I came across a wonderful article in the September Ensign by Jeffrey R. Holland all about happiness, and in it he shared a wonderful quote I can’t get out of my mind:
Happiness is like a butterfly; the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder.” – Henry David Thoreau
This got me thinking about the times in my life when I have truly felt the happiest. A few that came to mind are when I was a member of BYU Young Ambassadors and spent two years performing, serving, and trying to forget myself. Another is when Jason and I were dating, engaged and newly married and we were constantly thinking about ways to surprise the other person and show them our love. I’ve also never felt happier than I have as a mother, revolving my world around this little person who can do very few things for themselves.
In each of these times, I hoped I would experience indescribable happiness, but I don’t remember just sitting there each day asking myself, “am I happy yet?” I think that’s what Thoreau means by turning your attention to other things when you’re desire is to increase your happiness in life. It’s kind of like being on a road trip, if you sit there and stare at the clock the entire time, not only will you miss out on the scenery, you’ll make yourself miserable as you wonder, “am I there yet?”
One of my favorite scriptures is kind of an unusual one, but it’s a good reminder to me. The scripture is in 1 Nephi 17:21, and Nephi’s brothers are complaining about their current situation — which wasn’t an easy one to be in. They had been traveling in the wilderness for many years and I’m sure they dreamed of their comfortable life back home constantly. They said,
Behold, these many years we have suffered in the wilderness, which time we might have enjoyed our possessions and the land of our inheritance; year, and we might have been happy.
In the margin next to the scriptures I have the words written, “no you wouldn’t!” to remind myself that this type of thinking never brings happiness. Sometimes I catch myself living in the past, regretting certain decisions and wondering what the outcome would have been if I had chosen otherwise. I wonder if I would be happier in those other circumstances than what I ultimately chose, and I can tell you that this is the biggest thief of happiness there ever was. Don’t let your past rule your present, and remember that you made the decisions you did for a reason and your life has unfolded in a way — and will continue to — that is much better for you than you could come up with on your own.