THINK ABOUT IT: happy for no reason

A few weeks ago, Shenneth, a MML reader, told me about a book she thought I and other MML people would like called Happy For No Reason, by Marci Shimoff. After glancing at the table of contents on Amazon, I promptly went to Half.com (a great site for cheap used books) and bought a copy for about $3.50. It came in the mail two weeks ago and I’ve been working through the chapters pretty quickly.

Though much of the content is similar to a lot of other intentional books (like my favorite, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People), there are a few gems throughout the text that I’m excited to share here in the THINK ABOUT IT series. The first fresh idea I came across is about how we as a society often try to accumulate happy experiences in order to create a happy life. If we can just get that next bag, apartment, house, puppy, job, smaller jean size, and boy then we will be happy. All of these happy events are like happy beads on our happy necklaces. If we have enough “happy beads” on our necklace than we have a happy life. But Marci points out that if you’ve watched any episodes of True Hollywood Story, this is not always the path to contentment. I’ve also recognized this reality during my desperate attempts to be perfect while in college, just before discovering the importance of making under.

But the brilliant point Marci shares is in the analogy’s conclusion. Rather than worrying about each new bead or event that comes onto our necklaces, we should focus on making the thread that is holding those beads, stronger. If we have a happy thread, then the good or bad events that come onto our necklaces have less of an impact on our overall sense of well-being. Sure, things can happen that can devastate, or delight us for a moment. But the longevity of our happiness is dependent ultimately on our threads, not our beads.

Though the message is essentially the same as Stephen Covey’s proactivity, I love the visual nature of the thread and beads. Jewelry designer or not, I can picture it in my head. And whenever I’m tempted to think a bunch of thoughts like,

  • I will be really unhappy if the re-branding doesn’t go well.
  • I’ll be so happy when I get a puppy.
  • I’m so bloated, I feel like I could float without treading water.

I ask myself, do I want to be dependent on events to be happy or sad at the end of my life? Hell no! I want to be a happy old woman who found a deep sense of peace regardless of what her life was like.

And that’s when I realize that I better start strengthening my thread today.

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  1. Emily

    what a great way to start my day! thanks Jess:)

  2. I’m happy you enjoyed the book : ) Being happy seems like such a simple concept but is something that isn’t always easy to achieve without effort.

    I’ll be sure to share any interesting books I come across in the future with you and the MML community.

  3. Jill

    That is such a great analogy… the older I get the more I realize that there will be “bad” things, challenges, and seemingly unsurmountable tasks/troubles. If you focus on these, you will never be “happy” no matter how many THINGS you have. I love the visualization of keeping your thread strong!

  4. I love this image! I read Stumbling Upon Happiness last year, and the message was quite similar. In the book, Dan Gilbert posits that humans are quite bad at predicting their future happiness for a whole host of reasons. I think you’d like it.

    I also got about halfway through The How of Happiness, which is when I realized that I’ve become a happier person because I unwittingly was following much of the advice.

    I highly recommend both books.

  5. “Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace and gratitude.”
    Denis Waitley

  6. Valerie

    Great post and points. I often think about wanting to be a happy old woman. I want to grow older, and wiser, and happier. Not older and bitter and depressed. And I think you’re right, the key to that is having some inner happiness not tied to circumstantial events.

  7. Clara

    Good post, Jess. I’ve been reading and thinking about some issues recently that are a complement to your point about the beads-and-threads. The first is something that I first read about in Eckhart Tolle’s “Stillness Speaks.” He points out that it’s not circumstances or conditions that bring us unhappiness or pain, but our THOUGHTS about those circumstances or conditions. It’s the story we tell ourselves about what it means when someone keeps us waiting or how we’re supposed to feel when that happens rather than the actual circumstance. For example, in that situation, one person might choose to get angry and stew about the unfairness of being kept waiting, the rudeness of the person who’s late, etc; while another might use it as an opportunity to write in her journal, or make the list she hasn’t had time to get to.

    The second point is something a friend said to me during a time when she was facing several difficult health and family challenges. She said that some people pray to God that bad things won’t happen to them. She said that she prays, instead, that God will give her the strength she needs to deal with whatever adversity comes her way. Her comment, and the wisdom of this approach, have stayed with me over the years, reminding me that it’s not what we encounter — good or bad — so much as how we deal with it.

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