I spend a lot of time on SMART Living 365 researching, thinking and writing about how we all can create a happier life. I believe that the majority of us want to live in the space where we can, no matter what challenges we face, feel hopeful, at peace and grounded in wellbeing. But I’m also aware that others believe that due to the circumstances in the world, or in their personal situations, it is impossible to stay happy on an ongoing basis. If you are one of those people, this post is for you.
This idea came to me from an author and speaker named Emmet Fox. Back in the 1930s and at the height of the Great Depression, Fox drew capacity audiences of up to 5,500 people to his talks in New York City. A predecessor to Norman Vincent Peale and Robert Schuler, Fox was an author and ordained New Thought minister whose messages of optimism inspired millions. His secretary was the mother to one of the co-founders of Alcoholics Anonymous and that organization also carries forward many of his teachings. Although his writings lean toward the religious and archaic, his message offers timeless ideas about personal empowerment, creative inspiration, and a connection to a Source larger than individuals alone.
In 1941, Fox first published a book, Find And Use Your Inner Power, where he shared commonsense ideas about how any of us can be unhappy if we choose. In a chapter titled, Leaves From The Fool’s Handbook, Fox begins by suggesting we all find a quiet and undisturbed place to sit alone and think. From there he says:
1) “Begin to think about yourself.” It doesn’t seem to matter what you are thinking as long as you focus on yourself and “every time your thought wanders to something higher, bring it back gently but relentlessly.”
2) “…think about the past.” Next, Fox suggests that you dwell upon all the mistakes you have ever made from childhood onward. Think of every one of your foolish actions, failures, opportunities you’ve missed and all the time you’ve wasted.
3) “…think of all the occasions upon which you have been badly treated.” Be sure and include all the times you’ve been victimized. Recall in your mind all the nasty things that people said about you, and vividly remember all the unkind actions of others around you. Rehearse the details clearly in your mind, feeling all the emotions of sadness, hurt or anger as clearly as you can.
4) “Think about your body and wonder if your age or your job or the climate isn’t beginning to tell.” Focus intently on every little ache and pain you feel in your body as deeply as you can.
5) “Think about business or finances as gloomily as possible and even if they are going well now, insist that this is probably too good to last.” Don’t forget to think about the latest news you heard on television or read in the paper.
6) Remember to keep thinking about yourself. “If you can keep this up faithfully for fifteen or twenty minutes, there can be no doubt about the result. You will have attained your goal.”
Of course, Emmet Fox wrote those back in the early to mid-1900s, so I’ve come up with a few that apply to life today.
1) Watch the news every single night and then carefully note how every tragedy could happen to you and your loved ones tomorrow.
2) Listen carefully to every disease discussed in drug company advertisements, in books, in magazines or on the Internet. Review the symptoms and see how they apply to your body or those of your loved ones. Share every little detail about your ailments with everyone you encounter.
3) Concern yourself with what everyone in your life is doing and evaluate whether they are living up to your expectations. Whenever you catch someone doing something improper, be sure and let him or her know loudly and clearly that they are in the wrong.
4) Insist on seeing the world realistically. If an optimist comes along, or someone tries to get you to see the hidden benefits, refused to be misled. Never, ever believe that something good can come out of something challenging.
5) Try to please everyone else. Pay close attention to everyone else’s opinions and criticisms of you. If someone tells you that you can’t do something, believe him or her without even trying.
6) Be constantly on guard so that others don’t take things from you—be it money, ideas, love, freedom, creativity, your personal possessions, or your health. Remain convinced that there is only so much to go around and that if you don’t get there first, someone else will, and you will lose out.
7) Live cautiously at every moment. Spend as much time as possible every day thinking of all the things you fear so that they never catch you unaware. Never, ever try to overcome fears—after all, they just might come true.
Many people today find Emmet Fox and his writing to be dated and difficult to read. I sometimes do! But his simple but powerful ideas are as timeless as ever. I particularly like it when he reminds me,
“Don’t Hurry. You are going to live forever, somewhere. Don’t Worry. What will this thing matter in twenty years’ time? Don’t Condemn. You cannot know the difficulties others have to meet. Don’t Resent. Forgiveness is strong medicine. Don’t Grumble. Your own concept is what you see. Don’t Grab. You cannot hold what does not belong to you by right of consciousness. Don’t Shove. You are always in your right place at the moment. If you don’t like it raise your consciousness.”
Did any of the above steps to unhappiness sound familiar? I think if many of us are honest, we just might use them more than we should. Regardless of what any of us says, if you are bound and determined to be unhappy, no one can convince you otherwise. Just remember, to live SMART 365, each of us is responsible for our choices—including our choice to be happy.
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