Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Secrets To Happiness

The great Robert Louis Stevenson compiled this list of things that were (to him) the key to happiness. It's ironic to me that RLS, ill for much of his life and often suffering, wrote so many things that were positive, including one of my favorites, A Child's Garden of Verses.

How To Be Happy

By Robert Louis Stevenson

1. Make up your mind to be happy. Learn to find pleasure in simple things.

2. Make the best of your circumstances. No one has everything, and everyone has something of sorrow intermingled with gladness of life. The trick is to make the laughter outweigh the tears.

3. Don't take yourself too seriously. Don't think that somehow you should be protected from misfortune that befalls other people.

4. You can't please everybody. Don't let criticism worry you.

5. Don't let your neighbor set your standards. Be yourself.

6. Do the things you enjoy doing, but stay out of debt.

7. Never borrow trouble. Imaginary things are harder to bear than real ones.

8. Since hate poisons the soul, do not cherish jealousy, enmity, grudges. Avoid people who make you unhappy.

9. Have many interests. If you can't travel, read about new places.

10. Don't hold postmortems. Don't spend your time brooding over sorrow or mistakes. Don't be one who never gets over things.

11. Do what you can for those less fortunate than yourself.

12. Keep busy at something. A busy person never has time to be unhappy.

(cited from True Wealth, ed. Gary Morris).

What do you think of Stevenson's list? Perhaps he wrote great literature because he was a highly perceptive human being. He died at only 44, probably of a cerebral haemorrhage, but shortly before he died, Wikipedia tells me, he reflected the same spirit manifested in the list above:

"Sick and well, I have had splendid life of it, grudge nothing, regret very little ... take it all over, damnation and all, would hardly change with any man of my time."


Keith Raffel said...

Julia, thanks for the good advice. I especially like "If you can't travel, read about new places." Yes!

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

I love these! Thanks so much for the inspiration from one of my favorite authors/poets.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

I think we should all post this list somewhere and read it once a week. I know I intend to.

Thanks, Julia.

Julia Buckley said...

Sure! We can all use a bit of positivity, and I think RLS had that down. :)

Jacqueline Vick said...

Nice to have the reminder.

Lisa Bork said...

Love this list, Julia!! Thanks for sharing.

Beth Groundwater said...

A great list, and the first one is the most important: "Make up your mind to be happy."

Darrell James said...

Thanks, Julia. I loved his poetry and of course Treasure Island. His list for happiness could easily be adopted by anyone.

Jess Lourey said...

Beautiful, Julia. I agree that happiness is an exercise that we must constantly work toward and can almost always achieve. Thanks for the day brightener!

Julia Buckley said...

I'm glad you all like it. Darrell, my favorite by him is actually the very dark DR. JEKYLL and MR. HYDE, but really I like all of the things I've read by him.

By the way, he has a terrific short story called THE BODY SNATCHERS that I recommend for all of you who like a touch of horror with your mystery.

Jess and Beth, I think you're wise to focus on happiness as a choice. We're all so well-adjusted. :)

Carol Grace said...

How about adding "Never read critical reviews of your work." Did R.L.S. ever get one? I doubt it.

G.M. Malliet said...

I'd like to have met RLS.

Julia Buckley said...

Maybe not, Carol. But who knows? We all have our critics. I'm guessing he was self-critical when it came to his writing.

GM, me too!

Jessie Chandler said...


Great post. It boils down to the fact that we have the ability to choose our condition (within reasonable circumstances), and the power of the positive, the joy of laughter, and the right attitude can take us a good long way. Always good to be reminded of that, especially when life intrudes on writing time, and lots of frustration results !

Alan Orloff said...

"Avoid people who make you unhappy."

I like this one.

Catherine Denton said...

So positive and practical yet so hard to do. Thank you for these reminders.
Making Life a Work of Art!

Julia Buckley said...

Jessie--so true. And yet it does take some conscious reminding.

Alan--I like that one, too.

Catherine--it is hard, although it seems strange to say so.

Kathleen Ernst said...

A lovely list to share. Thoughts to return to when life gets too hectic!

Vicki Doudera said...

Well -- I'm late to post as usual but want to add my thanks to you Julia for posting something positive and useful. Great tips. I'd add "Adopt an attitude of gratitude" to his already super list.