The magic keys to happiness

What to do when life gives you lemons

When you lose something, you gain something, too.

That may sound counter-intuitive, but the principle also applies to losing an ability and when you lose someone from your life. Let me explain, using the loss of a person as our example.

When someone leaves your life (she said, referring to a previous post), it's like the board-game called "Your Life" is re-set. There is a gaping hole left by whoever exited, which means there is room for one or more new players to join the game. Yes, it can hurt when someone leaves your life, especially if unexpectedly, and this brings us to the first magic key to happiness.

The first magic key to happiness is to not become bitter about what you lost.

"Bitterness imprisons life; love releases it."
― Harry Emerson Fosdick

It sounds simple. Thing is, it's very easy to become bitter, disenchanted, or even cynical about life, especially when the rug gets pulled out from under your feet. Or when life gives you sour lemons. But you know what they say to do with those lemons: make sweet lemonade. That means you need to make it a conscious choice to NOT fall into bitterness. How do you do that? By actively paying attention to your thoughts and words so that you can catch yourself when you go into bitter-mode.

Listen to the words that come out of your mouth. Watch how you respond to others. Do you radiate joy? Or do you project negativity outwards or absorb it from others?

The second magic key to happiness is to feel your emotions. Yes, all of them. That means both the good ones and the bad ones. And let's face it, who wants to feel pain? I sure didn't, and when I was young I used to stuff pain way down so I could avoid it. Don't do that. Why? Because that really messed me up for a long time. Not feeling the pain also meant I carried that anger and pain around with me, which was not a good thing. What I've learned over the years is that you must walk through the proverbial fire and feel all those emotions. Feeling anger and facing it head-on is how I freed myself from its shackles and became able to live in a state of joy.

"Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host.
But anger is like fire. It burns it all clean."
― Maya Angelou

If you don't feel the pain, I guarantee it will bite you in the backside down the road by coming out sideways ― whether in a relationship, your work, or your health. So you need to face the emotions and feel them fully. All of 'em. Let them wash over you (or run over you like a freight train) and then…after you've been lying flat on your face for a while, get up.

Get. Up.

If you're not yet ready to get up, you'll fall again. That's the bad news. The good news is that you won't have far to fall, and it will also be a soft landing. So make sure to use the time while you're at rock bottom to feel all those emotions rumbling around. And while you're down there, make a decision how you want your life to look. Think about how you would do things differently next time.

Once you finally start staggering to your feet again, you'll be left with a gaping wound. Wrapped around that wound, protecting it, is probably anger. A lot of anger.

Anger that the person left your life.
Anger for any unresolved situations with them.
Anger from being reminded that you are not 100% in control of what happens in your life.

Here’s another magic key to happiness: the wound can become a great source of strength for you. The operative word is can. You have to consciously choose to use the anger for some purpose.

Wield your anger. Make conscious use of it. Direct the anger into something constructive and for some greater good. Use your anger as the stimulus or motivation to change your life for the better. Just don't be swallowed up in anger or allow yourself to be consumed by it. Like I said, you have to wield it. You have to direct it -- because if you don't, it will lead you.

"Grief is in two parts. The first is loss. The second is the remaking of life."
― Anne Roiphe

The other thing the wound has given you is the gift of vulnerability. It's not easy to let one's walls down, so another magic key to happiness is to keep the walls down. Stay vulnerable. That said, know and protect your boundaries. Own them. 

This brings us to the last magic key to happiness: find a way to fall in love with life again. Yes, find the beauty in your life. Because remember, life is what you make it. When you celebrate life, your experience will be more goodness. Curse life and all you'll see are the challenges. (Read that post here.)

So yes, fall down...but get up again. And take those bitter lemons and find some sugar to make lemonade. Seek out the sunshine, rainbows, and unicorns. In short, make a conscious choice to be happy. Because happiness is a state of mind, and being happy is a choice.

“When we meet real tragedy in life, we can react in two ways - either by losing hope and falling into self-destructive habits, or by using the challenge to find our inner strength.” ― Dalai Lama


Here’s the summary

  1. Choose not to become bitter. Be vigilant with your thoughts and words.
  2. Let emotions come up and wash over you like a wave, but don’t be swept away by them.
  3. Wield your anger. Don’t allow yourself to be consumed or burned up by it.
  4. Use the wound from loss as a source of strength.
  5. Stay vulnerable.
  6. Find the beauty in your life. Actively seek it out. (It's there if you choose to see it.)
  7. Fall in love with your life again.
  8. Nurture, cherish, and appreciate the beauty in your life.

“You've gotta dance like there's nobody watching,
Love like you'll never be hurt,
Sing like there's nobody listening,
And live like it's heaven on earth.”
― William W. Purkey