Sunday, March 15, 2009


This morning, we had a couple of really entertaining and impactful speakers at Unity Church in San Francisco. Rick Foster and Greg Hicks were corporate consultants who decided to investigate happiness, and traveled to 7 continents to do so. They interviewed over 300 "happy" people and came up with nine things they all seemed to have in common.

I'd like to share these with you, and if you find them useful or valuable, do go to the website at

1. INTENTION--Rick and Greg say that most of the happy people they talked to have some sort of morning ritual that sets their intention to have a happy day. It reminds me of the comment I've often quoted from Norman Cousins about successful people waking up each morning with "robust expectations."

2. ACCOUNTABILITY--This involves making a conscious choice not to blame. I had to deal with this one a lot during my prison stay, choosing not to blame the bad lawyer, misguided judge, lying police and fumbling prosecutor in my case--after all, it was my bad decisions that got me in that mess to start with.

3. IDENTIFICATION--Happy people can identify what it is that brings them the most joy. For me, that's speaking, writing, dark chocolate, being funny, and beautiful women as friends and lovers and colleagues.

4. CENTRALITY--To make the above central to one's life, or as I talk about in MONEYLOVE, to do what you love.

5. RECASTING--Happy people still have unpleasant events in their lives.
But they do three things: Feel the feelings fully. Explore the meaning behind whatever traumatic event transpires. And look for the opportunities and learning that each such event contains. (this was a real challenge for me in prison, but with the help of some great mentors and friends and spiritual teachers, I was able to triumph over that particular adversity.)

6. OPTIONS--This is one that really struck a responding chord in me. If you've read my books or listened to my tapes, you know I am not a big fan of setting rigid goals. And here Rick and Greg are talking about the fact that happy people are continually opening up options, having a sense of direction, but not goals that prevent them from enjoying and acting on the surprises. This certainly relates to my previous article on serendipity. And I remember my old friend, the late Leo Buscaglia, telling me he thought the most important aspect of having a happy life was to always have lots of options in any given situation.

7. APPRECIATE--Here, Rick and Greg talked about the fact that appreciating someone else, or some situation, releases oxitosin, which they called "the trust hormone" and is the hormone released during pregnancy and nursing in women. They also pointed out that when you are appreciating, you are in the moment, and not thinking about the past or future.

8. GIVING--The authors pointed out that being a giving person, whatever form that giving and helping others takes, offers a biochemical reward. And several studies have shown some strong evidence that giving people tend to live longer.

9. TRUTH--Finally, happy people are committed to truth in their lives. You might want to check out my January 9 posting on THE TRUTH AND THE WHOLE TRUTH.

So, I think you can see why I liked these two guys and what they had to say so much. They agree with a lot of what I have to say and vice versa. And yet, illuminate some of these areas in ways I never thought of. Check out the website, and their books on Amazon, particularly HOW WE CHOOSE TO BE HAPPY and CHOOSING BRILLIANT HEALTH.

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