Ruth Ann Harnisch
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Ruth Ann Harnisch is a personal coach
and philanthropist who is constantly searching for new ideas
that will help make the world a better place. She is the
president of The Harnisch Family Foundation and serves on
the board of governors of the International Association
of Coaches. She is also the founder of The Dignitarian Dialogues
(www.digdi.com), Thrillionaires (www.thrillionaires.org)
and Coach100Free (www.coach100free.com).
you ramble on through life, brother,
Whatever be your goal,
Keep your eye upon the donut
And not upon the hole."
-Dr. Murray Banks
who have never experienced wealth find it difficult to believe
that rich people aren't automatically happy people. As one
man said to a woman of means, "With all the potential of what
your money could do, if
not happy, what hope
do the rest of us have?"
Me, I'm rich and happy. I'm "Pollyanna rich."
Remember Pollyanna? The heroine of Eleanor H. Porter's 1913
novel, Pollyanna is an 11- year-old orphan who finds happiness
and comfort-even in the face of life's most painful moments-by
"playing The Game." The Game is simple: Find as much as
you can to be glad about in each circumstance of your life.
Pollyanna assumed her new guardian, the wealthy Miss Polly
Harrington, knew The Game:
"'Oh, Aunt Polly, Aunt Polly,' breathed
the little girl, rapturously, 'what a perfectly lovely,
lovely house! How awfully glad you must be you're so rich!'"
But Aunt Polly was decidedly not glad about
her riches-such sinful pride and arrogance! One of the town's
wealthiest citizens, Polly was a "stern, severe-faced woman.who
never thought to smile.."
That is not the kind of rich woman I am.
I'm as glad as Pollyanna thought Aunt Polly should be. Almost
every second of my life with money is happier than almost
any moment I experienced when I was without money. I now
enjoy life's luxuries to a degree made possible only by
the contrast to my previous existence. That's a fact. Here's
another fact: I now believe I'm capable of being very happy
even if I were to be poor again. That's because I now know
for sure what I would not have believed without firsthand
knowledge: Money isn't as big a factor in true happiness
as most people think.
basic necessities are met, the increasing economic
status of a person's family has no effect on the likelihood
of feeling satisfied with his or her life."
The 100 Simple Secrets of Happy Families:
What Scientists Have Learned and How You Can Use It
by David Niven, HarperSanFrancisco, 2004, p. 64. Original
research reported in "Effects of Family Structure,
Family SES, and Adulthood Experiences on Life Satisfaction"
by V. Louis and S. Zhao,
Journal of Family Issues
Vol. 23, 2002, pp. 986-1005.
A study looking at the ratio of
good thoughts people have to bad thoughts (including
memories, reverie, and explanations) found that
"depressed people had an equal ratio: one bad thought
to each good thought. Nondepressed people had roughly
twice as many good thoughts as bad ones."
Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive
Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting
by Martin E. P. Seligman, Free Press,
2002, p. 226. Original research reported in "Cognitive
Balance and Psychopathology: Evaluation of an Information
Processing Model of Positive and Negative States
of Mind" by R. Schwartz and G. Garamoni,
, Vol. 9, 1989, pp. 271-94.
".having a positive attitude about
those around us is among the most important predictors
of life satisfaction.without such attitudes, we
are less than half as likely to feel happy."
The 100 Simple Secrets of Happy People:
What Scientists Have Learned and How You Can Use
by David Niven, HarperSanFrancisco, 2000,
p. 141. Original research reported in "Satisfaction
in Later Life" by J. C. Glass and G. Jolly,
, Vol. 23, 1997, p. 297.
first began having deep conversations with wealthy people,
I was shocked to discover that (a) money really didn't solve
most problems, and (b) that it was possible to feel perfectly
miserable while having plenty of money. Even more surprising
to me was that the opposite could also be true. It is possible
to feel perfectly happy without much money.
surely contributes less to my overall happiness than I imagined
it would when I didn't have any. I turned out to be just
like most people: Once my basic needs were covered, I was
no more or less happy than I was without money-until I
that I wanted to be happier, and I set about the task of
learning how to create more happiness for myself through
intention and action.
knew the secret of happiness, and now I do, too. Living
"happily ever after" is not a matter of circumstance. It's
a disciplined practice-although there is that little matter
of DNA. Dr. Martin E. P. Seligman, a pioneering researcher
in the field of happiness, says that some people were born
to be happier than others. Each of us, he maintains, has
a happiness "set point" determined by our genetic makeup.
(See Seligman's book
, Free Press,
2002). But despite the gene pool, as much as 40% of what
goes into making us happy is within our own control, Seligman
says. He teaches how to tip the percentages in favor of
key component of happiness is gratitude. Seligman encourages
everyone to complete his Gratitude Questionnaire (available
for free at
) and then engage in deliberate behavior to raise
their level of gratitude, which he says will naturally increase
happiness. To do this yourself, you can begin by simply
listing, each day, three things for which you are grateful.
might like to try another of his assignments: the Gratitude
Letter, followed by the Gratitude Visit. For this, you write
a thoughtful, specific, sincere letter to someone to whom
you have not formally expressed gratitude. Once the letter
has been written-but not mailed-make an appointment with
the person to whom you wrote the letter. You might visit
the person at home or perhaps invite the recipient out to
share a celebratory meal. During the visit, you read the
letter aloud to the recipient. Almost always, Seligman says,
a Gratitude Visit produces happiness for both.
did something similar when I tracked down my most influential
teacher, three decades after she touched my life. Though
I could not visit in person, I phoned her, telling her some
of the details of my gratitude. Then I wrote an article
about it. It was published in Nashville, and I arranged
to have it appear in her hometown paper as well. Within
a short time, I received a note with her return address
on it. I beamed, thinking I was about to get some pretty
good praise from my toughest teacher. Inside was a note
from her husband, telling how much she loved my phone call,
how flattered she was by the article, and how amazed she
was by what had happened next: Former students and their
families who read the article began flooding her with their
own letters and calls of gratitude, telling her what had
become of her elocution, algebra, poetry, and French students.
Her husband concluded his note by saying he was sure that
his wife would have wanted me to know how much all of that
meant to her, especially coming as it did just before she
gratitude to others brings happiness to both giver and receiver.
But you can also follow Pollyanna's example and express
gratitude even when no one else is around. Anyone who plays
The Game is in the constant habit of finding reasons to
be grateful, focusing on what's right in every moment instead
of what's wrong.
secrets of happiness are simple, but not necessarily easy.
Each of us is the sole author of the story of our lives,
and it's up to us to write that story so that the leading
character lives happily -and gratefully-ever after. .
Simple Abundance and Simple Abundance Journal
by Sarah Ban Breathnach
(Warner Books, 1995 and 1996)
This book and its companion journal help you focus
on gratitude as a way to find happiness in your life.
The official website for Dr. Martin Seligman's book
(Free Press, 2002). The
free questionnaires on this site can help you determine
your levels of happiness and the attributes that
contribute to happiness, such as gratitude and optimism.
You'll also find resources for raising your happiness
levels, including information about authentic happiness
coaching and training in positive psychology.
, Eleanor H. Porter, Puffin Books, 1994, Chapter
4, p. 25. You can read
(free of charge)
2 Ibid., Chapter 1, p. 4.
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