Happiness is a Journey—Not a Destination
Allen W. Smith
Growing up on an Indiana farm, I began doing a lot of thinking about life at an early age. Like everybody else, I wanted to be happy, so I started trying to figure out what I could do to make life better. My mother and father were very different in the way they thought about life. Mom always saw the glass of life as half full, whereas Dad saw it as half empty. My mother had more than her fair share of troubles in life, from the day her father died in the 1918 flu epidemic, when she was only three years old, until she died at age 94. Yet she managed to be reasonably happy a great deal of the time, and she was the most loving person I have ever known. Thinking deeply about life became a basic part of who I am early in life, and my philosophy has gradually evolved over the years. About 17 years ago, I began to feel an urge to start writing down some of my thoughts about life. That led to my self-syndicated newspaper column, “Contemplating Life,” which I have been writing every week since July 1994.
I have become convinced that happiness is a journey—not a destination. Instead of going through life always focusing on some mythical time period in the future when we hope to have most of the things we think we need to be happy, we need to focus on trying to be as happy as possible each and every day. Nobody has ever travelled an unhappy journey to a happy destination. Life just does not work that way. Abraham Lincoln once said, “I think most people are just about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” I think Lincoln hit the nail squarely on the head with that statement. Our way of thinking about life is more important than the actual circumstances of our lives in determining how happy we will be.
The seventy-seven essays in my book, “Happiness is a Journey,” borrow bits of wisdom from throughout the ages. They are designed to inspire and comfort readers, as well as to stimulate some deep thinking about some very ordinary ideas. The essays can be read in any order since each one stands alone. Readers who are looking for something specific can get a general idea of the content of each essay from its lead quotation. A list of theme-setting lead quotations is provided at the beginning of the book. Readers, not looking for something specific, are invited to browse the book and choose individual essays at random.