Choose Happy

August 16, 2023 at 12:00 a.m.
Pexels photo
Pexels photo


I was looking in the cupboard for a cereal bowl the other morning and found a large mug with the words “choose happy” written on the side. I was more interested in my oatmeal than the inscription at first but as I sat down for breakfast, I read the words on the mug and started thinking about the advice imparted there. “Choose happy.” Who would imagine finding “wisdom” on a coffee mug so early in the morning?

As hard as it might be to believe, I started remembering reading Aristotle in my college philosophy class many years ago. In his great work the “Nichomachean Ethics,” Aristotle attempted to present an understanding of the purpose of life. There he wrote, “happiness is the meaning and purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.”

I wasn’t planning on anything more than a bowl of oatmeal that morning but sometimes one finds wisdom in the strangest places. “Choose happy.”

Now, I am no Aristotle and many greater minds than mine have reflected thoughtfully and deeply on his writings, intellectually wrestling with their meaning. Two thousand three hundred years later, “the philosopher” -- as St. Thomas Aquinas called him -- still has something profound to offer about life, “food for thought”, in my case to accompany my oatmeal.

“Happiness is the settling of the soul into its most appropriate spot.” It was Aristotle’s conviction that “true happiness flows from the possession of wisdom and virtue and not from the possession of external goods … an activity of the soul in accordance with virtue.” In other words, we need to “choose happy” for as Aristotle wrote, “happiness depends upon ourselves.” There is great truth in his words.

As a priest and as a bishop, I have often encountered people who just don’t seem happy. Perhaps circumstances in their life or situations they have experienced get in the way of “feeling” or “being” happy. That is unfortunate.

Happiness in life, however, is not simply a matter of “feeling” or emotion. Feelings are temporary, often prompted by the “moment” or a passing occasion in which they are “felt.” True happiness, rather, is more a matter of “being” than “feeling,” an orientation in life that is the result of a choice and a decision to be happy.

Sure enough, life at times presents difficult experiences that can “bring us down.” But we cannot, should not, must not “stay there.” When we fail, when we fall, when we feel bad, we have to pick ourselves up, learn from experience and move on. “Choose happy.”

I recall talking to my Mom once — she was a font of loving, practical wisdom — sharing something that was bothering me. “David,” she said, “only you can make yourself happy in life.” I have never forgotten her words. She didn’t have the easiest life and yet she always managed to live by the advice she gave me. “Only you can make yourself happy.” She never read Aristotle. She didn’t need to. She understood life and lived by those words.

Perhaps you might remember — quite a number of years ago now — a catchy song by reggae jazz singer Bobby McFerrin that seemed to play constantly on every popular radio station. It went like this:

Here's a little song I wrote
You might want to sing it note for note
Don't worry, be happy
In every life we have some trouble
But when you worry, you make it double
Don't worry, be happy.


It was sure hard to get that melody out of my mind, but the words were worth remembering. They still are.

Happiness is a state of being that makes life worth living and that leads to joy, one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit along with love, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Taken together, they seem to be the right recipe for happiness and true joy in life. Try it!

“Choose happy.” It’s amazing what you can learn when  reaching for a cereal bowl at the start of your day!




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I was looking in the cupboard for a cereal bowl the other morning and found a large mug with the words “choose happy” written on the side. I was more interested in my oatmeal than the inscription at first but as I sat down for breakfast, I read the words on the mug and started thinking about the advice imparted there. “Choose happy.” Who would imagine finding “wisdom” on a coffee mug so early in the morning?

As hard as it might be to believe, I started remembering reading Aristotle in my college philosophy class many years ago. In his great work the “Nichomachean Ethics,” Aristotle attempted to present an understanding of the purpose of life. There he wrote, “happiness is the meaning and purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.”

I wasn’t planning on anything more than a bowl of oatmeal that morning but sometimes one finds wisdom in the strangest places. “Choose happy.”

Now, I am no Aristotle and many greater minds than mine have reflected thoughtfully and deeply on his writings, intellectually wrestling with their meaning. Two thousand three hundred years later, “the philosopher” -- as St. Thomas Aquinas called him -- still has something profound to offer about life, “food for thought”, in my case to accompany my oatmeal.

“Happiness is the settling of the soul into its most appropriate spot.” It was Aristotle’s conviction that “true happiness flows from the possession of wisdom and virtue and not from the possession of external goods … an activity of the soul in accordance with virtue.” In other words, we need to “choose happy” for as Aristotle wrote, “happiness depends upon ourselves.” There is great truth in his words.

As a priest and as a bishop, I have often encountered people who just don’t seem happy. Perhaps circumstances in their life or situations they have experienced get in the way of “feeling” or “being” happy. That is unfortunate.

Happiness in life, however, is not simply a matter of “feeling” or emotion. Feelings are temporary, often prompted by the “moment” or a passing occasion in which they are “felt.” True happiness, rather, is more a matter of “being” than “feeling,” an orientation in life that is the result of a choice and a decision to be happy.

Sure enough, life at times presents difficult experiences that can “bring us down.” But we cannot, should not, must not “stay there.” When we fail, when we fall, when we feel bad, we have to pick ourselves up, learn from experience and move on. “Choose happy.”

I recall talking to my Mom once — she was a font of loving, practical wisdom — sharing something that was bothering me. “David,” she said, “only you can make yourself happy in life.” I have never forgotten her words. She didn’t have the easiest life and yet she always managed to live by the advice she gave me. “Only you can make yourself happy.” She never read Aristotle. She didn’t need to. She understood life and lived by those words.

Perhaps you might remember — quite a number of years ago now — a catchy song by reggae jazz singer Bobby McFerrin that seemed to play constantly on every popular radio station. It went like this:

Here's a little song I wrote
You might want to sing it note for note
Don't worry, be happy
In every life we have some trouble
But when you worry, you make it double
Don't worry, be happy.


It was sure hard to get that melody out of my mind, but the words were worth remembering. They still are.

Happiness is a state of being that makes life worth living and that leads to joy, one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit along with love, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Taken together, they seem to be the right recipe for happiness and true joy in life. Try it!

“Choose happy.” It’s amazing what you can learn when  reaching for a cereal bowl at the start of your day!



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