Toast of the happiness TALK. 
Toastmasters International.

Finding Happiness

I love Toastmasters International, and I became a member while in graduate school. It’s a communication and leadership development organization. Basically, you give speeches and you get feedback. I joined because too few people could understand, either audibly or logically, anything I was saying. I’ve had my share of academic challenges.

Table Topics is one of the organization’s many traditions. In it, respondents are called on at random to speak impromptu on a topic or question. At my very first meeting, I was asked to speak on happiness. I used my two minutes to object to the notion that happiness existed.

I came right out and said it: “There’s no such thing as happiness.” I complained and griped about how even the sound of the word made my skin crawl, and how mad I got when anyone used it.

I concluded my talk by announcing to my audience—people I hadn’t met until that evening—that standing before them and having to use the word had just about ruined my day and my mood. I was seriously cynical.

As a kid, the only place I’d seen happiness was on television sitcoms and talk shows. Years later, while watching two of Oprah’s shows, on both occasions I was struck by a guest spending her entire time discussing how happy she was in her life. I assumed that both Tina Turner and Barbra Streisand were lying.

Around the same time, one of my older sisters admonished me for my all-day, everyday sarcastic and pessimistic view of everything. She said I was incredibly annoying.

At first, I couldn’t see it. But, over time, I began to pay attention to what my mind was doing, and finally, I realized that my sister was right. I didn’t have one good thought on any subject. Probably all of us question our paths, or an aspect of our lives, some of the time. But. No one should live in a doubting state 24/7.

Once I achieved this awareness, I set out to use my life as a test to see if Tina and Barbra were telling the truth. In other words, my motivation for everything, including my decision to leave my desk job and tap dance for a living, became the search for happiness.

My first objective? Change my thinking. It took years to switch my thoughts from looking at everything wrong to see what was actually right. Sounds so simple, doesn’t it?

My second objective? Stop complaining. That was easy. I just shut up and kept my thoughts to myself—which also helped eliminate arguing with anyone about anything.

My third objective? Take responsibility for every aspect of my life. We each experience and respond to life differently. We all have different experiences so this will mean something different for each person.

Investigate this concept to determine what it means for you and then apply the idea to your own life and be honest—because, well, that’s the point.

Taking responsibility for my life led me directly to the concept of forgiveness, including self-forgiveness. Showing yourself love and grace is a thing, and forgiveness is ultimately something you do for yourself.

Since the years pass quickly, may I suggest that you keep the idea of forgiveness “top of mind”? That is, hold onto it as a real possibility and an option. 

For situations in which you’re not quite ready to channel your inner Elsa and let it go, stay open to the idea of forgiveness. The willingness to forgive, in itself, will create some peace of mind—and that’s worth pursuing.

My final objective? Get some help. Help by way of therapy, mentorship, sponsorship, and friendships are options.

Choose healthy, mature, and responsible ways to cope with life.

Split-second decisions can change your world, so ask yourself if you’re willing to endure the consequences, should it ever come to that. Think each decision through and consider if what you want is worth the risk.

Today, I understand that happiness exists right there where you’re standing. I spent years trying to comprehend how that was possible. Here’s what I came up with: The search so many pursue outside themselves is actually a search we must pursue within ourselves.

Happiness, contentment, and fulfillment are yours. You don’t need to wait for something outside of yourself, nor do you need a particular condition or circumstance to create it, even when you’re surrounded by those who think otherwise.

Your qualities aren’t static.

You can discover simple ways to make moments and days special and to foster positive vibes in a negative situation.

You can, at will, change your thoughts to call upon your version of calm, cool, and composed.

Yes. This stuff takes practice, which if you’re a dancer, you know very well how to do. With practice, deliberate and conscious shifts in perception will happen, offering a peace that passes human understanding.

Your happy dreams live in you. Cherish your faith in miracles. You’re the miracle. Stop looking.

Living the life you want isn’t the cause of happiness. It’s the result of it.” ~ LaurieTALKS”

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