The Number One Secret of Happiness

I’ve been around this world a long time, and I’ve seen a lot of things during my 77 years. I’ve been married 48 years. (It seems like only 47). Although I am a business coach now, I’ve been a therapist for over 30. . People come to me because they want to be happier and I help them achieve a happier life. You might say that I am in the happiness business. I’ve learned a lot.

I’m going to share with you, the number one secret of happiness. If you can’t do this, you’re never going to be happy. Life will be a struggle unless you have . . .

SELF-ACCEPTANCE. It means unconditional high self regard. It means loving yourself no matter what faults and imperfections you might have. No matter what mistakes you may have made. No matter how much your mother-in-law may criticize you.

You can’t be criticizing yourself, putting yourself down, getting angry with yourself.

You might say, “I’ve made lots of mistakes. I’ve failed at a lot of things. I do not like making mistakes, I do not like failing. I just can’t accept myself for that. I’ve got defects I don’t even know I have. (Just ask my ex-wife.) Besides, if I’m satisfied with myself, I’ll never get better, never improve. How can you possibly say, I should accept myself unconditionally no matter what?”

I urge you to look at it this way. I have here a brand new $100 bill. Do you want it? Of course.

Suppose I crush it up, throw it on a greasy driveway and stomp on it with my shoe and grind into the oil. Still want it? Of course.

No matter how wrinkled, creased, soiled and stained, this bill has lost none of its intrinsic value.

You are like this hundred dollar bill, except you are like a billion dollar bill. No matter how many mistakes you have made, no matter how many times you have failed, no matter how many times someone got upset with you; your intrinsic value never diminishes. No matter how wrinkled or dirty you are, your intrinsic value does not diminish.

Everybody wants to improve. Business owners want to market their products better and to improve the morale and productivity of their workers. We all want to be better parents; always say the right things to our children and be there for them. We want to be supportive and loving to our spouses and lovers. And of course, we want to reach the our goals!

What do many of us do when we do not reach our aspirations? Do you call yourself a failure? Get angry with yourself? If you do, you’re probably doing this to motivate yourself to do better the next time. You mean well, but it’s a very inefficient approach. True happiness will elude you.

Let me tell you a true story about a CEO of a large meat packing company. He was a very determined man and lost his temper easily. Whenever he did not reach his goals, he got very angry at himself. He would stay that way for days. He was irritable at work, and worse, he was irritable at home. He said that was the way he motivated himself. Because when he was angry, he became twice as determined and worked twice as hard.

He treated his staff the way he treated himself. When they did not live up to his expectations, he became verbally abusive. I observed him at one of his team meetings. He ranted and raved at his staff for the full hour. Most of the subordinates just looked at the floor. I only saw one become energized by this treatment. That was because he had the same system as his chief. When I talked to the other people on his team, they told me they left demoralized, unable to concentrate or do any work for most of the day.

He told me this system of getting angry at himself is what motivated him to become a multimillionaire and head of this company. I happened to see him for marriage counseling (are you surprised, he needed marriage counseling?). His wife told me that she could not sleep with him because he was so restless and twitched all night. For his part, the man really missed sleeping with his beautiful wife.

When he finally understood all the pain and suffering his angry rejection was causing everyone around him, including himself, he made a decision. He decided to accept himself totally. In place of getting angry at himself to motivate himself, he motivated himself by focusing on his goals.

That man’s business thrived. This home life was happier. His wife got rid of the twin beds.

He had discovered the key to ultimate happiness and success, which is just to accept yourself, be kind to yourself, forgive and love yourself. That is the key to ultimate happiness and success — to accept yourself where you are.

Your intrinsic value is based solely on the fact that you are you. You are unique. You have something to offer this world that nobody else has, that nobody else can be. If you truly want to enjoy your life, if you truly want to enjoy ultimate happiness and success, you must give yourself the gift of unconditional high regard.

Understand that when you made mistakes as a parent, or as a spouse, or as a business person; you did the best you knew how. Mistakes have in them the seeds of new learning. Every mistake is part of your education. I have an advanced degree in making mistakes.

I challenge you, right now, to make a decision that you will always have unconditional high self-regard. That you will from now on, take the lesson learned from your mistakes and so-called failures and move on. Leave them behind. Be determined to do better from now on.

When you are frustrated and angry because your goals are eluding you, and we all face such times, do not turn the anger on yourself. Turn the anger on the situation and harness the enormous energy that’s in your angry feelings. But keep on liking yourself. Not only will you be happier, the people around you will be happier, your spouse will be happier, your children will be happier–because you are happier.

You will succeed, and grow and improve quickly with less stress.

Again, I challenge you to always honor and love yourself. For that is the number one secret of true happiness.