The Secret to Happiness

Courtney Carver is author of the blog Be More with Less, and describes herself with “I have been too busy, too tired, too full, too stressed and too overworked for too long and I am changing my ways.” Courtney also runs the One Million for Good site, selling limited edition fine art prints in support of good causes.

I’d like to tell you a story…

A certain shopkeeper sent his son to learn about the secret of happiness from the wisest man in the world.

The lad wandered through the desert for forty days, and finally came upon a beautiful castle, high atop a mountain. It was there that the wise man lived.

Rather than finding a saintly man though, our hero, on entering the main room of the castle, saw a hive of activity: tradesmen came and went, people were conversing in the corners, a small orchestra was playing soft music, and there was a table covered with platters of the most delicious food in that part of the world.

The wise man conversed with everyone, and the boy had to wait for two hours before it was his turn to be given the man’s attention. The wise man listened attentively to the boy’s explanation of why he had come, but told him that he didn’t time just then to explain the secret of happiness.

He suggested that the boy look around the palace and return in two hours. “Meanwhile I want to ask you do do something,” said the wise man, handing the boy a teaspoon that held two drops of oil. “As you wander around, carry this spoon with you without allowing the oil to spill.”

The boy began climbing and descending the many stairways of the palace, keeping his eyes fixed on the spoon. After two hours, he returned to the room where the wise man was. “Well,” asked the wise man, “did you see the Persian tapestries that are hanging in my dining hall? Did you see the garden that it took the master gardener ten years to create? Did you notice the beautiful parchments in my library?”

The boy was embarrassed, and confessed that he had observed nothing. His only concern had been not to spill the oil that the wise man had entrusted to him.

“Then go back and observe the marvels of my world,” said the wise man.

Relieved, the boy picked up the spoon and returned to his exploration of the palace, this time observing all of the works of art on the ceilings and the walls. He saw the gardens, the mountains all around him, the beauty of the flowers, and the tasted with which everything had been selected. Upon returning to the wise man, he related in detail everything he had seen.

“But where are the drops of oil I entrusted to you?” asked the wise man. Looking down at the spoon he held, the boy saw that the oil was gone.

“Well, there is only one piece of advice I can give you.” said the wisest of wise men. “The secret of happiness is to see all the marvels of the world, and never to forget the drops of oil on the spoon”

The Alchemistby Paulo Coelho

This little story with a very big message from one of my favorite books begs the question, “Can we appreciate the beauty that surrounds us while staying focused on what is most important.”

Simplicity answers the question with a resounding “Yes!”

When life isn’t simple and you have to constantly think about

  • debt
  • shopping
  • catching up
  • spending
  • competing
  • appointments
  • health issues
  • falling behind
  • family conflict
  • clutter
  • stuff

then there is no time to appreciate the beauty or protect what is most important to you. There is no time to be happy.

Imagine dumping everything in your life that is meaningless. Everything that you don’t do for love. What would be leftover? It’s time to prioritize the “leftover”. Somehow those most important things, those things (which usually aren’t actual things) get shoved back behind all of the things we are “supposed” to be doing, buying, reading, worrying about.

This isn’t permission to shirk your obligations, but an invitation to put the most important thing in your life today at the top of your never ending to-do list. While everyone will have a different thing at the top of the list, clearing out, or making a plan to begin clearing out clutter/debt/meaningless stuff should be close to the top until it’s gone.

That said, even before you are debt free, clutter free, or free of whatever stands in the way of you and a happier life, prioritize the precioius oil in your life and start living, start enjoying immediately.

There is no doubt that clearing clutter will give you the time and space you need to fully embrace life, but you don’t have to wait for an empty drawer to get started. I know you think you will be happy when you are debt free, or happy when you fit into your skinny jeans, but I can tell you with great conviction that it’s time to be happy right now. You can be happy anytime.

You know me better to think that I am suggesting that you run around with a crazy smile on your face and rainbows shooting out of your pockets, but once you believe that happiness is possible, regardless of your current circumstances, things will start to change.

You will change.

Your life will change.

You will be happy.

Happy reading recommendations

What makes you happy right now?

Photo by Jonathon Benson via Flickr

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10 Ways You Can Have Enough Money & Stuff

Courtney Carver is author of the blog Be More with Less, and describes herself with “I have been too busy, too tired, too full, too stressed and too overworked for too long and I am changing my ways.” Courtney also runs the One Million for Good site, selling limited edition fine art prints in support of good causes.

As a society, we are eating too much, drinking too much, working too much and spending too much. We take more drugs for anxiety and depression than ever before. Our debt is climbing and our savings are dwindling.

