The Secret To Happiness

Alex Toth bought a $13 million winning lottery ticket. Before long he filed for bankruptcy, was convicted of fraudulent tax returns and owed millions in back taxes.

Willie Hurt won $3.1 million in the lottery. In two months he was in the process of a divorce and had lost custody of his children.

William "Bud" Post won a $16.2 jackpot. He bought an airplane that he couldn't fly, a mansion, two homes, several motorcycles, three cars, a truck and a sailboat among other things. "I was much happier when I was broke," he said.

You get the idea. The American Dream has been corrupted by our culture's relentless drilling to accumulate possessions -- the bigger, the more expensive, the better. We know that money doesn't bring happiness -- it's almost a cliché -- but we don't believe it and the evidence is everywhere. The message, fueled by the advertising industry, is that you are what you own. Not who you are, but the size of your house. Not your self worth but the cost of your car. It would be great if it worked -- but of course it can't because there are always people with bigger houses, fancier cars, more elaborate vacations.

The economist and sociologist Thorstein Veblen described the practice as the "Philosophy of Futility." In 1899 he coined the term "conspicuous consumption" in his book The Theory of the Leisure Class in which he defined the behavior as an addiction or narcissistic or both.

Well, if it's not a mansion or yacht that will make us happy what will?

Surprisingly, it is the struggle with the obstacles and even the tragedies of life.

Overcoming them gives us authentic self worth because in the process we earn the tools of confidence and spirit and authenticity. And do I dare say it? Happiness. For fulfillment, all of life has to be embraced -- not just the easy part because we don't learn anything from ease.

Sudha Chandran lost one of her legs to infection and taught herself to dance using a prosthetic, becoming one of the most highly acclaimed dancers in the world.

John Hockenberry, with a spinal cord injury, is a four-time Emmy winner and three-time Peabody winner and one of the first visible journalists to use a wheelchair on an American network.

Stephen Hawking can only speak with the assistance of a computer and is one of the most well-known physicists in the world. His book, "A Brief History of Time" stayed on the Sunday New York Times bestsellers list for 237 weeks.

A Yale study revealed that when people have control over the events in their lives -- the bad as well as the good -- they are happier. And in an 18-year study researchers at the National Institute on Aging found that regardless of marital status, job or residence, it is in the overcoming of difficulties that people find contentment. "Lucky" people who escape life's broadsides are given little opportunity to have enduring happiness beyond the latest purchase. It is those who surmount life's battering like John Hockenberry, Stephen Hawking, Sudha Chandran and others like them who who have been given -- and earned -- the secret of happiness.

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