According to the Chinese calendar the new year will begin on January 22, and it will be the year of the rabbit. For those who believe in such things 2023 should bring twelve months of peace and hope. How wonderful would it be if we might all just sit back and enjoy the fruits of positive horoscopes or ancient signs! Sadly such superstitions are just another attempt by humans to explain the complexities of the world. We can’t rely on such predictions to determine how this year will affect us. Instead we all know that life is a complex mix of events over which we have little control. How we choose to face the ups and downs that are an inevitable aspect of our journeys from one moment to the next. is the key to what life feels like to each of us. While there is uncertainty from day to day in any year, we can prepare ourselves to meet the challenges that most surely will come. Reading tea leaves or visiting a fortune teller might be fun, but in the end our choices and actions will determine how well we will adapt the the world as is actually is.
Over the decades I have learned that every aspect of daily life described in a typical horoscope or superstitious prediction can be made more positive by individual determination and will. The happiest people that I know work at being so. A positive outlook on life comes from within. It is often a choice to find joy even on the most horrific of days. It does not require exciting trips or conspicuous consumption. It is instead a quiet and unassuming determination to find contentment in the smallest of things.
Truly satisfied people spread kindness wherever they go. They focus on others rather than themselves. They meet hardships with an understanding that each of us will face challenges and some of those difficulties will feel almost unbearable. They take small steps each day to find tiny moments that keep them optimistic. They deal with pain and sorrow by allowing themselves to grieve without becoming cynical. They accept that bad things happen to good people and that they are not immune to the vagaries of living. They trust in God, their friends, their families and themselves to push through the darkest moments. They see more good in the world than evil.
Successful people work hard to be so. Of course some people are born in the right country to the right parents so that they will always have wealth. Most of us have to work for such things. It takes time, effort, energy to achieve a level of comfort and satisfaction in one’s work. Those who rise to the top never quit learning. They are willing to enroll in continuing education courses, spend time training for new skills, work to achieve advanced degrees. They accept challenging tasks, are willing to put in extra hours when needed, become known for their dedication. While most of us are spending our free time watching television or escaping from reality with gaming, they are like the tortoise. They slowly but surely make themselves more skilled, more valuable in the workplace rather than complaining that they are not earning enough or being appreciated as they should be.
The same is true with relationships. The people who appear to have the best friendships take the time to communicate their feelings to those that they love. It only takes a few minutes to let people know that you are thinking of them and that you understand their needs. The most beloved among us are like angels on earth constantly spreading comfort and understanding.
I am lucky to know some incredible people who have carved out amazing lives for themselves by doing the type of things that I have just described. They seem to call with encouraging words at the exact moment when a friend or family member needs them. They are constantly watching for signs that someone is in need. They quietly make a three minute phone call to remind people that they are loved. They meet suffering with calm. They work hard to support whatever cause is important to them. They go an extra mile when others have already left the race.
Their names and faces flash before me. They inspire me to be better, to try harder not to devolve into pessimism. They show me that feeling sorrow for myself is a waste of my energy. they help me understand that true miracles come from the soul of a determined individual, not from a crystal ball or a winning lottery ticket.
I watched my mother being bombarded with hard times for most of her life. It was as though she could not catch a lucky break and yet she was one of the happiest people I have ever known. Just enjoying an ice cream cone was an exciting experience for her. So too was my Grandpa Little who lived to be one hundred eight years old. He lived in a rented room and was essentially destitute when he died, and yet the richness of his life was profound. He was indeed the wisest person I have encountered. My friend Pat Weimer’s door was always open. She’d make some coffee, set out a plate of emergency cookies and listen intently to anyone who needed to be heard. She was an amazing friend. Zerin Sahai may live in India but she has an uncanny talent of knowing exactly when I am in need of a call to comfort me. So too does my friend, Carol, who is the glue holding together our very diverse group of friends. Scott Scheffler earned at advanced degree in oil and gas law while in his fifties. He has worked tirelessly since he was a teen and success has followed his efforts.
Knowing how to live well runs in families. Scott’s mother, Linda, is known far and wide for her generous and loving spirit. Zerin’s daughter, Ruchika, delights us with her upbeat spirit. Pat’s daughter, Lisa, has followed her mother’s lead by being a true friend to all who know her. None of these people found the secrets to living well from predictions. All of them put positive effort into each day. Perhaps in the year of hope and peace according the the rabbit, we might all make the world a better place by following the example of the people around us who seemingly have found the keys to happiness, success, strong relationships. Learn from them and I suspect that 2023 will indeed be one of peace and hope.
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