We are tired, stressed, overworked, scattered and afraid. We are afraid that we won’t have more than them. We are afraid of what others will think if we don’t.

We never have enough and are afraid that we never will.

In a recent poll (and by “poll” I mean in response to a question I posed on twitter) when asked, “What would you do differently if you thought you had enough?” the response was overwhelming.

  • Give more
  • Worry less
  • Quit my job
  • Teach others to do the same
  • Volunteer More
  • Quit striving for success
  • Travel
  • Change my career path
  • Come up with ways to help the world
  • Quit my job
  • Dance
  • Spend time creating beautiful things: a happy marriage, a healthy body, a creative blog
  • Connect more with friends & make new friends
  • Move somewhere new and exciting.

Wow! If you had enough, you would do some really great, life changing things for yourself, your family and the world.

It’s time to start asking the the tough questions, because it’s very likely that you are not living the life you desire. You are depriving yourself of real happiness because you think you need more. More money, and more stuff.

If you know what you would do if you thought you had enough, then the next logical question is “how will I have enough”? I’m glad you asked.

10 Ways to Have Enough

  1. Redefine enoughYour current definition of enough may be more than you think. Do the simple counting exercise below and see what is really enough for you and your family.
  2. Learn to say noYou may have to turn friends down for a dinner out, tell your kids that they can’t have designer handbags in high school, or make other unpopular decisions.
  3. Put people before stuffBefore you stop for lunch, drop by the mall or “pick up a few things” at the grocery store remember what your family really wants. They want YOU. If you spent less, could you work less and spend more time with the people that love you?
  4. Put moments before stuffRunning outside with my husband last night to watch the storm clouds come in was absolutely free, and more rewarding than anything I could have purchased.
  5. Stop trying to measure upSomeone will always make more than you, have more than you and do more than you. So what? You are beautiful and wonderful. Be you and stop comparing.
  6. Don’t stock upIf you buy wrapping paper on December 26th and stock up on sale items year round, you are spending more than you would if you just bought what you needed. Don’t be fooled by the cashier that tells you, “you just saved $22.00″ when you just spent $300.
  7. Stop using a credit cardDebt will follow you forever unless you stop using credit cards. The end.
  8. Write it downYou might be too busy and stressed to think about what you really want out of life. Write it down and read it every day. “Live by the beach”, “Start a new business”, “Put kids through college with no debt”, “Move to a new country”. This is your why. Knowing why will give you momentum. Knowing why will give you perseverance. Knowing why will give you the guts and grit to take action and live the life you desire.
  9. Realize you ARE enoughIf you could be happy with you, you could stop overeating, overspending, and over indulging. Once you know you are enough, you can realize that you have enough.
  10. Identify your source of happinessA new shirt will not make you happy for long. In fact, I can’t think of any material thing that makes me happy everyday. Instead it’s the things that you can’t own. Children’s dimples, a dog rolling over for a belly rub, jumping in the ocean, climbing mountains, stretching, kisses, gratitude. Those are the things that happiness is made of.

Do you have enough ? Too much ?

  • Count the number of clothes you have and divide that by 7. That is how many pieces of clothing you have to wear each day to use everything you have over the course of a week.
  • Count how many utensils you own (forks, knives, spoons, whisks, peelers, all of them) and divide that by 7.
  • Count how many apps, songs, games and videos you have on your computer and divide that by 7.
  • Count how many TV channels, radio stations, CDs, DVDs, and games and divide that by 7.

It is very likely that you could live and thrive with less than 50% of what you own right now. And if you need less than half of the stuff, you probably need less than half of the space, and less than half of the money it takes to maintain the stuff and the space. (insert light bulb moment here!)

 More questions to ask to live a better life…

  • If you had no debt, no monthly payments, what could you live on?
  • If you didn’t have to save for a nicer car, bigger house, or extravagant vacation, what could you save for?
  • What could you sell to pay off your debt?
  • If you didn’t have dine out several times a week, how much could you give?
  • If one is enough, what could you donate?

It’s possible that you have been chasing more for so long that you forgot why you started the race in the first place. That is exactly what happened to me. If you can’t answer “why”, you are on the wrong track. If your answer to “why” is “I don’t know” you are lost. You have to stop and start over.

I just started to re-read, Your Money or Your Life: 9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence. If you wonder how you could live on much less (even with a family and responsibilities) and really start enjoying life, you might want to take a look at it.

I was recently reminded by one of my favorite blogs that “very little is needed to make life happy.”

Do you think that’s true?

Photo by Lost in the RP via Flickr

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