The Foundation of Happiness

[ theme music & intro ]

Have you thought about what would help you put the happiness or contentment you want into place and help you keep it there?

Join me this week as we consider one of the bedrocks of happiness and how to live from that powerful place. Stay with me.

[ brief pause as theme music fades ]

We talk about gratitude in countless ways. Yet, as this unprecedented year comes to an end and the new one begins, I can think of no better time to consider the life-altering power that gratitude offers us.

After years of living with fear and anger and resentment, I’m a living witness to what creating that shift can do and the way it can help us turn our lives around for the better.

When I ask people what they want more than they want anything else, the most consistent answer I hear is that they want to be happy or content. If that’s one of your personal goals, I invite you to look at how maintaining a spirit of gratitude can help achieve that.

It goes without saying that people who are happy tend to be grateful for the lives they’re living and for the people and things that contribute to their lives. Yet, have you ever considered turning the logic on its head and putting gratitude on the front end? Have you considered what happens when we make the expression of gratitude an intentional part of our everyday experience?

It’s perfectly natural for us to express gratitude when we’re feeling happy or content or fulfilled in some way, but the more we live with it, the faster we discover that one of the most compelling aspects about gratitude is the way it contributes to being happy and contributes to developing an abiding sense of contentment.

Allow me to share an example that illustrates exactly that.

[ brief pause ]

As my father grew older, my sisters and I found it challenging to find “just the right gift” for him at birthdays or Christmas. When we asked what he wanted, he would quietly laugh and tell us, “Nothing. I have everything I need.” It took me a while to grasp the depth of what he meant and what was causing the state he lived in.

An Air Force Command Pilot at the age of nineteen, his first B-17 was shot down over Germany during World War II. When he stayed with the burning aircraft and survived crash landing it, they gave him a new plane and a new crew. True to his indomitable spirit, he willingly took to the air again to help put an end to tyranny.



Years later, he survived a violent ditching in the Pacific Ocean, the injuries from which caused the slow and excruciatingly painful deterioration of his spine. Years later, he endured the tragic loss of my younger brother and years after that, the death of my mother to old age.

Yet, despite all the pain and loss as he experienced, and as hard as it was for him to physically get around with his spine fused into a perpetual “question mark,” here was a man who happy, who was free of worry or anxiety or bitterness or regret.

During his last years, we shared meals every weekend. Over time, he revealed to me that he had decided to be grateful for every blessing in his life. Instead of enumerating each troubling thing—repeatedly telling himself the “pain story” (which logic might say he had every right to do)—he chose instead to think over and over and over about the good things, expressing his gratitude for each of them, including his profound love for my mother.

There was no question that he missed her after sixty-six years of being married. Yet, how many times did I catch him looking at her pictures with love quietly sparkling in his eyes? How many times did he tell me the things he admired about her? And on many occasions did he share with me the things about her for which he was deeply thankful?

I assure you it was more than I can count.

My sisters and I will never know how he arrived at his decision to practice gratitude or what inspired it. What we do know, and what stays in the forefront of my memories about him, is that he was happy and completely content as a result of returning over and over to the state of gratitude.

[ brief pause ]

I suppose we could go into the neurophysiology of gratitude. We could talk about the release of endorphins and the building and strengthening of neural networks each time we think positive and grateful thoughts. But I’d rather consider it the way my father did with our “feet on the ground” in the real world of everyday concerns.

One of the primary considerations is how to bring it about. As you might guess, that part comes down to a fundamental decision that is then followed by repeated action. We choose to practice gratitude in the place of fear or worry or negativity. Then we choose to repeat it again and again and yet again, until it becomes our default position.

For example, consider what would happen in the morning when you regularly paused to spend a few moments expressing your gratitude for the good in your life instead of jumping straight onto the web or social media or the news on television when you first wake up.

Instead of saturating your awareness with things that foster fear or anxiety, you’d become calm and focused and quietly happy. At the very least, you’d be mindful that you have everything you need from the inside out. You’re conscious and capable. You’re aware of the good. You’re present with yourself. And you are present with your life.

But instead of pointing to it, allow me to share what it sounds like. Indulge me as I say this “out loud.”

[ brief pause ]

Right this minute, I’m not in combat as I was all those years ago. I’m completely safe here in my studio as I record this for you. I’m grateful for that.

Right this minute, I am not in surgery or on the radiation table as I was nearly two decades ago. I’m healthy enough to fully enjoy my life and elated to be in this ongoing “conversation” with you.
I’m grateful for that.

Right this minute, there are people I love and care about and people who love and care about me in return. I’m grateful for that.

Right this minute, I am remembering the ones who accepted me for who I am and who helped shape my life in positive ways. I’m grateful for that.

Right this minute, I have food in my pantry and clothes to wear and a bed to sleep in and a marvelous dog to keep me company. I’m grateful for that.

Right this minute, I have the ability to make healthy choices and take whatever action I need to carry out those choices. I’m grateful for that.

[ brief pause ]

Then, focusing beyond myself:
Right this minute, you’re taking time to listen to this and honor your own life. I’m grateful for that.

Right this minute, as you consider the power of gratitude, you’re adding light to yourself and to the world we both live in. I’m grateful for that.

Right this minute, you’re focused on the value and the strength and the good that is within you. I’m grateful for that.

Right this minute, without having to do a single thing to justify or explain it, you are irreplaceable and valuable beyond price. I’m grateful for that.

[ brief pause ]

Then, focusing even farther out:
Right this minute, all over the world, there are people on the front lines who are putting their lives at risk in efforts to save the lives of others. I’m grateful for that.

Right this minute, there are vaccines and better treatments being developed not only for COVID, but for illnesses of every kind. I’m grateful for that.

Right this minute, there are people throughout the world who are acting with courage and love and kindness and grace. I’m grateful for that.

Right this minute, there are people who are actively addressing concerns that affect all of us. I’m grateful for that.

Right this minute, there are educators who are helping others discover the strength and capacity and fineness within themselves. I’m grateful for that.

[ brief pause ]

And closer in again:

Right this minute, you and I are blessed to be fully alive and fully engaged. I’m grateful for that.

[ brief pause ]

In the brief time it took me to record this and for you to hear it, our focus shifted in realistic and positive ways. During those moments, and perhaps spilling over into this one, we made no room for fear or anxiety or depression or a hundred other things that have been pressing on us. For those moments, we were completely free, just as we are right now.

How amazing is that?!

[ brief pause ]

This week’s Beautiful Questions are simple and straightforward. There are two of them.

Question One: Whether you start slowly and gradually or dive in headfirst, are you ready to begin blessing your own life with the simple and profound gift of uninterrupted gratitude?

Question Two: Perhaps beginning with a short list that you will organically lengthen and broaden over time, what are you grateful for right this minute? Right this minute, regardless of whatever else is going on in your life, what are you grateful for?

As always, I’d enjoy hearing what emerges as you make this conscious and intentional shift. Write and tell me about it.

May your holidays be blessed ones, and may you richly bless your own life.

As I say each week,

My light with your light.

[ theme music swells and fades out ]

[ end ]

Subscribe to our newsletter for updates.