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Keys to Happiness

by Linsey Lanier

If you’re familiar with the type of post I usually write, you might be thinking, “Okay, Linsey. What kind of joke are you going to make out of that title?”

But this time, I mean it. Really.

A few weeks ago, I gave a talk about self-publishing and I mentioned how important it is to know what you really want in life. Not what your mother wants for you. Not what your kids want for you. Not what your husband wants for you. But you. What is it that really makes you happy?

In this talk, I mentioned a few books I’ve read that have helped me along in my own personal quest for happiness and I thought I’d tell you a bit more about them today.

The first book I added recently to my collection. It’s by one of my very favorite authors, who has been a guest chef here on Petit Fours and Hot Tamales.

1. Get a Life! 8 Steps to Create Your Own Life List (a how-to short) by the very talented Stephanie Bond.

When I saw this book on Amazon for 99 cents, I downloaded it right away.

Stephanie cautions this isn’t a To-Do list. She says it’s “a list of dreams and goals.” I think of it more as a Bucket List, but you start right now and keep working on it for as long as it takes.

True to its title, there are a lot of lists in this short how-to book. Stephanie suggests classifying the things you would like to do in life and she has suggestions for all sorts of categories from charitable activities to health to travel and adventure. One thing I learned about Stephanie in this book is that she completed a course to become a private investigator. Now that’s impressive.

Reading Life List was so inspiring, it made me want to do something wild and crazy–like get a stagger-on role in The Walking Dead. I just might do that someday…

2. Live the Life You Love: In Ten Easy Step-By Step Lessons by Barbara Sher

If you’re having trouble coming up with you Life List, you might want to give this book a read.

I love Barbara Sher. Her honest, self-deprecating style makes you feel you’re sitting with an old friend, sharing intimate thoughts.

For example, she freely admits standard methods of motivation like affirmations and New Year’s resolutions have never worked for her. Years ago she realized she needed a change. Now she says, “Twenty years later, with no noticeable self-improvement, I have managed to get myself a great life! I still can’t stay on a diet or an exercise program, I can’t learn a language or a musical instrument, much as I want to–I can’t even make myself try very hard. And yet, I’ve build a life I love.”

“You will never be happy unless you are using your gifts,” she warns. And she tells you just how to figure out what those gifts really are.

One of her secrets is to understand your feelings. And she has a chapter dedicated to learning how to do that. She encourages you to name your feelings, even the negative or “problem” feelings, to learn how you respond to things. It’s about learning to respect the things you cherish and getting rid of toxic feelings. Because, as Barbara tells us, “Your feelings are your compass. If you know how to read them, they will direct you toward what you love.”

And if narrowing the gift that makes you most happy down to just one thing makes you feel depressed or anxious, you’re probably a scanner (like me!). If this rings a bell with you, you’ve got to check out Barbara’s Refuse to Choose!: Use All of Your Interests, Passions, and Hobbies to Create the Life and Career of Your Dreams.

3. How We Choose to Be Happy: The 9 Choices of Extremely Happy People–Their Secrets, Their Stories by Rick Foster & Greg Hicks

The beginning of this book isn’t very happy. The Prologue is the story of a someone the writers call Kathryn, a woman who loved to dance, but who followed her family’s career admonitions instead. She became so unhappy, she left her husband, quit her job and took off. She ended up broke and bulimic and selling her body to survive. She hit the bottom. Yet, Kathryn is one of the “extremely happy people” the writers interviewed. Because she turned herself around by doing what made her tick.

Rick Foster and Greg Hicks were business consultants, but they became fascinated by people who “moved through life with warmth, grace and an elegance that was both alluring and mysterious.” So they went across the country interviewing people like this. They discovered what these happy folks had in common were nine conscious decisions they had made. I don’t have room to cover them all, but the first one is Intention.

They write, “The intention to be happy is a mindset that propels us toward living as happily as we can, predisposing us to make each day as joyful and significant as it can be. It’s the point at which we stop responding unconsciously and actively decide we want to be happy. We make a promise to ourselves, a commitment to happiness that becomes our compass, guiding the decisions we make and the actions we take.”

Profound, huh?

Needless to say, I really love this book.

I hope I’ve lifted your heart today. What are some things that make you happy?

Follow Linsey on Twitter @LinseyLanier

Check out excerpts of my books on my blog (links on the right!)



Shannon - July 26, 2012 - 12:30 am

Fantastic post! Some of these are at my local library and I just downloaded the Stephanie Bond book.
Thank you so much for this list.

Mary Preston - July 26, 2012 - 4:13 am

What a fascinating book & post.

I love making things. I sew, knit, crochet & embroider. I’m no expert, but I’ll give anything a go. Right now I’m sewing shopping bags. At Christmas EVERYONE is going to receive their gift in a hand-made bag they can take to do their grocery shop.


