Do you have the right to be happy?

This question has come up during different seasons of my life and recently over lunchtime conversations with friends.

When times are difficult and uncertainty reigns, you may struggle with showing you are happy, and even feel guilty expressing it to others.

As the fight for justice for all marches on and worries about the political and economic landscape are chronic, the turmoil, grief, and hurt can make you question, “With all of the suffering on the planet, who am I to be happy right now?”

What I’m offering you today is what I dole out in big scoops at my annual leadership conference Design Your Destiny Live and that’s a plateful of permission.

  • Permission to give yourself the gift of being happy in this moment.
  • Permission to give yourself the gift of being happy this week.
  • Permission to give yourself the gift of being happy. Period.

You can be angry about the injustices you see. You can even be concerned for the trends you’re seeing on the planet. And you can actively fight for what is most important to you AND be happy along the way.

Being happy doesn’t mean you are ignorant to what’s going on in the world.

Being happy doesn’t mean you don’t have bad days – or experience deep pain, grief, and sorrow.

Being happy doesn’t mean you lack compassion or empathy.

When I look at the greatest leaders of all time, I see the theme that ran through their writings and teachings was about unconditional love.

Their ability to deal with harsh circumstances and conditions and still be happy is because it’s hard to get to unconditional love without walking through the door of happiness.

Abraham Lincoln was known to have said, “Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

It took me a LONG TIME to understand this.

Today, I can move from painful moments very quickly and find the joy, as I choose happiness as a commitment. I understand that I operate and lead more effectively when happiness is my foundational mindset.

And I proudly claim a nickname one of my colleagues gave me years ago – Mary F’in Sunshine. (smile)

People who met me decades ago would not remember this version of who I am today as I carried my anger and disappointments around like a badge of courage. “Look at what I’ve been through.”

When I speak about my heartaches today, I do it from a place of gratitude and grace.

In my business, I’ve been broke and had to borrow over $200K, failed, and experienced burnout – and I’ve done it all in public for the world to watch and judge – so I feel extremely blessed to be standing in this place today. 

What I’ve learned is that there is a cycle of Choice, Direction, Commitment, and Consistent Action.

I’ve made the choice to be happy, regardless of what’s going on in my world at the moment.

This choice has influenced my direction to design my destiny and live in a way that honors my calling to do leadership legacy work with clients.

It is my commitment to this work and calling that has me move forward happy for every moment, fully aware that I may not always get it right.

And this takes consistent action, waking up every day looking for where I can be a force for good on the planet because when I focus on doing that it makes me happy.

Maybe you’ve dealt with your share of hardship, unkindness, and injustice and are struggling to find your way out.

Maybe you’re feeling as if no one understands all of the emotions you’re feeling right now.

I acknowledge this isn’t an easy path to navigate.

I also acknowledge that life isn’t fair and we don’t all have the same opportunities and blessings.

Choosing to be happy even in the midst of all the hurts is about choosing emotions that will allow you to feel better and love more easily.

Living life from this place models what’s possible for others.

So, be angry about the things that anger you – transform the energy of anger into action, and choose happiness as your operating system even when dealing with a hostile world like Mandela, MLK, and Mother Theresa.

ACTION: The Upside Challenge of the week is to identify where I can increase my gratitude for the blessings of my life – and to find ways to brighten someone else’s world as that brightens my own. The world needs you and your brilliance

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