Get happy tip: Do what you want to do, and nothing else


Several years ago, I decided to go to a bible study. It was during the time in my life that I was still questioning my identity as a Christian and I wanted to ask the people there (who were very nice, by the way) some questions about their faith.

Most of the time, the meetings went something like this: First, the leader, Jason, would talk about either the importance of spending time with non-Christians to witness about your faith or the importance of spending time with Christians to help your faith grow.

“We have to build community,” he would implore one week.

“We have to spread the light of Christ,” he’d say the next.

Either way, though, what he was asking us to do was a lot of work.

After this talk ended, the group would pray together and then everyone would share their opinions on the topic of the day and agree with each other for about half an hour.

It was unproductive, but at least it usually went just as planned.

One meeting that I remember, though, the ending didn’t go as it was planned. There was a man there that seemed quite upset by the leader’s admonitions, and he wanted to talk about it.

“Jason,” he said. “I understand what you’re saying and I think it’s very admirable, but there’s a problem: I am out of time.

“Last week I worked seventy hours because my child needed new health insurance. I barely have any time to spend with my wife, much less a lot of friends.

“What’s more, it’s making me angry. I have road rage that I never had before. What do I do?”

What we did for that man, which I regret to this day, was to pray.

“Oh God,” we said, “Please help this man not have to work so much and be so busy. Please help him know that anger is a sin and that he has a choice in how he behaves. Amen.”

When we were done, I lifted my hand.

“Yes, Mollie?” Jason said.

“I just want to say that I don’t quite agree,” I said.

“Don’t agree with what?” Jason asked.

“I don’t agree that God expects us to always strive to do more good deeds like witnessing,” I said.

“Okay,” Jason said. “Why?”

“Nobody can do everything, and I don’t think that God wants us to.

“What God really wants for us is to be happy.”

After I said that, the leader quickly changed the subject, the meeting ended and we left.


The goal of religion is not happiness, and has never been. The goal of religion is doing good, and becoming a better person. Spirituality, on the other hand, causes you to become a better person because in doing so you also become happier.

And that, I think, is the major difference between the two.

And that is one of the reasons that I am not religious anymore, but simply spiritual. Because I believe that you cannot do any good in this world if you are not doing it by choice.

Think about it: What good do you do someone by being friends with them when you don’t really want to? What good to you do when you give up something for someone else that you don’t really want to give up?

None, I think.

Probably none at all.

I’m still learning this. There are certain relationships I have that I continue more out of obligation than love.

They need my help, I tell myself, but it’s not true. They don’t need help.

All they need is love.

And if it doesn’t come from me, than it should come from someone else, or from themselves.

Get happy tip: Know that you are holy


In his book Bluebeard, Kurt Vonnegut says something very profound. He says that he doesn’t think that people become enlightened when God speaks to us, but that it is when we finally let go of the idea that we need God or anything else, and when we let ourselves be most human, that our greatest epiphanies occur.

Until very recently, I didn’t understand what he meant. Being more human makes us more spiritual? I thought. How does that work?

After a while, though, I understood. I knew that that it was true, and the reason was very simple:

It’s because people are holy.

That’s right: People are holy. Even religious people are holy. Even Christians are holy. Even the worst person alive is holy.

Every action a person ever takes is holy, because it is the choice they are making about the kind of experience they want to have on this earth.

And when we finally realized this, and when we finally learn that we can make our own decisions without anyone’s help, even God’s, is when our greatest epiphanies and our highest enlightenment occurs.

Top Seven Get Happy Tips

Image from the law of attraction book list featuring all major law of attraction authors at

Here are my favorite Get Happy tips from my blog so far:

Number 7: Be positive, already. (How many times do you have to hear this before you actually decide to start?)

Number 6: Say affirmations. (Today I said, over and over, “Love is flowing through me all the time.” Do you think that could have possibly done me any harm?)

Number 5: Learn new stuff constantly. Seriously. It is so much fun.

Number 4: Forgive. (Really—no cheating!)