Marilyn Baron - July 26, 2012 - 8:41 am

Your post was very uplifting. I enjoyed it a lot. I hadn’t heard of Stephanie Bond’s book. She’s such a great writer and has such a great head for business and life, I’m sure her advice is well worth taking. I love the idea that using your gifts will make you happy. I believe that. I love to write and am happy writing either books, short stories or blogs and I love to travel so I write about places I’ve been and I love reading so all of these things do make me happy.
Thanks for telling us about these books. You have lifted my heart!

Linsey Lanier - July 26, 2012 - 9:11 am

Thanks, Shannon. I know you’ll enjoy the Stephanie Bond book.

Linsey Lanier - July 26, 2012 - 9:14 am

Thank you so much, Mary. Your hand-made shopping bags sound very special. I’ll bet your friends and family will be thrilled to get one. :)

Linsey Lanier - July 26, 2012 - 9:19 am

Marilyn, I’m so glad I could lift your spirits. It’s so good to feel that hum of happiness in your heart when you’re doing what you love. Glad you have found what makes you happy. :)

Isn’t Stephanie terrific? And her fiction books always make me laugh until I have tears in my eyes. What a talent. :)

Sia Huff - July 26, 2012 - 4:56 pm

Very profound. I know several people I’ll be forwarding this blog to. Great references. I agree about deciding to be happy. It’s not always easy with some of life’s trails but it’s important to keeping trying.

Linsey Lanier - July 26, 2012 - 5:06 pm

Thank you, Sia. That’s very gratifying. I hope it uplifts those folks.

No, deciding to be happy sounds easy, but it isn’t. I’ve been re-reading the chapter on Intention from How We Choose to Be Happy. The writers interviewed several people who had gone through some devastating tragedy. But making the stubborn decision to find happiness within got them through it. Inspiring.

tamara LeBlanc - July 26, 2012 - 9:39 pm

Loved this post, Linsey.
My husband lost his job a little over three months ago, and I’m bummed about it, of course, but not crestfallen. My husband is very optimist (which helps my mental state immensely) and he’s constantly looking for new careers as opposed to sitting on the couch feeling sorry for himself, so instead of crying all day, I’m actually…happy. Not happy that he’s unemployed, but that we’re so fortunate. Our two kids are healthy and happy, good students, responsible, respectable young adults. We have savings, a ice home, plenty of food to eat, supportive family and friends, and over the last 90 days, me and my husband have had fun spending time together. We could be alot worse off.
We’ve decided to be happy.
Even so, I bet I can get a little more happiness out of reading the books you mentioned.
Great post, Linsey!!!
Have a wonderful evening :)


Tamara LeBlanc - July 26, 2012 - 9:41 pm

We have a NICE home…not an ICE home :}
We’re not Eskimos…all though, I bet we’d still be pretty happy…just cold :)

Pam Asberry - July 26, 2012 - 10:04 pm

Great post, Linsey. I truly believe that happiness *IS* a decision. I’m off to check out the resources you cited. Thanks for the inspiration!

Linsey Lanier - July 26, 2012 - 10:22 pm

Oh Tamara. I didn’t know about your husband. I’m so sorry to hear that. I know it must be tough for him. And you too. But I’m so glad to hear he isn’t letting it get him down. It is great to be together, isn’t it?

LOL, I didn’t think you had an ice house. In the 90 degree heat we’ve been having, it would be a puddle. :)

Linsey Lanier - July 26, 2012 - 10:23 pm

You’re welcome, Pam. You’ll enjoy those books. But I always get a lot of inspiration from your posts. :)

Maxine - July 27, 2012 - 8:58 am

Thank you Linsey. I’m late to the party, but I’m getting those books TODAY!

Tami Brothers - July 27, 2012 - 11:30 am

Thanks for sharing these, Linsey! I have Stephanie’s book (LOVE IT) but will definitely be grabbing those others as well.


Linsey Lanier - July 27, 2012 - 12:10 pm

Better late than never, Maxine. Hope you enjoy those books. :)

You’re welcome, Tami. I know you’ll love Barbara Sher. :)

Sandra Elzie - July 28, 2012 - 10:38 am

Great article, Linsey.

I agree that each person must determine what makes them happy & then it’s up to them to go after that…and not expect anyone else to do it for them.

We don’t always succeed…but the journey teaches us along the way and maybe we even change our goals along the way. We just need to be sure that we don’t lower “the bar”, or change the goal, just because we’re tired of striving. Change it only if we realize that what will ultimately make us happy isn’t what we were striving for, but rather something else.

Carol Burnside - July 31, 2012 - 1:00 pm

Terrific thought-provoking post, Linsey. I’m pleased you’re striving to live a happier life…something we could all improve, I’m sure.

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