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Chasing Happiness

When I was a kid, I thought that if my mom and dad would get back together and come back to get me, I’d be happy.

When I was a teenager, I thought that if I just got away from the people who clearly didn't want me around, I’d be happy.

When I was out on my own, I thought that if I just owned a decent car, I’d be happy.

After I had my first brand new car, I thought that if I owned my own home and didn’t have to pay rent ever again, I’d be happy.

After I bought my first house, I thought that if I went back to school, I’d be happy.

After going back to school, I thought that if I learned to play the piano, I’d be happy.

Turns out I had no musical talent, so the piano thing didn't last long. I did much better at work, so I thought that if I opened my own business, I’d be happy.

After I opened my first business, I thought that if I were married I’d be happy.

After I was married, I thought that if I had a beach house, I’d be happy.

After I had the beach house, I thought that if I had the car of my dreams, I’d be happy... and on and on it went.

My parents never did get back together. Neither of them came back for me. I emancipated at 16 and moved out, but all my problems weren’t solved. Having a new car kept me off the side of the road, but it didn’t "fix" everything. Owning my own home was great, but there were responsibilities that came along with it. The education, the piano, the business, the husband, the beach house, the fancy cars—none of these things made me sustainably happy. It took a long time, but I finally realized that no thing or person was going to “make me happy.”

Think about that phrase—“MAKE ME HAPPY.” I thought if I found the magic combination of people and circumstances, I would finally be happy. But I worked non-stop and eventually had nearly everything I ever wanted, and I still wasn't happy.

Maybe this is why some people take drugs or drink alcohol—maybe they think that they can take something and poof, they’ll be happy, or at least they'll not feel their pain for a while.

Maybe this is why some people leave good relationships--maybe they think that the next person will be the key to their happiness.

This kind of thinking is an indicator of unrealistic expectations. We probably all have unrealistic expectations to a degree because we watch shows where a broken down old house transforms into a beautiful, inviting home in just 60 minutes, and shows where a crime is committed, solved, the bad guy arrested and convicted all in one episode. It’s like we’ve been programmed to expect that everything should be perfectly resolved and settled in a conveniently short period of time.

That’s not the way real life works.

We are responsible for our own happiness

The way to create our own happiness is to change the way we think about happiness—it is not just something that shows up when we get something that we want. Of course we’re happy when we get hired for the job we hope for, get a new car, move into our own home, etc., but that happiness is temporary. Real, sustainable happiness is so much more than that.

If happiness was only about getting what we want, no one would ever be happy, because no one has a perfect life, complete with everything they could ever want (despite what some social media "influencers" would like you to believe). Shawn Achor, Harvard University professor and happiness researcher, said in an interview for Forbes Magazine, "Happiness is NOT the belief that everything is great, happiness is the belief that change is possible...your mental reality predicts your ability to create positive change." There is a lot of research on happiness, and a good place to start to learn about it is with Shawn Achor's book, Before Happiness.

You may be saying, "OK, I want to be happy, and I believe that change is possible, but the question is HOW do I make the necessary changes to get from miserable to happy?"

I'm not a Harvard professor or a "happiness researcher," but my own life experience, and that of many others including holocaust survivor, Viktor Frankl, prove three things:

  1. We can choose to be happy in our present circumstances.

  2. We can choose to believe that improvement is possible.

  3. Or we can choose to allow the inevitable difficulties and unfairness of this life steal our happiness.

World Population Review found that happiness was higher in places where they felt strong feelings of communal support and mutual trust. They’re on to something here. Where people report the highest sustained levels of happiness, they also report a strong sense of community. No matter what we go through, it's easier to go through it with people who genuinely care about us.

I lived unhappily for a lot of years, and now that I am literally living my "happily ever after," I don't ever want to go back. No matter what happens--and lots of painful things have happened--nothing can steal my joy. I know that it may sound crazy to you if you're feeling overwhelmed, anxious, depressed or even suicidal, but I am telling you the truth that I can now literally go through a life-threatening medical diagnosis, loss of a loved one, and many other painful events with peace and joy. For me, this is rooted in healthy relationships, starting with my relationship with God, myself, and my family, friends, neighbors and colleagues. And now that I have sustained happiness, I want that for you, too.

Choosing to live happily doesn't mean that bad things won't happen or that you won't ever feel sad or depressed or angry or frustrated. It simply means that it is possible to have conflicting emotions at the same time. I can be angry over the things that grieve my heart, like child abuse and human trafficking while at the same time have peace and joy in my heart. I know it sounds implausible. I don't really understand it either, I just know that it's possible for me to hold two conflicting thoughts or beliefs at the same time. And if it's possible for me, it can be possible for you.

Let’s take control of our attitudes and choose to be happy regardless of what's going on in our lives. Let's not chase the people and things that we think will make us happy. Let’s intentionally do the things that are proven to lead to true joy, which includes building and nurturing relationships with family, friends, neighbors and co-workers. Let's use our talents, skills and resources to help others, and in so doing, let’s create a sense of community in our lives. These are the things that lead to a sense of purpose, fulfillment and happiness. These are the things worth chasing.

Rhonda Sciortino has been abandoned, neglected, abused, lied to, cheated on and stolen from, but she's not a victim. Rhonda is a survivor, and she encourages others to see themselves as survivors of whatever they've been through. When survivors help others, they become successful survivors. She founded Successful Survivors Foundation to educate, encourage and empower victims to become survivors, and ultimately successful survivors, of whatever they've been through.


Here's how to live happy:

Here's how to live loved:

You can create a successful life because of all you've been through:

Find your purpose and live with joy:

Find Your Purpose Now podcast

This podcast will help you find and live your purpose and enjoy the peace and joy that accompanies it. Subscribe now and share this with a friend. Find Your Purpose Now is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Iheartradio, Amazon music, Overcast, Castbox, Pocket Casts, Radio Public, and right here at

Start a conversation that can change everything:

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