Happiness is never stopping to think if you are. – Palmer Sondreal
Happiness once eluded me. It seemed to float overhead and just out of reach. I could see happiness, but I couldn’t grasp it and bring it inside of me.
Happiness finally landed a little closer when I realized this truth: Happiness is an inside job. It doesn’t exist outside of me in a place, a person, a career or a single accomplishment. It exists when I look inside and see my soul smiling back.
I smiled a little wider when my friend, and author, Galen Pearl asked me to help get the word out about her new book, 10 Steps to Finding Your Happy Place (and Staying There). Finding my happy place has been the best gift I’ve ever received. Galen’s book will help you realize there’s a happy place created just for you, too.
Galen asked me to announce that all proceeds from the sale of the book will be donated to Edwards Center, a nonprofit organization providing residential and vocational services to adults with developmental disabilities.
A closer look
Galen Pearl’s stories have appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul and A Cup of Comfort anthologies, and her popular blog, 10 Steps to Finding Your Happy Place (and Staying There), attracts thousands of readers every month.
Recently retired from teaching law, she regularly leads retreats and workshops on developing habits to grow a joyful spirit. A Southern girl transplanted to the Pacific Northwest, she enjoys her five children and two grandchildren, martial arts, her cabin in the mountains, and mahjong.
It’s my pleasure to share Galen Pearl, her book, 10 Steps to Finding Your Happy Pace (and Staying There), and the awareness that happy places exist for us all – we just need to take the time to look for them.
1. For those who are meeting you for the first time, please tell us more about yourself.
I live in the Pacific Northwest. As a single mom, I’ve created a family with five adopted and foster kids, all grown now, and two with children of their own. I retired a year ago after teaching law for twenty years and practicing law for ten years before that. My cabin in the mountains is a place of great peace and joy for my spirit. I practice martial arts. And I play mahjong (but not well).
2. Please tell us about 10 Steps to Finding Your Happy Place (and Staying There). Who is it for and what inspired you to write the book?
There was the “surface” inspiration and the “deep” inspiration. The surface inspiration came from my daughter, who described her boyfriend’s forlorn expression one day by saying that he was looking for his happy place. The phrase helped me realize that I had found mine, and inspired me to reflect more deeply on the transformation my life had taken from one based in fear to one based in joy.
The desire to change my life led, years ago, to a multi-faceted quest to change my basic “default” through changing my habitual thought patterns. While there are many ways to do this (there is nothing “magic” about the 10 Steps), there were certain practices I found particularly helpful and meaningful. Those practices became the 10 Steps.
The book is for anyone who wants to change habits that do not serve our well-being, and to develop habits that will contribute not only to our own joy, but also to the joy of our families and communities.
3. Which step or steps are the most challenging for you?
Step 3: Give up the delusion of control is the most challenging one for me. For so much of my life, I handled my anxiety and fear by trying to control my external circumstances, including other people’s behavior.
As you can imagine, that never worked out too successfully, and it was exhausting. The urge to control comes from wanting things or people to be something other than what they are, so Step 3 is connected to acceptance. Learning what I can control (my own thoughts, words, and actions) and what I can’t control (everything else) was a relief, although the impulse to control my external environment still pops up now and then.
4. What has been the biggest obstacle to happiness in your own life?
Fear. The same obstacle that blocks happiness for all of us. Fear can manifest in many ways, such as anxiety, depression, anger, criticism, hatred, fanaticism, and so on. In my own life, it manifested as a need to be constantly vigilant, believing that if I relaxed my guard, something terrible would happen.
My mind spun out a constant stream of looming “what if” disasters, just waiting for me to turn my back. Through practicing the 10 Steps, my beliefs shifted to reflect a trust in the basic goodness of the universe, and an understanding that bad things were not caused by being happy.
5. Does living in our happy place mean feeling happy all the time?
No, it doesn’t. I think of my happy place as a place of calm, abiding joy. My surface feelings continue to come and go. Sometimes I feel happy and elated. Sometimes I feel sad and tender. Sometimes I’m even angry. Our happy place is like our home page on the computer. We might visit other sites, but home is always there and we always return.
6. Complete the prompts below:
I know that I really don’t know anything…and that’s okay.
This week, I want to stay grounded and present in the midst of an unusually busy schedule.
This month, I want to spend more time in meditation as I feel the seasons shift and settle in for fall and winter.
In this lifetime, I want to be awake.
I don’t know (see answer above!)
I am grateful.
7. Do you live in your happy place now?
I do. When I look back over much of my life, what I see is chronic stress and anxiety. When I look at my life now, I see a precious gift of days overflowing with blessings. My “outer” life has not changed, but my inner life has been transformed.
8. How does your book help people develop more joy in their lives?
I hope it helps most of all by example. I don’t have “the answer.” Or rather, I do have it, and so do we all. Living in our happy place is a worthwhile and attainable way to live. We don’t need to go spend years with a guru on a mountaintop (although that is a fine thing to do if that is your path). What I have tried to show with my own story is that there are simple techniques for changing our habits, techniques that we can weave into our everyday lives. And if we do, we’ll discover the happiness that has been within us all along.
9. What’s next for you?
I’m excited about the book and the growing interest in the 10 Steps program. I have some more speaking engagements coming up, and I look forward to the continuation of my 10 Steps monthly discussion group. I enjoy exploring with others, through writing and speaking, the ways in which we can develop habits to grow a joyful spirit.
Read. Be Happy. Give.
Remember, all proceeds from the sale of 10 Steps to Finding Your Happy Place (and Staying There) will be donated to Edwards Center, a nonprofit organization providing residential and vocational services to adults with developmental disabilities.