6 Steps to True Happiness

6 Steps to Happiness

This guest post was written by Chris Gaddis.

I want to thank Marc and Angel for allowing me to be a guest on their blog.  Marc was nice enough to appear on a radio show I host in New York (download my radio interview with Marc here).  He knew I was starting my own blog at chrisjgaddis.com and he was more than generous in allowing me this opportunity.

As I was thinking about this opportunity and what to write I thought back to the whole reason that I am now doing what I am doing for a living.  I will spare you the long story and just give you the key info that you will hopefully find useful.

The secret to happiness is not in doing what one likes,
but in liking what one does.
– James M. Barrie

A Tragedy

My wife and I graduated from Keuka College, a beautiful college on Keuka Lake in New York.  Graduation weekend is always held on Memorial Day, so my family and my wife’s family decided to rent a house on the lake for the weekend.  Ever since then, we’ve made it an annual family tradition.  Every Memorial Day weekend we rent a house on the lake together as a family.

In 2009 during our annual stay at the lake, through a long series of events that I feel were truly meant to be, our dog Athena ended up getting hit by a car and died.  Looking back it seems as if my whole life’s purpose flashed before my eyes in this one solitary moment.  The events and occurrences of my life up to that point seemed to fit together like an unsolved jigsaw puzzle – everything fit, but the message of the puzzle was still unclear.  But in that moment of tragedy, the different pieces came together in a more enlightening way than they ever had before.

Needless to say it was a pretty sudden and unexpected death that affected my wife and me greatly.  I could not shake the feeling it was somehow meant to be and immediately tried to decipher why that was.  What I learned, summed up in one sentence is, “Life is too short not to follow your heart.”

A New Beginning

And this is what my blog is all about.  I decided that I wanted to spend more time with my wife and kids.  I wanted to work for myself and stop making other people rich from my efforts.  I came up with a plan to do this and I have now implemented it.

This is not an easy thing to do.  Athena died almost two years ago.  This plan was supposed to be implemented within one year and I am just beginning to make significant progress now.  I feel a bit guilty I did not get it done sooner.  Unfortunately, life is like that.  We all have the best intentions, but ultimately life gets the best of us and we find ourselves 15 years later asking, “How did this happen?  Where did the time go?”

In the end, happiness is different for everyone.  It could mean any number of things.  I am a firm believer that happiness is a choice we can make.  Whether it is being happy with our self, our spouse, our job or something else.  To find true happiness you have to follow your heart and intuition.  You have to be who you are and follow a lifestyle and career that fulfills you; no matter what that entails or what people say about it.  And it is never too late to do so.

After Athena’s death, and in my search to help it all make sense, I put together a personal action plan that followed six simple steps.  It helped me take a snapshot of my life and analyze where I am now and where I want to go.  So I want to leave you with this 6 step process to getting what you want out of life.

  1. Create a mission statement. – Mine was simply “To translate what gives me joy, fulfillment and makes me genuinely happy into a career that will allow me to work for myself and spend more time with my family.”  This meant starting my own business as a coach to help individuals and small business owners get what they want out of their life and business.  Formulating this sentence allows us to create a short mission statement that summarizes exactly what we want from life, which will help to keep it in the forefront of our minds when we’re making important decisions.
  2. Make a list of your primary priorities. – This list will make your decisions easier as you will know what’s most important to you.  Anytime there is a conflict consult this list and make the decision based on your priorities.  Here is an example of my list: Family, Church, Health, Work / Money, Service to Others, Hobbies.
  3. Take an inventory. – List every single major entity in your life – the people, organizations, career, hobbies, and anything else you spend time on in your life.  Write a short summary of each.  Explain what each one means to you, what you get from it, and if you are neglecting other areas of your life because of it.
  4. Make decisions. – Take this list and make a decision on every aspect of your life.  Decide whether time you spend on certain activities could be spent helping you achieve goals in other areas of your life.  Decide if you will continue some activities, change others, or start a new one.  Time is the most precious commodity we have; do not waste it.
  5. Develop a plan.Develop a game plan of what has to take place to reach your dreams and make things happen.  Setup measurable goals for your life.  Break it all down into time frames of a week, a month, a year and then longer – 5, 10, 20, 30 years out.  These will constantly change and evolve so check them and update them frequently.
  6. Schedule it, tell everyone and take action. – The most important step.  By scheduling your goals and your action items it allows you to set definite deadlines.  That gives you a better chance of sticking to it.  If you tell everyone what you are doing you are now creating ownership of your goals.  And of course nothing can stand in your way as long as you’re taking decisive action.  If you find yourself making excuses, stop!

I know it may seem crazy that some dog changed my life, but it was the lessons I learned from Athena’s accident that changed my life.  We all learn differently.  And despite my loss, I’m grateful for the lessons and the opportunities that have risen from it.  If you’re looking for further guidance on creating happiness in your life I recommend the short but powerful book The Four Agreements.

If you liked what you read here please feel free to visit Chris Gaddis’ website at chrisjgaddis.com and subscribe to his blog.  If some of you need assistance in creating your own Personal Action Plan he would be happy to e-mail you a copy of his.  Just email him at gaddis.chris@gmail.com.

