How to Be Happy

The plural of desideratum…that would be Desiderata, the legendary wisdom from Max Erhmann. I copied it at the end of this post. I like to read it on occasion to remind myself of the truths. What strikes me this time is the last sentence: Strive to be happy.

It does take striving. Life down here on earth batters and sucks away happiness. I think everything gets easier when you realize and accept this fact. And here’s the human triumph–There’s nothing to stop you from being happy, right in the midst of trouble and tribulation and sorrow. Happiness is a chosen attitude, and the time to chose it is any time that you can.

I just put on an album by the great Enoch Light orchestra, swing music from the 30s and 40s (no, I am not that old, but oh, how I love the music, all of it happy toe-tapping, feet dancing stuff), am painting my toenails Santa Fe Rose, and getting ready to start the next Maisie Dobbs mystery, Leaving Everything Most Loved, by Jacqueline Winspear. One of the few current novelists I always read. I’m making a happy space.


Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be critical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.

© Max Ehrmann 1927

8 thoughts on “How to Be Happy

  1. Wow. I have been thinking about what it is to be happy also lately. You bring a new twist with this. We learn to strive for so much. For things, success, achievements of all sorts. We know we should at least try to find joy in all that we do, but the notion of striving to be happy eludes us. This could be a commandment, really. If striving to be happy is the guiding principle behind all choices and actions… can you imagine? Thank you Curtiss Ann.


  2. One thing that truly makes me happy, is to have you back writing blogs again. Because all of your loyal followers, help to fill my inbox with happy thoughts, no matter what your subject matter. Having mail connected to your posts, is always like walking to the mailbox and finding a letter from a friend. It is fun to have more than just the junk mail that automatically gets the delete button!. Even though I do not know any of them personally I think of them as friends too.


  3. Dear Friend, you have to be the wisest woman I know and you know just where to find the most appropriate quotes to support your thoughts. As women, we are naturally hard on ourselves, and we need to be kinder and gentler to ourselves .As, I well know, fatigue can be quite the downer. I too have had to remind myself to strive to be happy. The sham, drudgery, and broken dreams are the little reminders to appreciate the good times. Have a happy day!


Thoughts? Don't keep them to yourself. Love to hear!

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