The Secret of Happiness
Another essay by Earl Nightingale from the How to Completely Change Your Life Series
Every now and then something is said that affects you like an itch in a place where you cannot scratch. One such remark that I would like to pass along to you here, I heard in California while attending the funeral of someone who was very close to me.
As I stood on the rolling California foothills in the shade of a row of tall eucalyptus trees, I heard these words: “Fear not that your life shall come to an end but rather that it shall never have a beginning”
The woman, whose death had brought me to California, had had a beginning in life. She had also accomplished a great deal and was loved by all who knew her. In fact, it was recalling her life that made me think of others whose lives contrasted so sharply, of people who lived solely for themselves. Since their “what’s-in-it-for-me” attitude had never sown a single seed, they reaped a barren harvest all their lives.
These are the world’s most unfortunate people. That they don’t give of themselves to others hurts very few, but the unhappiness they bring to themselves is great. We will all know sorrow from time, to time, as I did that day in California. But sorrow is one thing; unhappiness is something else.
Running the risk of oversimplifying, I think it can be said that a person is unhappy to the extent that he fails to give of himself to others.
This puts happiness, well-being, and peace of mind within the reach of everyone. They can be found in the simplest dwelling or the greatest mansion. They will be found wherever there is a person who has discovered for himself either through long contemplation, or the good fortune of being raised in a happy family, that to get, we must give.
If we give with no thought of getting, there is no limit to the abundance that will accrue to us. We limit our happiness to the extent that we try to measure out happiness to others.
Few of us, of course, are real experts in this. It is the most natural thing in the world, it seems, to ask ourselves, “Now just what am I going to get out of this?” It is hard for us to realize that it is not what we get but rather what we enjoy that makes life interesting and fulﬁlling.
The little lady whose body was in the ﬂower-draped casket that afternoon in California had known this all her life. Her life had been ﬁlled with laughter and good cheer all the sixty-nine years, three months, and twenty-two days of her lifetime. What a wonderful way to live! And what a wonderful legacy to leave to those who knew her and who knew the secret of her happiness.
Whenever we think only of ourselves, it’s like drawing blinds to shut out the sunlight.
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