A Short 15-Point Guide to a Happy Life

A Short 15-Point Guide to a Happy Life December 2, 2020

Clem Onojeghuo via Unsplash

Sometimes inspiration finds you. Other times you find it. The key is knowing where to look and for me one of the easiest places to locate a little spiritual stimulation is on one of the bookcases in our home. It was there, under a thin layer of dust, that I stumbled upon A Short Guide to a Happy Life by Anna Quindlen.

Do you remember this book? It was an instant bestseller when it first came out, to my surprise, 20 years ago (!) in the year 2000. It is a quick read, perhaps the thinnest hardcover in my library. There are black-and-white photos interspersed with the text, and even stopping to take in the images, you can finish it in about 20 minutes.

I dismissed A Short Guide to a Happy Life the first time I read it as trite, more of an essay than a real book—but on a belated second glance, I see its value. It captures one wise woman’s take on life, what’s important and what should be ignored, and at least some of its insights are sure to speak to you. Here are 8 of my favorite passages, lightly edited. Read them slowly.

  1. You are the only person alive who has responsibility for your life. No one else.

  2. Remember that you are still a student, still learning every day how to become human.

  3. Life is made up of moments, small pieces of glittering mica in a long stretch of gray cement. Look for them.

  4. All of us want to do well. But if we do not do good, too, then doing well will never be enough.

  5. Be generous. Send an email. Write a letter. Kiss your mom. Hug your dad.

  6. Get a life in which you are not alone. Find people you love, and who love you.

  7. School never ends. The classroom is everywhere. The exam comes at the very end.

  8. This is not a dress rehearsal, today is the only guarantee you get.

Those are the first 8 points. What follows are 7 additional keys to happiness from another stumbled-upon source, a file of old Xeroxed clippings I found in a box in my attic. The stapled pages I uncovered had no title, no author was credited. I believe it came from a blog I can no longer identify, but judging from the other pages around it, it’s about 9 or 10 years old.  (If you know the author, please let me know.)

9. When you say “I love you,” say it truthfully. When you say “I’m sorry” say it with eye contact.

10. Remember that sometimes, silence is the best answer.

11. When you find you’ve made a mistake, take the appropriate steps to correct it.

12. Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is lucky.

13. Believe and trust God, whoever or whatever you conceive God to be. (But always lock your car.)

14. Marry or be with the person you love talking to the most. When you get old, conversation will be more important than anything else.

15. Share your knowledge. It’s a way to live forever.

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