“Heck!” That was my first reaction when my wife knocked over the bottle of vinegar, which exploded into a million shards in the kitchen. We all stared aghast at the growing stain on our white floor, twinkling with sparkles of glass around our bare feet. What we would do next to avoid visits to the emergency room, clean up the mess would bring us closer together. But, in those first moments at the start of an unexpected event at the end of a long day, our reaction was, “Heck! Why did this have to happen now?”

In a thoughtful blog entry, Christopher Cozzi (A Heroic Stoic) asks, What If Things Are Great? He points out:

Today though, I ponder how I should handle those events that are generally considered good. What if things are going great in your opinion? Most of the time, things aren’t so bad. Truth be told, a lot of the time things are actually going pretty good for me. Sometimes, things are absolutely fantastic! During these times, shouldn’t I remember that it is my impressions of those things external that make them good or bad? Well, of course!  But why?

When I reflect on perspectives like this one, it’s easy to remember that quote from my 6th grade classroom – Attitude is the Mind’s paintbrush…it can color any situation. Of course, our attitude determines whether that which we encounter will profit us, or not. How we interpret what happens to us can have a significant impact. One could easily argue that something is evil or bad.When I first studied to be a teacher, I remember a sermon I listened to. The presenter encouraged us to consider what story would we tell ourselves, one of success and triumph or failure and despair. “Punch your own clock,” he said to us. The message came through loud and clear–each person determines the value of the ideas and things that happen around, and/or to, them.

Christopher Cozzi also reminds us to be mindful of impressions, to relish what actually happens:

For me, mindfulness of the transitory, impermanent nature of things, and remembering that I too shall die, brings great appreciation of the present moment…especially when things are going well. Being mindful of my impressions helps me relish the blessings I have in the moment. All that happens, good and bad, shall happen as is destined and inevitable. So, when fortune goes my way, I appreciate it all the more, and with perspective.  This is a special kind of happiness. 

When something happens, I try to remember to be grateful for it. In time, I know that habit will become automatic. This is one of the most important lessons learned early on but it’s taken years and, as the broken bottle of vinegar shows, I still have much to learn.

The Secret to Happiness

Once upon a time, a man stood crying alone on the rooftop of his house. He was unhappy, and he cried out, “I just want to be happy.” An angel appeared to him, and offered to grant him 3 wishes over the course of his life. “Grant my wish, angel!” the man begged. 

He was mourning the fact that the roof he stood upon was of a house he did not own, that his creditors beat upon his door and his wife lived in fear of furniture and vehicles being seized. The first wish the man asked for was wealth.  

For a time, he was happy but then his wife fell ill and no amount of money could save her. As he wept again at her plight, the angel appeared again and offered to grant him a wish. The man wished for health, but in spite of his health and family’s being improved, over time, he realized that this did not make him happy.

He reflected long and hard on this, even writing a few blog entries, sending out a few tweets, and checking with his PLN. 

Finally, one night as he suffered weariness of spirit in spite of riches, family, and perfect health, the angel appeared to him to grant his final wish, present at his unbidden request. “Angel,” the old man asked, “grant me my wish…teach me to be grateful for all that has happened and will happen in my life.” The angel made it so. 

At last, the man achieved happiness.


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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

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