By Mike Wilcox
A few days ago my first-year college child was lamenting about his future. I said not to worry. You can do or be what you want.
All I ask is that you be happy in life. Your happiness, I said, is more important than what grades you achieve or what major you choose.
Many of today’s psychologists have come to the same conclusion that happiness is the most important ingredient to individual and societal success. If you’re not happy and healthy, you’re likely not to achieve success.
Furthermore happiness and health go hand in hand. You most likely won’t have one without the other.
The Pew Research Center takes it a step further, citing family, friends, faith and career as the positive contributors to happiness. The more time we spend with family and friends, belief in God and successful career will trump money and politics any day, so many psychologists say.
I came across an article on a remarkable woman recently. I learned Paula Francis has spent the last seven years crisscrossing the United States with hiking boots and backpack to ask people “what makes them happy.”
Francis is one of the original founders of The Happiness Walk, an outgrowth of the organization Gross National Happiness USA, founded in Bhutan, a small Asian country, that came to the conclusion the happier their citizens were, the more productive their country would be.
Of Bhutan Francis said, “They always measured their country’s success and progress by how happy their people were. I thought that was amazing, made a great deal of sense and we needed a shift of paradigm in the United States.”
The Bhutan experience inspired the now 61-year-old Francis to dedicate her life to happiness. She has walked through 27 states and more than 10,000 miles.
In our divisive times where hate sometimes is more prominent than happiness, Francis is a breath of fresh air. Imagine sitting down with her for an interview on the subject of happiness or what really matters in our lives, and not how we feel about impeachment, or even healthcare.
Francis who walks 20 to 24 miles a day, hopes to end her quest next month. Her final destination is Boston. From there she and her group hope to compile her findings and create a movement dedicated to promoting conditions of happiness and inspiring action toward greater happiness and well-being for all.
I know she’s inspired me. I would like to think I’m a reasonably happy person, but, like many, I have my moments of despair. Remembering this inspirational lady and her 7-year walk might help me as well as others shed that despair.
Comedian and talk show host Groucho Marx said, “I, not events, have the power to make me happy, or unhappy today. I can choose which it will be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I’m going to be happy in it.”
Truer words have never been written.