I know a man who has indulged in just about every self-destructive act he could think of. He used to be the most miserably unhappy man around. After many years of this dumb-headed lifestyle, he married a good, patient woman who had high standards and lived up to those standards.

As a result of his marriage, he dramatically improved his behavior; unfortunately, though he was less unhappy, he still had a long way to go. After several years, she became pregnant, but he was still an unhappy man, as both a person and a husband. The baby was born, and the man seemed to improve a little more, but he still had a long upward climb, so far as his behavior was concerned. He seemed unable to escape his old friends and his and their old lifestyles, and he seemed, equally, unable to attain any significant degree of happiness.

He got a job with a good company, and, in a few months, they transferred him to another part of the country. An astonishing thing happened; in a new environment, with new friends, he began to clean up his behavior and become more the man his wife had always known he could be. As he made significant changes, he began to experience some degree of happiness. That small taste of joy not only gave him a vision of how things could be, but it gave him the hope and determination to strive for greater joy. The result has been nothing short of astonishing. He has begun to discover that fulfillment comes from within, whereas, in the past, he had always been convinced that if others would treat him more fairly, he would be happy. Now he has found that if he is to enjoy life, he must continue to develop his internal capacity for contentment. He must learn to appreciate the good people and things he has right under his nose, and he must cease to even consider the use of stimulating activities and substances as an option in his quest for happiness.

Many people depend on others for their internal sunshine, because they have a very limited capacity for happiness. Let's face it; a capacity for happiness is an internal strength and the lack of that capacity is a critical, internal weakness, and while a person who has lacked it, in the past, can develop an internal strength, it can never become external. By that, I mean that no other person can ever take over a job that is intrinsically yours. You are, and must always remain, responsible for your own happiness.

I have known people who have married many, many times. Such people can and do experience a feeling of exhilaration when a new "mate" comes on the scene, but the emotional excitement rarely lasts very long. Therefore, they are forever searching for someone else who will provide them with that which they must, in truth, provide for themselves.

The reason no one can push the responsibility for his/her own happiness onto someone else is because it doesn't work, no matter how much we want to convince ourselves that it will, if only we look long enough and try hard enough. In short, others do not have the power to make us happy. Unfortunately, many people are so determined to find someone else who will give them happiness that they refuse to do anything for themselves.

While it is true that infatuation can be pleasant, each of its components, whether excitement, entertainment, companionship or hormone-induced euphoria, is external and can cease just as easily and quickly as they begin. This is why we have these newfangled marriage ceremonies in which the partners vow to remain married for "as long as we both shall love." When infatuation wanes, the marriage is history, because infatuation has everything to do with emotional excitement, which is temporary, and nothing to do with real happiness, and happiness is what the participants were really seeking.

The euphoria created by infatuation is no more substantial than cotton candy, but real happiness is made of sterner stuff. It is made up of responsible behavior, such as treating others with kindness and consideration and living up to one's own standards of decency and goodness. Being just as concerned for another's welfare as for our own is an integral part of happiness, because selfishness and happiness cannot successfully co-exist. Very selfish people are not happy and happy people are not selfish. Such a simple formula is pretty easy to work out.

Abraham Lincoln once said that people are just about as happy as they make up their minds to be. To his great advice, I should like to add that they are about as happy as they are willing to make other people. Making others happy is an easy skill to develop, but it is still totally dependent on others willingness to be happy, because, in the final analysis, no matter how many people are trying to make you happy, you will only be happy if you truly want to be. To those who are on the receiving end of someone else's efforts to bring them contentment, I would like to recommend a formula Jane Austen used in " Pride and Prejudice. She has her character not only willing but eager to be pleased; in fact, more than willing and eager, he is determined to be pleased. People who have a great capacity for happiness are, invariably, willing and eager to be pleased. They are, in fact, determined to be pleased.

Come to think of it, what do you get when you cross someone who is willing and eager, in fact, determined to be pleased, with another someone who is willing and eager, even determined to please? Yup! You guessed it, two people who have discovered the elusive secret to happiness.

Until next time,

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