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The Happiness Factor

December 15, 2016



“How are you so happy all the time?” I get asked this question all the time.
I usually have a generic response, such as, “It’s easy to be happy when you’re loved.” And it’s true. But there’s so much more to it than that.
My happiness stems from the knowledge of who I am and what I’m on this earth for. My purpose gives me so much joy and strength, as a result, I can’t help but get excited about my life, my dreams and where I am headed.
I have learnt that constant happiness doesn’t happen by mistake, it requires work, in fact, a better word to use would be discipline. Happiness is attained through a disciplined thought process and a choice  to keep our minds on things that fuel our fire and make us come alive.
A lot of us talk about happiness, but I’ve noticed that a few of us actually choose it. We seem to think that happiness is a result of an easy life but nothing could be further from the truth. Happiness is a decision we make regardless of our circumstances. This used to sound absurd to me (I mean, how can I be expected to be constantly happy when life can be so cruel?) But if you’ve ever met someone who is genuinely happy, you’ll notice that they don’t allow anything that happens to them determine their outlook on life.


My friend Flora is one such person. She taught me what it means to be happy. Flora lost her father when she was only a child; she and her sister were raised by a single mother. But my friend never allowed that to affect how she sees herself. When we met in varsity, she said to me, “My dad passed away but it doesn’t change the fact that I’m a product of my parents’ love.” It was this positive outlook on life that drew me to her instantly and we have been friends for a decade now. Flora is a successful businesswoman and events planner but her life has not been without challenges. At 13, she was raped by a family friend. Her innocence and purity was violently taken from her. For a few years she struggled to trust or love people. To overcome the trauma, my friend made a conscious decision to go for counseling for a few years because she was determined to live a life free of that pain. She overcame the shame of what happened to her and even though she never forgot what happened, she healed from it. Today, she volunteers at an organization that works with rape victims. She speaks openly and boldly about what happened to her because she believes that her story can heal and inspire someone.
Before she could turn 19, Flora lost her mother to cancer. She often talks about how grateful she is that God allowed her to know a mother’s love. Flora doesn’t dwell on what she lost, she often speaks fondly about her mother, remembering her warmth, generosity and gentleness.
It was Flora who opened my eyes to how blessed I am to still have both my parents, and I like to think that Flora’s presence in my life brought me even closer to my parents. She encouraged me to maximize every moment with them and to appreciate the fact that I still have an opportunity to thank them for the sacrifices they’ve made.
After we graduated from varsity, Flora started a business that came crushing down after two years. She was liable for the debt incurred. She lost everything. But my friend didn’t wallow in self-pity. She is the kind of person who doesn’t stay down for too long. She decided that her dreams were too important for her to give up, so she got a job and started at the bottom. For two years, she worked tirelessly for a very small company, in a small town, earning a small salary, but her vision was anything but small. She allowed that job to teach her how to multitask and handle pressure.
Every time we spoke about her then-job, she would say to me, “This was not part of the plan, but this is only a beginning…” No matter how bleak the future seemed, my friend constantly held on to her dreams. At age 26, things got really challenging at home; her sister became very ill and with her small salary, she battled to take care of her. Every door she knocked on seemed to close. But my friend kept believing. She kept praying. She persisted. At age 27, she got an opportunity to move to Johannesburg on a six months contract. She grabbed it with both hands and made good money. Sadly, she couldn’t see the project through, her sister passed away and she had to move back home.
She was down but not out. After her sister’s passing, she took another shot at business, and this time it worked. Today, she is one of the leading ladies behind South Africa’s events. Was it easy? No. Flora lost people along the way, but she did not allow that to turn her into a victim. Sometimes I marvel at her resilience; her faith leaps over obstacles; her joy refuses to be discouraged and her heart is sold out on her dreams. This is the kind of attitude we need to adopt.


We must learn to choose happiness regardless of our circumstances. We have to be committed to our own success, happiness and purpose no matter what. Sometimes we sabotage our own wellbeing because we are fixated on things that drain and exhaust us. We have to make decisions that support our happiness. Happiness doesn’t come by mistake. We must learn to reject everything that prevents happiness from making a home in our hearts; reject hatred, reject negativity, reject unforgiveness, reject jealousy and reject bitterness. And in so doing, we choose love, we choose peace, we choose joy. Some of us are imprisoned by the issues we refuse to confront. We forget that happiness and bitterness cannot co-exist. No past, no family issue, no fear and no mistake is worth losing our happiness and our future over…


One of the things I have learnt in life is that my happiness is completely and utterly up to me. Choosing to hold on to the pain of the past is also choosing to hurt myself over and over again. Choosing to be defensive and guarded is also choosing not to have open and intimate relationships. Choosing to ignore my fears is also choosing to be constantly threatened and hurt by them. Choosing to stay angry and disappointed is also choosing to see life through the eyes of pain. Choosing to carry bad experiences is also choosing to allow the past to rob me of my future. Choosing to stay hurt is also choosing to remain a victim and victims are owned by what happened to them.
Remember not to personalize your pain, it’s not unique only to you. Pain is something we all have in common. Use the pain to better yourself. Allow the pain to refine you and allow it to make you better than you’ve ever been.
And always remember that happiness is the confidence that everything will work out even if life doesn’t make sense at the moment.


Love and light,
Nono Cele
Tweet me: @Nono_Cele
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