Number 3: Pick a nice partner. (Yes, you can!!!)

Number 2: Tell yourself the truth, always (or, at the very least, tell yourself you’ll tell yourself the truth, always).

Number 1: Know that you have power.

What do you think of the Top Seven list?

Get happy tip: Know that life is a game


When I was a Christian, there were a lot of things that I had to believe in order to be what I was. I had to believe, for example, that the bible was completely true (which was particularly hard after a while, I might add). I had to believe that people who had different ideas about spirituality were going to hell (another bone of contention for me). And I also had to believe in the importance of marriage.

Those were the rules, you see—some of them, anyway. Those were the rules of the game.

Now, I didn’t make them up, as you may notice. But like the Button Pushers in the previous story who were trying to follow someone else’s rules (“Do what you are told” and “Trust people in authority”), I didn’t have to.

I just had to agree to play.

And so, that is why when I got married, I had very little doubt that I would stay married for a long time. My husband was a decent man, you see, and I loved him, and even though we didn’t always get along, I would continue to love him, because that is what I was supposed to do.

Then, something happened that changed all that. One fine evening, after having an argument with him, I suddenly said, without even thinking about it beforehand at all, “I am going to move out.”

And two weeks later, I did.

After that, I knew—even though I was still a Christian—that the rules were not always right.

My husband didn’t deserve to keep me just because he signed a paper, I realized. God wouldn’t even want it that way, would he? So how could leaving—which my husband was quite in favor of, believe me—be wrong?

Very soon after this happened, this new way of thinking affected other areas of my life as well. After I moved out on my own, for example, I signed up for a dating website (which before I thought was in itself an act of lack of faith) and found a new boyfriend, Josh, who wasn’t a Christian but was very sweet to me and got me through that very hard time.

I don’t deserve to be lonely just because I’m not married anymore, I realized. Josh is good to me, and I am good to him, and we are not hurting anyone at all.

After that, for the first time in my life, I had sex outside of marriage with no guilt at all.

Six months later, I met my husband David in the same way, and we are still not technically married, and I am glad.


Life is a game. That is the most important thing I will say in this book, and the most freeing as well.

Life is a game. And the game is anything you want it to be. It can be a test. It can be a school. It can be a playground. It can be a journey.

It can be a competition.

Life is a game, and if you want it to have a purpose—a purpose that is good, and helpful, and loving, and kind, like I do—do this one little but highly significant thing: Choose it wisely.

Don’t be talked into playing a game you don’t really believe in just because you’re too lazy to think for yourself. Figure it out. Figure out what’s best for you, right here, right now, in this life. Then, no matter what it is, and even if others don’t agree:

Live it.

Live it well.

Get good at it, and play.

And, while you’re at it, my dear reader:

Have fun.


Get happy tip: Don’t push the button


In the very famous book by Robert Cialdini called Influence, he tells a story that has been co-opted many times since, and now, I think I’ll do it again.

Beginning in the year 1961, Yale University conducted a set of frightening psychological experiments on a mix of average people. Bear with me a few moments—this is a little complicated. (But worth it.)

In each iteration of this study, three roles were played: the Subject, the Button Pusher, and the Director. The idea was simple: the Button Pusher would attempt to teach the Subject, who was sitting in a different room, a set of word pairs. Then the Button Pusher would test the Subject’s learning ability. When the Subject responded incorrectly, the Director (wearing a white lab coat) would tell the Button Pusher (the actual subject of the experiment) to deliver electric shocks of increasing intensity to the Subject by—you guessed it—pressing a button.

Of course, the set up was a bit of a sham. No actual electrical current was delivered, but the Subject made a convincing show of suffering, anyway.

The results of the study and subsequent studies shocked the researchers and the public alike: 65 percent of the Button Pushers complied with the researcher’s demands and pushed the torture button until the highest level of pain (an excruciating 450 volts) was delivered repeatedly—despite the fierce cries and protests of the subjects.

