Thursday, October 13, 2016

Happiness Essentials

I just watched Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture video again, for at least the twentieth time. And I laughed—and cried—again. (It is the very best video I have ever seen, and if you haven’t watched it, do so now.)

Randy was a forty-seven-year-old professor at Carnegie Mellon University when he received the diagnosis of terminal pancreatic cancer. The college had a tradition of inviting professors to give the lecture they would deliver if they knew it was the very last one they would ever give. In Randy’s case, it was in fact, his last lecture.

I was struck, once again, about the joy he exuded, even as he knew he was dying.
I’m a happy person. I grew up in a family of dour Scots, and I never felt I fit in. So I decided to share what I know about happiness.

Before we were married, my mother-in-love said something I’ve never forgotten. “No one else can make you happy. You have to decide to be happy.”

It is a personal decision. If you aren’t happy where you are, you can’t be happy anywhere. As Randy said, “I’m dying, and I’m happy.”

I begin each day with gratitude. After all, I woke up. Then I give thanks for my husband and family and friends. Then I sit up, stand up, and walk to the bathroom. And I give thanks because I slept without pain after months of constant pain from my knee. I can walk, and some of my friends can’t.

Throughout the day, I find small miracles to give thanks for. It makes a huge difference.

It is nearly impossible to feel sorry for myself if I’m helping others.

Years ago, a trend began based on this statement: Practice Random Acts of Kindness and Senseless Beauty. I had it on a sweatshirt and on the mug I kept on my desk at work. I still believe in making sneak attacks of kindness—especially when the recipient isn’t aware of the source. These acts bless the person receiving them, but provide far more blessings to the giver.

I have worked for a couple of companies, which closed. Everyone was to be laid off. But each morning, I smiled at everyone I greeted. After all, I cared for them and wanted to savor every minute we still had together. (This was in the days before Facebook, and when the doors closed, I feared we’d lose each other.)

One day I met one of our hardware engineers coming down the hall. I smiled and said, “Good morning.”

He stopped. “I look forward to seeing you every day because no matter how sad I am about what’s about to happen, your smile makes me feel better.”

He made my day.

We are now friends on Facebook—along with many others I worked with there. We still repeat the same old jokes, and I haven’t lost the friendship.

Remember to smile. It can make someone’s day.

Anger takes energy. Life is short. The best way to defeat your ‘enemies’ is to make them your friends.

One of the takeaways from the video is this: Never give up on people. Just be patient, and they will surprise you. It’s something I sometimes have to remind myself. But I rarely give up on people. I sometimes have to distance myself from them if they are toxic, but I stay in touch. I keep waiting for them to change. Sometimes I’m the one who needed to change. And there’s another lesson.

You, too can be happy. Make up your mind to be thankful today, and tomorrow, and the next day. See if it doesn’t make a difference.

Don’t wait to be asked for help. See the need, and respond.


And watch the video again.

What are your secrets to happiness?


  1. Thank you for this Lorna. I know there are times that I struggle finding true happiness in what seems to be an endless period of trials, but I know I have a choice and it's my choice to make every single day. I'm grateful though, for friends like you who, through it all, encourage us with your words. Thank you for sharing...and fire reminding me too be happy! >3

    1. I always found you to be upbeat and positive. I appreciate having those people in my life.