Serving our mission in Uganda, and looking deep into the lives of these amazing people, has given us time to consider where happiness lies and how to find it. Among all the stories we have gathered, we have identified three elements that are common in those who seem truly happy.
The Happiness Triangle
Those who exhibit a balance between discipline, gratitude and charity seem to be the happiest and most content with their lives compared with those with only one or two of these elements.
Contrary to the beliefs of our self-indulgent world, those who lead a disciplined life are far happier than the gluttons who eat and drink and make merry all the time.
The words discipline and disciple come from the same Latin root word; discipulus, which means apprentice, student or pupil. A person who is disciplined surrenders himself to something or someone to achieve a greater good. He sometimes gives up something now for something better, but not always. A true disciple does not sacrifice now just for blessings later. He sacrifices now because he loves the cause more than he loves himself, and blessings become an ancillary bonus.
Physical discipline makes you sweat, increases healthy muscle mass, reduces unwanted fat, and enlivens the entire body. For example, consistently being on the hungry side makes a person feel more alive, while always having a full belly just makes you lazy and want to sleep.
Spiritual discipline drives you to your knees where you supplicate God for guidance, establish direction and pursue a worthy mission. It sharpens your view of heavenly purposes and makes you more determined to be a true disciple rather than just a casual observer.
A person who is grateful cannot be miserable. Giving thanks to God for the gift of life helps us recognize that life is in fact a gift and not a sentence. It is where we are stretched and tempered and learn to grow organically (from the inside and not only from outside influences). It helps us take ownership of our perspective on life. Our friends here constantly express thanks to God for life and to see the sun another day. When is the last time you thanked God that you have seen another sunrise?
Gratitude to others for who they are and what they do is also vital. Expressing thanks helps us focus on the better qualities in another rather than finding their faults. Since we are all imperfect works in process, there are plenty of faults to identify. But we are also sons and daughters of an eternal God, which makes us at least a little bit divine.
Charity is the most pure and powerful form of love. It means we forgive others, serve them and give them the benefit of the doubt. We seek opportunities to serve, not because we expect thanks or reward, but because we truly love those we serve. Giving meaningful service to those who either do not know of our service, or have no way of repaying it, is the purest form of charity. The atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ is the supreme example of unmitigated charity.
Find someone to serve and you will find a new friend. We cannot serve without growing to love those we serve. Just ask a mother. In most homes, what is the first name called out when the kids walk through the door?
Finding the Sweet Spot of Happiness
As the illustration shows, things change when any two of these elements overlap. Having discipline while showing gratitude increases happiness. Showing charity as a disciple increases happiness. But the sweet spot of happiness lies in the middle where all three attributes blend. It is here where one experiences inner nirvana of pure joy and peace.
May each of us enlarge or improve our discipline, gratitude and charity. And, as we see them come together, our happiness will increase until we truly enjoy life abundant.