Wednesday, June 2, 2010


How exactly does one become a happy person?

I'm not saying that I'm unhappy. But I want to be more consistently happy with who I am and the things I'm doing with my life. I want to feel like my efforts are adequate and acceptable to God.

Every once in a while I catch glimpses of this woman that I want to be. She wakes up on time every morning, really studies her scriptures before leaving for work and starts out every day with a positive attitude. She is alert and productive at work. She manages to not only keep her classes under control and teach about the Treaty of Paris, but also nurtures students that desperately need it. She comes home from work, chats with her roommates and heads off to the gym for a challenging, stress-relieving workout. She spends her evenings reading or volunteering or practicing the piano and hanging out with friends. She keeps the gospel of Jesus Christ at the forefront of her mind throughout the day and consciously bases her decisions off true principles of the Gospel. She remembers that everyone is a son or daughter of God and treats everyone she meets as such.

I struggle figuring out how to actually become that person all the time. I realize on reflection that even the people who seem "perfect" have days where they feel like they've fallen short. I just want to feel like this amazing woman more often than I do. So how do you balance striving for perfection with the knowledge that perfection is unattainable? It's our end goal in this life, definitely, but that means that for the next 60 or so years, I've got to deal with failure. And unfortunately, like most humans, I am terrified of failure. I'm trying to change my vantage point. I'm trying to develop the courage to pick myself up when I've fallen, to move beyond my failure and to choose to be happy. I had no idea that achieving success and happiness would take so much courage.

I made a list a few weeks ago of things that make me happy:

  • crossing things off my to-do list
  • a clean house
  • reading a good book for hours on end
  • starting / working on a new creative project
  • sitting at the family piano on sunday afternoons and singing with my family
  • camping
  • waking up first on a camping trip and having the dawn all to myself
  • long walks, alone or with a close friend
  • singing along with the radio at the top of my lungs
  • phone calls from old friends
  • experimenting with new recipes
  • walks in the rain

In creating this list, however, I've discovered that sometimes I have a hard time actually doing the things that make me the happiest. This makes no sense. Why would I not jump at the chance to become happier? Again, I think it goes back to courage. It's easier, more comfortable to take a lackadaisical approach to life, to just let things happen instead of proactively seeking out opportunities for self-improvement. Happiness takes effort. Achievement takes effort. Perfection takes a whole lot of effort. And I have to convince myself that it's worth it.

So here's the best part:
Jesus Christ already prepared a way for me (us). He knows exactly the challenges that I face. When I choose to rely on him, I can receive the strength that I need to get me through life's challenges, even if the challenge is simply being happy.

Elder Richard G. Scott wrote in a talk entitled "The Atonement Can Secure Your Peace and Happiness" the following:

"True, enduring happiness, with the accompanying strength, courage, and capacity to overcome the greatest difficulties, will come as you center your life in Jesus Christ. Obedience to His teachings provides a secure ascent in the journey of life. That takes effort. While there is no guarantee of overnight results, there is the assurance that, in the Lord’s time, solutions will come, peace will prevail, and happiness will be yours."

I'm striving to make this my new mantra. I could use your support as well.


kamille said...

oh melanie. i hear you. today was one of those hard days for me where i looked at myself and thought, is this how i want to be? is this who i am?

i was so short on patience, yelling at max, just being the mother i don't want to be. i fall short so often and you have reminded me of the person i want to become. thank you for that!

you are an excellent woman already who i look up to! i think you are well on your way to becoming that woman.

Becky said...

Hi Melanie, I don't know if I've commented before, but I'm Brad's mom and I'm looking forward to meeting you next month.

Anyway, it looks like you've already found your answer on how to be happy! Just keep the commandments. The hard part is doing it day after day after day, but I know we can. Try looking up John 15:11 and the verses around it.

One thing that helps me find greater happiness is to serve others. When my kids were in elementary school, my favorite day of the week was the day I went into their classrooms to help. I always came home feeling on top of the world!

It's a lifelong struggle to find balance in our lives, and it helps when we know others are working on it too. This is getting pretty long for a "comment" (sorry about that) but one more place you might want to look for support is a blog written by my another son's sister-in-law - Abiding Joy. She decided that one way to have more joy in her life was to look for it each day and post about it. It's pretty inspiring.

Have a wonderful day!

Kim said...

I swear I was just thinking about this today, but didn't get as far as you did (probably because I got overwhelemed...). Thanks for the insight!

Marci Jensen Stoffer said...

Awesome post. Exactly what I was thinking today. Thanks for the encouragement.

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