Photo by: Luca Nicalli


  1. says

    What a wonderful story that is! And yes, we find happiness quite instantly when we understand and believe in our priorities and working abilities. It’s really important to take inventories of ourselves. That is one good piece of advice, as always :)

  2. says

    yes its extremely important for us to have clear defined goals or a mission statment even when it comes to happiness if we are serious about it
    thanks Marc

  3. says

    Chris I am glad Marc gave you this guest post…it reads almost as if this was my life…although my tragedy was different it started my life on a different path and with writing and writing my blog gardenseyeview.com. I have done much of what you have said but I need to continue to formalize it and continue that path…gardening and writing are that path…so thx for helping another on her path and I invite you to read my blog…the beginning posts are found under the Posts From the Past…

  4. says

    So sorry about your dog! I am sitting here on my laptop with my pup curled up beside me!
    I do understand what you mean about not taking life for granted. Unfortunately, some can be more stubborn than others. My hubby had a brain anerysm over 2 years ago. He is fine and recovered completely. We were overjoyed. We loved life and were so glad to still have one another. Then I got caught up in a corporate career that was affording lots of money and stuff, but my health began to suffer. I was working 80+ hour weeks at a job that was sucking the life from me. I eventually had a nervous breakdown. That was the second wakeup call, but I believe it won’t take a 3rd!
    My dream is to help people who feel they are stuck in hopeless situations and help them see they have the power to create change in their lives.
    Hats off to you for doing so! Will come visit!
    10 steps to learning for life

  5. says

    Chris, thank you for sharing your insightful story and lessons with us. It’s always nice to have a guest writer who writes from the heart.

    Feel free to respond to any of the comments left here by other readers.

    Make it a great week, everybody! :-)

  6. says

    I think prioritization is one of the most important steps someone can take. In life there are plenty of things we all want to do. For me, on a day to day basis it can be anything from work to watching TV.

    But every time I do something now I ask myself if its high on my priority list. For example, every time I turn the TV on I ask myself “Is there something that I can do that has a higher priority than this?”

    Usually there is, like working out or working on my business. I think when we take care of our priorities, everything else will fall into place.

    Thanks for the great article. It was a great read!

  7. says

    Sorry it took such a tragedy to wake you up, but it’s good that you’re now grateful for the learning, and most important, that you can make sense of it.

    I love your six steps.

    So many people just never take the time to look at the big picture of their lives. Often they spend a lot of time watching tv and then complain that their lives are boring!

    I think your steps will go a long way to guiding people to the life they want.

    Live Life Happy!

  8. says

    Thanks Marc & Angel.
    Chris, amazing that this article should appear before me at. this. precise. time.
    Sooo unhappy with my life; trying to figure out what I want to do to change that -for the better.
    Just in the past couple of days (because of a contest I found out about), I’ve begun to consider writing up a plan for a business that I feel in my heart & would like to start. Never even having come close to doing this before, I was at a loss: Where do I start? How do I do this? How can I afford to do it? CAN I do it?
    Not totally confident, but I want to -feel I have to- try.
    All six of your steps are exactly the starting point I need.
    So, I will start. :)
    Thank you so much.

  9. says

    Sorry for the delay. I am on vacation in Florida this week with my family and have tried to avoid computers and phones.

    I want to thank Marc and Angel again for the opportunity it has been great.

    Donna, it is always hard when you deal with tragedy in your life, but there is always a lesson to be learned. It is not easy, but the people who look for that lesson are almost always better off. And you are right; these six steps are just the start. Things change constantly and it is important to reassess where you are periodically. And following your passion this the best way to live, good luck with your blog.

    Bernice, Enjoy your puppy. Unfortunately it does take some longer than others. At least you figured it out. It is always liberating to make that decision and follow through. Follow your dream and I am sure you can make a positive difference.

    Thanks David, I am grad you enjoyed it. I agree. Not only do priorities make it easier to decide what you should be doing; it also leads to greater happiness as you are doing what you value.

    Jaqueline, it was a lesson I needed to learn. Athena woke me up to the fact I am in charge and can do what I want to do that makes me happy. I want to share that with everyone.

    Nancy, that is the way life works. When you are in need of some direction, it usually pops up when you least expect it. I encourage you to do what you feel is right. You will find that when you are living your passion, life becomes so much easier and enjoyable. Let me know how you make out.

    Thank you everyone for the positive response. It has been almost overwhelming. I have been sitting here trying to catch up on all the comments and e-mails for a couple hours. I will try to stay more current. Thanks and good luck.

  10. says

    Chris, I’m sorry to hear about your tragedy. My heart goes out to you brother.

    As you said, happiness is a choice. We can choose to be happy, or we can choose to be miserable. And we can be happy or miserable in a variety of ways. Writing makes me happy, so does laughing. On the other hand, oversleeping makes me miserable, as does watching golf!

    But the main point is that happiness is a choice, your own personal decision to lead your life based on the values that you want to lead it by. No-one forces you to be happy, or miserable. It’s down to you. No-one else will do it for you, so take the initiative, wake up in the morning and decide what you will be today. It’s all or nothing, you can’t be both.

    Great read man :-)

  11. says

    Thanks Stuart. You are right. We have the ability to make the choice whether to be happy or not. We make choices everyday and they all impact that happiness. As we make the decisiones that impact our future we need to keep in mind what we want. This will help us to always be progressing towards our goals.

    Thanks for the feeback; I am glad you enjoyed it.

  12. says

    Great story. :) I’d like to chime in and say this: create a mission statement.

    I’m going to say that again: create a mission statement!!!

    It helped me so much. It allowed me to get myself on track and align everything around my purpose. I feel like I was floating around before I created my statement. It’s truly worth it!

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