When the results of this study were announced to the public, they apparently caused quite a media frenzy. Respected analysts and psychologists made pessimistic observations about the evil inherent in human nature and society. What the journalists apparently did not reveal, however, was this:

The Button Pushers were in absolute anguish a great deal of the time.

They paced. They protested. They cried—even grown men cried. They begged not to be required to go on.

They didn’t want to do it at all.

In Influence and other analyses of this fascinating study, a clear conclusion is drawn: People in general put a great undue trust in authority. We listen to our leaders—or the people we perceive to be our leaders—and do almost anything they ask, whatever the consequences may be.

And I agree with this idea. In fact, I could not possibly agree more. However, there is a second conclusion to be made, and personally, I think it’s even more important than the first, namely:

People are almost totally unaware that the source of their greatest anguish is not other people:

It is themselves.

At any point in time during this experiment, any of the Button Pushers could have ended the torture of both the Subject and themselves by doing one simple thing, namely:

They could’ve stopped pushing the button.

Get happy tip: Be religious


While I was still a Christian, my goal in life—the thing I aspired to more than anything else—was to change. I didn’t think I’d ever be perfect, of course—according to my faith, that wasn’t even possible. But I did hope to one day get as close as anyone could, which is why, during this time, I read a book about a Catholic priest named Brother Andrew who attempted to do what the scriptures implored: to “pray without ceasing.” The book chronicled his happy experience, and as I read it, I decided that one day (not right then, but one day), I would do the same.

Years passed. I lost my faith (and not only due to watching too much television). By the time that Jane—who my husband David and I and her other good friends called and still call Baby Jane—left us so unexpectedly, it had been about two years since I’d given a great deal of thought to religion. I still believed in God, and I still believed in heaven (so to speak), and I still believed in things I couldn’t see.

But I wasn’t much sure about anything else.

Like what it meant to me.

Something interesting happened after she left, though: I started looking into spiritual things again.

It was time, I decided. It was time.

It was maybe even the reason she was here.

And here’s the amazing part: After I decided to become spiritual again, even though my beliefs were considerably different from the beliefs I used to have, all of it—all of what I learned as a Christian about praying, and believing, and having purpose—came right back.

I remembered that book about Brother Andrew that I’d loved so much, and I read it again.

And it was even better the second time.

As I read it, I decided again that one day, I would do what Brother Andrew did. I would pray without ceasing.

Of course, I haven’t started yet. (I haven’t “had the time,” as they say.) Someday, though, I will, and I will write to you about it, just as he did, dear reader.

I promise.

Until then, though, let me just take what meaning I can from all this and say that believing in Jesus as my savior was not a bad thing. It wasn’t a waste of time. All those years I spent praying and reading the bible and going to church was the best thing I could have done.

It taught me how to love, and how to give, and how, of course, to pray.

It taught me how to believe.

It taught me how to be spiritual.

It taught me how to do all of the things that I want to do now a lot more.

It got me ready.

Thank you, mom, and thank you, dad, forever.

Get happy tip: Get in the flow


It’s what we all want, but few of us get.

On a regular basis, anyway.

It’s called “flow,” and with his book (aptly titled Flow)writer/psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (I think I spelled that right) has built a reputation on the concept.

Here’s the idea in a nutshell: We should try to create a sense of “flow”–a happy “in the zone” feeling–in our work. This will not only make work more enjoyable; it will make us more productive, too.

Work, in fact, will begin to feel like play.

But how do you do this? Here’s Mihaly’s “secret sauce,” so to speak:

1. Make your work more challenging. Work that requires skill is more fulfilling.

2. Absorb yourself completely in what you’re doing. Lose your self-consciousness, even.

3. Give yourself clear goals and get frequent feedback on your progress.

4. Have a sense of independence and control at work. (This is a great one, I think. Autonomy is a huge part of why I like working for myself.)

What do you think about these tips? Do you enjoy at least a couple of these “flow factors” at your work? I’d love to hear about it.

