Children don’t seem to have to strive to be happy.
When I was a little girl, I used to keep a notebook with positive quotes, songs I liked, poetry, romantic sayings, drawings, and even beauty tips!
Amidst my troubled childhood, I found that reading personal development books at the library, copying down the inspirational quotes I read on my typing assignments, and imagining the life I wanted (no matter how unreasonable, unrealistic, and unattainable they might have seemed) helped me escape my defeated and depressive thoughts.
There was a particular poem that I copied on the back of every single one of my notebooks.
The invitation at the end: “Esfuérzate por ser feliz” (strive to be happy) taught me that happiness is something that requires effort and effort is something I knew I could “do.”
Desiderata is the plural word for desideratum. It means “things that are needed or wanted.”
This poem, copyrighted on 1927 to Max Ehrmann and published in 1948, after his death, by his wife within a compilation of works called Desiderata of Happiness.
I would read Desiderata almost everyday and think to myself: “Tienes derecho a existir” (you have a right to be here).
The simple, yet profound wisdom and truth found in Desiderata helped me get through some tough times, so I want to share it with you today – in English, of course!
Go PLACIDLY amid the noise and the haste, and remember what PEACE there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender BE ON GOOD TERMS with all persons.
Speak your truth QUIETLY and CLEARLY; and LISTEN to others, even to the dull and the ignorant, they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the SPIRIT.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter; for ALWAYS there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
ENJOY your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is A REAL POSSESSION in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise CAUTION in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery.
But let not this blind you to what VIRTUE there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of HEROISM.
Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about LOVE; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.
Take KINDLY the counsel of the years, GRACEFULLY surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture STRENGTH OF SPIRIT to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a WHOLESOME discipline, BE GENTLE WITH YOURSELF.
You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; YOU HAVE A RIGHT TO BE HERE.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore, BE AT PEACE WITH GOD, whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations in the noisy confusion of life, KEEP PEACE IN YOUR SOUL.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams; it is still A BEAUTIFUL WORLD.
STRIVE TO BE HAPPY.
I am grateful that this poem was translated and made its way to me in the days that searching the Internet or even owning my own book were just a dream.
It was my first manifesto, a safe place I could always go to for encouragement, guidance, and assurance.
And so many years later, I’m still working on its golden advice and I’m still clinging to its truths.
I still have moments I don’t feel I have the right or even the desire to be here, I still struggle with being gentle with myself, and I’m still striving to be happy.
Happiness is an elusive, fleeting, and evanescent state. Expecting to “just BE happy,” is a dangerous and damaging pursuit.
Psychologists, philosophers, theologians, and even economists have been studying the science of happiness for decades (maybe centuries?) and they define it as a combination of satisfaction, positive emotions, and pleasant moods. Some assure it’s an overall sense of well-being.
There is more information on happiness than ever.
A Google search on the word “happiness” reveals 718,000,000 results and a search on Amazon books reveals over 50,000 books on the subject.
A new branch of psychology – positive psychology – is dedicated just to discover what makes us happy and how we can be happier.
But we’re not.
Especially in the USA.
The research today suggests that happiness requires effort… discomfort.
The good news about that is that some of our happiness is under our personal control and there are steps we can take to feel happier, from creating a more joyful environment around you to establishing a positive habits (like reading Desiderata daily for me) and participating in wholesome activities.
It’s the kind of happiness that makes others say “You’re always so happy,” or “You’re the happiest person I know,” and makes you wonder, “How would they know?”
The other side of that is that the beauty of happiness is not happiness itself but the process of pursuing it. And the process matters.
The nature of your pursuit will determine whether your happiness is shallow, empty, or downright boring. “Is that all there is?,” you may even start to wonder.
You can strive to be happy by following your own personal rules for life, your manifesto, your own list of “things desired,” but happiness will still elude you.
However, when you base your life on cardinal virtues and universal principles you will be pursuing a deeper sense of purpose, meaning, and belonging that you can hold on to when life doesn’t seem to be so happy, after all.
How do you strive to BE happy? Share your formula for lasting happiness with us below!
© Elayna Fernández ~ The Positive MOM
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