďDonít wait till spring, do it now!Ē That is what proactivity is all about. Dr. Dan Baker, author of the book What Happy People Know, says ďHappy people participate in their own des≠tinies and forge their own happiness. They donít wait for events or other people to make them happy. Theyíre not passive victims.Ē

Once you are aware of what your attitudes are, take action! There are three types of action you can take. First, you can develop positive characteristics, such as love, gratitude, and generosity. Second, you can minimize your misery by no longer doing the things that cause you pain, such as holding a grudge, feeling sorry for yourself, or complaining. And last, you can take the kinds of action that will enhance good health, both physically and mentally, such as eating right, exercising and mediation.

The World Needs More Happy People

My happiness is very important to me. That is why I decided to make the pursuit of happiness one of my highest priorities. My goal is not only to make sure I have the best possible life, but also that I take what I have learned and share it with others. The more truly happy people there are, the better the world becomes.

When I was depressed, I started to examine myself to become aware of what was happening and figure out a solution. I have a number of theories as to why it happened. I believe it was partly due to a chemical imbalance in my body. Also, I became aware of the many negative and self-absorbing attitudes I had learned and accepted. I also had some very negative outside situations that were beyond my control. I took action. I made it my purpose and passion to research and find practical ways to improve my level of happiness and to share it with everyone.

Even if you consider that your life is pretty good, there is always room for improvement. The universe is a large place, and from what we hear, itís getting even bigger by the second. Happiness is like the universe. There is always room to grow and improve. It seems to me to be limitless.

The happier we are, the more we spread happiness to others, who in turn spread it even more. It is like a giant Happiness Network. If our happiness was a primary goal in our life, and we in turn shared it with those around us, the world would be a better place.

I like things to be simple, with step-by-step instructions. I like learning by going through steps and following a logical series of ideas or events. Knowing this, I started to collect and develop strategies that have helped me in my journey Ė practical concepts and ideas that if incorporated, can transform your life. There is nothing scientific about these strategies, although, as I mentioned before, there is a lot of scientific evidence to support them. They come from insight, experience, and practice.

Often life, well, sucks. There is no guarantee that we will have a full, rich, and happy life. There are often hardships and trials. However, if we can acquire tools that can make us aware of our state of mind and our options as well as empower our attitude, and then take the appropriate actions to propel ourselves towards becoming the best we can be, we will be well on our way to being a happier, healthier individuals. The Strategies for Happiness described in this book are among such tools.

The purpose of this book is not to fix you. I canít do that, nor would I even dare to try. The purpose is to help you realize that you have the right, the responsibility, and the tools to fix your life for yourself. I want you to become aware of your own situation, for good or bad so that you may make choices that can change your life.

My goal is to provide you with many different ideas allowing you to take action, thus increase your happiness potential. Some may work better than others, but I am sure there is something in this bag of tricks that will change your life. I want to make you think, to take responsibility and control for your life, to say ďHey, hereís something that may be useful to me,Ēand then to go and try it. I want you to live life on your own terms.

We are all individuals and need to find our own way. Each of the over six billion people on the face of this earth have their own idea of what happiness is. That means you need to find out what works for you, and not be manipulated by other people and their ideas. It is important for you to be aware of your feelings. Donít be afraid of them or ignore them, nor should you allow them to control you. When dealing with negative feelings, you need to be fully aware of the problem in order to handle it properly. If you donít face it fully, itís difficult to make the necessary decisions and take the actions giving you the power to overcome.

Action is always better than inaction. With action, you will at least be moving toward something. Donít worry about making a mistake. The beauty about taking action is that you always have the option to evaluate the results and redirect when needed.

Mistakes often end up being blessings in disguise. Another great line by Henry Ford is, ďEven a mistake may turn out to be the one thing necessary to a worthwhile achievement.Ē When you are driving down the road, you are constantly correcting yourself. If you didnít, you would soon drive into the ditch. Take action, correct your direction, adjusting your course as necessary and arrive somewhere. Otherwise, you will get nowhere very fast.

There have been times where I just didnít feel like doing any≠thing; I just didnít want to move. It was easier to wallow in my pain than to get moving. I was scared to do something because I didnít think I could do it well enough to achieve anything of value.

For example, I wanted to become a professional speaker in the Personal Development field. Itís not just that I wanted to become a speaker, but I sincerely wanted to do something that was going to be of value to others and make their lives better. I wanted to do that through workshops, presentations, writing, and any other way I could find that would promote this purpose. In the past, I was concerned that I didnít have anything to offer. I believed that I didnít have the training or experience that many would consider necessary.

Then I realized that the way I should look at it was to do it just for fun Ė just for the joy of doing it. I decided to do it for the pleasure of it and not to worry about whether I was going to be a success in the eyes of the world. I would do things that I enjoyed and that I felt were going to be beneficial to me and those around me. This change in my thinking has given me such freedom.

Now I am doing whatever it takes to that end. I am not going to let fear keep me from my goal. No matter what happens on this journey, I have had a lot of fun and met a lot of great people. Most importantly, Iíve learned a lot about myself.

All the research I have been doing has transformed my life. With all that I am learning and teaching, I am filled with much gratitude and joy. Iím learning not to worry when I fall on my face, and when things happen that tick me off. Sometimes I forget and let myself get uptight about some of the negative things in my life. The reality is, nasty does happen, no matter how much you work at it, and no matter how much you try to develop yourself as a person. As a happiness specialist, I still fall on my face once in a while and fail in the areas in which I am trying to succeed.

Some people say that failure is simply not succeeding, or that you only truly fail when you give up trying. I donít agree with this definition. There are times when you will not succeed in attaining what you set out to do. You find out it does not meet your expectations or do much to enhance your life. At that point, it is wise to let it go. This is not failure. This is learning and experiencing.

The Secret to Happiness is. . . Love Yourself

The number one secret to happiness is to love yourself, fully, without reservation. If thereís only one thing this book does for you, I hope itís that you come to a clear and full realization of the following fact: your level of happiness is in direct proportion to how happy you are with yourself. Consider the ideas I share and make it happen.

If you are not happy with yourself, you will never be happy with anything or anyone else in your life. If you are experiencing any measure of un-happiness, itís probably because you have not totally embraced the wonder of who you are.

Jesus said to love your neighbour as yourself. If you cannot love yourself, you will not be able to truly love your neighbour in any meaningful way. Do whatever it takes to love yourself, to get over the pain and anger you store in your body. Work through the anger, the wrongs, the guilt, and the misconceptions. Forgive your≠self. If you learn to love yourself in a real, authentic, and healthy way, you cannot fail in finding true happiness.

Not only will it ensure you a rich, full and satisfying life, but you will be in the best position possible for reaching out and helping others share your joy. If you live in a place of inner peace and harmony, you are in the best situation to make the best decisions and choices to achieve the best possible life.

Does this mean you will never feel pain, nor be upset or angry again? Probably not. However, the more you fall in love with yourself in a healthy and affirming way, the better equipped you will be to weather the storms that are sure to come your way.

I donít have all the answers; I never will. It doesnít matter if you or I know everything, as long as we become aware of the possibilities and make an effort to achieve them. Take that challenge, pursue your authentic happiness, make it a driving force in your life, and spread it out to all around you, thereby making the world a better place. I hope you find the freedom.

My life has been an education in learning to appreciate me. I have come a long way, and I donít know if I will ever 100% accept and love myself the way I would like to. Just because I am not perfect doesnít mean I should give up working to be the best I can be. I am still way ahead of where I was and excited about the possibilities of the future. Iím going places. Youíre welcome to join me.

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