04.27.12 Truth & Wisdom

If You Want to Be Happy, Be

If You Want to Be Happy, Be

BY Kelli Ryder

I don’t recall the exact age I suddenly felt it necessary to “seek happiness”, but I know for certain that it happened abruptly. One day, seemingly out of the blue, we enter the adult world and it’s glaringly obvious that you have to FIND happiness. You need to find happiness in your education, in your career, seek it out in a group of friends or from a man who will ultimately be your other half, as if you’re not whole already. We search for something to complete us so that we can be happy. If we can’t find whatever IT is, we continue pouring over every aspect of our lives hoping to find it. I couldn’t be more guilty of falling into this trap, as until recently, all of my adult memories include searching for the ever elusive happiness.

Obviously, no material item or superficial relationship made me happy. Nothing was ever good enough. I would put all of my eggs into whatever the ‘happiness basket of the day’ was and lo and behold: constant disappointment because I couldn’t find fulfillment in my unreasonable expectations. If I got an A in college or a promotion at my job, it only shone the spotlight brighter on my failing relationship(s) or the huge zit brewing on my forehead.

I eventually had to resort to an hour each week with my dear therapist, where I cried about literally nothing. Who does that? Who willingly hands someone their hard-earned money to only be told they can’t really figure out what the problem is? Apparently, a lot of people. As I’ve started writing and reaching out to other women, it turns out I am not the only person who felt lost and confused and most of all, sad. I never wanted to admit the real culprit – depression. You see, I am much more of a go-getter than that. If I put myself somewhere, surely I can get myself out. After enough gut wrenching heartbreaks – from the boyfriend sleeping in everyone’s bed but your own, to the news of another family member falling ill to the C-word, I realized I wouldn’t make it to age 30 if I continued on this path of despair.

I had a brief moment at rock bottom, feeling more alone than I’d been in years and accepting the bitterness of, “Shoot. This is my future. I am just one of those unhappy people. Good thing I am good at laughing loudly and looking joyful, because we have a long acting career ahead of us.” I, like many women, turned to retail therapy to numb the pain and annoyance of my constant thoughts. I saw a little greeting card with Leo Tolstoy’s famous quote: “If you want to be happy, be.”

What a ding dong, that Tolstoy. Or… am I the ding dong? My mind was in the perfect place to take that quote for exactly what it is – truth. I decided that the dull sadness wasn’t going to win every day for no reason. And… I’ve got to say, it was as simple as that: a decision to be happy. I sat down with a pen and paper and identified my wants, paired with my needs and filtered that through my stress levels. I picked the things that keep me up at night, give me tummy aches and make my neck red and blotchy (it really happens, a lot). I then found the people and things that give me a genuine smile on my face, make me feel accomplished and proud and give me the ultimate goal: FULFILLMENT. I then wrote out an actual action plan to truly mold my life so that the bad is gone and the good is overwhelming and my lungs can actually take deep, joyful breaths. OCD?? Absolutely. But I am making all of the changes necessary for my ultimate happiness and fulfillment. I was no longer going to be the girl who thought this mindset was just who I was and who I was going to be… I was a young lady who refused to settle for a mediocre existence.

Suddenly, here we are. I laugh more, I don’t stress and I am working towards life goals that make me happy (even if they don’t make me money). I am in a relationship that doesn’t complete my life but enriches my already complete life. I take things for what they are and balance them out with blessings. It is all about where you let your mind take you, and what is so brilliant is you can be in control. It takes training, it takes patience, you’ll have setbacks. But I encourage you to truly do the same. Write out your life plan, your goals, your dreams and the things that hurt and make you sad. Then identify how you can get those to work together so that you can be the best you possible.

Now, I know it is harder than my little essay could make it sound. But I want you to have the same thing, as we all deserve it. I wish for you to find what is destroying your happiness, find what is nurturing it, and find what you need to create your life. I truly believe we each have a little spark inside that can push us beyond limits we ever thought possible. I truly believe our life is our own. And I truly believe we each deserve to be happy. Life is an adventure, and we all need to feed that hunger… whatever it may mean for us. I can promise we won’t regret it.

Featured image by Amanda de Cadenet

Kelli Ryder is a twenty-something currently living and working in Boise, ID- but she jets off to San Francisco as often as life and Southwest Airlines allow. She is the author of the life & style blog, Leopard and Lavender, and has a mission to let women around the world know that life is about balance. From someone who has seen both sides of the sunrise, she believes there is beauty in finding your center, wherever it may be.


  • I always say that happiness starts from within….because at the end of the day we have love ourselves first before we can love anyone and we are each as an individual responsible for our own happiness….

  • This post, as well as your show, have found me at exactly the right time, or maybe I found them, but either way this is EXACTLY what I need. I’m in the midst of finding and creating my own happiness and it’s been a bumpy journey already. Your words are inspiring and are a “cushion for my tush” along the way. THANK YOU!

  • You are so strong! You have come a long way since we first met. I am at a time in my life where I have everything that I have always wanted, but I am not 100% happy! Why?! I have no idea but I know I need to work on it!!! This is so inspiring! I have always admired you and continue to do that every day. Good luck with everything!!!

  • Lisa Marie Talavera

    This article is so good that I immediately wanted to read it again. 🙂

  • Mark

    A Tolstoy quote, noce

  • Cepera

    This quote is not from Leo Tolstoy, for chrissake! It’s from Kozma Prutkov, a fictional author invented by Aleksey Tolstoy and his friends, and this aphorism is a satire on banality. The zen-like profundity is entirely due to misattribution of this quote…

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