Get happy tip: Don’t steal (yeah, you)


A bit of a book review today for you: Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely.

Here’s an overview: Full of cutting-edge psychological research on the science of happiness, this book details the way our brains consistently, reliably (you know: predictably) cause us to make bad decisions. A researcher himself, Ariely also draws on numerous studies by his colleagues to make this one point repeatedly.

Here’s an interesting tidbit: Did you know that employee theft outweighs all other kinds of criminal theft combined–by far? The reason, Ariely argues, is that our brains don’t “switch on” the guilt response until theft or dishonesty reaches a certain level; in other words, there is no negative emotional response that hinders us from stealing small amounts from our employer–or anyone else–even though over time they add up significantly.

In the study cited on this, lots of Harvard students were tempted to cheat on an exam in different ways, with different chances of getting caught. Thing is, though everybody who could cheat did (a little), the ones with the least chance of getting caught (the test was torn up and they just took their monetary reward straight from a dime jar) cheated no more than those who had some chance of getting caught (they could visibly change answers on their tests before the researcher got to it).

So. My get happy tip for the day: When it comes to temptation, don’t rely on your guilt reflex to get you through.

Rely on your rationality.

Get happy tip: Don’t be a good person


Around this time, my father gave me some more of his very good advice. One day we were talking at his house and I don’t remember how the subject came up but I said, “Dad? Am I a good person?”

He could tell how important it was that he answer carefully, so he leaned back in his chair and looked at me with a smile and said, “Yes, Mollie, you are a good person. Of course you are. But don’t worry about that.”

“Don’t worry about it?” I said. That was the first time I’d ever heard anyone say such a thing.

“No,” he said. “That’s not the way to live. You don’t need to be any good to anyone else. You don’t need to do ‘good deeds’ and be a ‘good person.’ Just live the way God meant you to when he made you. See, he made you just like you are with your own DNA that nobody else has, because that’s the way he likes you. Do that, and don’t worry about anything else, and you’ll be fine.”

I nodded my head.

It was just what I needed to hear.

Not long after that—maybe about a year or so later, while I was still in high school—we had a similar conversation.

It was about failure.

It was late and night and we were sitting on my dad’s two big living room chairs by the fire that in his house went all winter long, and I began telling him about all of the things I wanted to accomplish in my life.

“What if I don’t do all the things I want to do?” I asked him. “Do you think I will? Do you think I’ll be a writer?”

His response—and it is very close to exactly word-for-word—I know because I wrote it down not long afterward—was this: “It took me fifty years to figure out that what you accomplish doesn’t really matter . . . and I’ve only known that for fourteen years.

“But it was worth the wait.

“I regret some things in my life—bad things I’ve done to people, those are the things you should regret—but I don’t regret failing. Because eventually, I realized: It doesn’t matter.

“And I have peace inside now, and now that I have realized this, it’s okay that it took fifty years to learn. Because that’s all I needed to do.

“Give it a shot, Mollie. You’ve got a good shot. But if you fail, don’t worry about it.

It doesn’t matter.”

It was some of the best advice I’ve ever heard, including anything I’ve read in books.

That’s just his talent, I guess.

Get happy tip: Forget your memories


Sometimes, bad things just seem to happen.

That’s the way life is, after all.

And since we can’t prevent all those annoyances, today, a little “happiness hack” that subverts some of their nasty side-effects, namely, the bad memories they evoke later on. And here it is:

Just forget them.

That’s right: When something bad happens to you, there’s no rule in life that says you have to remember it and obsess about it for years to come. Instead, when it comes to mind, you can just say to yourself, “Yeah, that kinda sucked.”

And then move on.

But here’s the real trick: learning to replace it with a better memory.

In the book Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealthauthors Ed Diener and Robert Biswas-Diener suggest just that. Interpretation is vital to happiness, they say. Choosing to retain happy memories over unhappy ones is important because there is only so much room in your brain.

In other words: Since you can’t remember everything, you might as well choose to remember the good!

I like it, guys. Thanks for that.