Our wants for a happy life are of several kinds: physical, social, spiritual, and inner-self, and each of these has several aspects. Every person wants satisfying mental and physical activity, the feeling of having mastered something, and the assurance that he is of consequence.
There is a certain exhilaration in achievement, in doing things, in self-realization. People want a natural expression of their individuality. Professor Howard W. Odum wrote, “To grow into the maximum of personality, character, adaptation, achievement, perfection of normality, is the supreme process of the race.”
Instead of asking “What do you want out of life?” I would like to ask “What do you bring to life?” What you get depends upon what you give. Life brings to us only what it finds in us. Our job is to discover what life has given us, enlarge upon it, make the most of it, and distribute it wisely that others may profit by our experience. Life will respond to any attempt at self-improvement provided it is not prompted by selfishness.
Learn the true value of time. Seize, snatch, and enjoy every minute of it, for it is limited unto each individual. Live today! Jesus pointed the way when he said, “Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself.” (Matt. 6:34.) We must resolve to live one day at a time, and live that one day to the full. Resolve also that we will extract from every experience of this day something that will make us wiser, happier, more efficient.
Whatever the individual measure of goodness may be, few men or women wish to be regarded as negligible ciphers in life. What they want is not wealth or pleasure, as such, but the opportunity for rich activity. It is possible to create happiness out of today’s work with all its demands, antagonisms, obstacles, disappointments. This requires a resolute heart, a fixed purpose, a mind in control of itself.
No man wants life to be flat and tasteless. If one’s life is to be abundant rather than barren, he must be eternally becoming. Life’s dividends are determined by the nature of man’s daily investments. A full and rich life is where there is “a sound mind in a sound body, controlled by a God-filled soul.”
To quote Professor Odum again: “The good life may be interpreted as being the result of the individual’s harmonious development of his whole personality and his satisfactory adjustment to his fellowmen and his personal environment.”
There are three qualities one must carry with him in his search for happiness through self-fulfillment: intellectual awareness, social sense, and cultural appetite. A hunger for truth and understanding gnaws at the mind and spirit of man. We must not let our minds be out of breath in trying to keep up with our speeding technological development.
Great moral teachers have said that many wants will be satisfied within the person who does something to make life a bit better for others. No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of it for anyone else. To feel the warmth of man’s brotherhood for man is ennobling. Cooperation in community as well as within the Church is satisfying.
Usefulness, service, being better each day than you were the day before, adding upon what you have that is worthwhile—this is living. Have a goal and work toward it. Do not lose sight of it. However rough the seas may be, you know there is a shore toward which you are moving. Stay with the ship. Jump overboard and you are irretrievably lost.
Being ambitious means having an end in view and devising a means for attaining that end. A general, hazy yearning will not carry a person far. Of all the hurdles we build up for ourselves, self-arrested development is one of the hardest to leap over. Our minds tell us there is more in life, but our inertia holds us down.
Your aim need not be dizzily ambitious. It can be modest but intense, directed earnestly toward accomplishing something within the realm of possible attainment. Analyze yourself. Learn the things there are that you can do with the greatest facility. Become an expert in one line. Resist the temptation to nibble; then what you do, do well. Be proud of your accomplishments.
We must be earnest. The carrying out of a good resolution is not menaced so much by ridicule or difficulty as it is by dilution. Occasional and small deviations are indulged in, and the spirit of improvement becomes weakened.
Seize upon every idea for a new line of action and plant it in your mind as a seed thought. Tend these seeds patiently, sprinkle them with your interest, and when one sprouts, encourage it with your enthusiasm.
Abundance of things is not essential to abundant living. In order that life may be rich, full, and significant, one must choose and balance one’s possessions and activities. This means assigning values to things and projects. Every person’s experience of life enters into his sense of values. This accounts for our revision of things of value as we grow older. The bubbles of adolescence no longer dazzle us. The tempests of youth enter a tempered phase.
The greatness of the success we enjoy in supplying our desirable wants depends upon our thinking soundly, planning well, and working to develop ourselves to our possible excellence, while coping with the restrictions and seizing the opportunities that we encounter in our environment.
Great resources of knowledge and understanding have been acquired by the time we reach middle age, only needing to be tapped so that they may bud and blossom. If the mind has been allowed to run to seed, there is some clearing up to do, and that starts with resolution to get things right and go back to good gardening. No one is too old to revise his opinion about what he wants out of the garden of life and work toward getting it.
We have staked out a plot in life and now it is our job to build something on it that will give us the sense of having achieved our potential happiness. God help you to do this. And may you never cease to help him in creating a better you.