Happiness. The pursuit of so many. In fact, we are known in America as those who live for “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” But so many seem without happiness. Why is this? Is happiness truly elusive, or do we simply not know how to take hold of it? It is my contention that happiness is yours for the taking. That is, anyone can be happy, if they choose to be… and if they know how to get it. So what does it take to bring us to a state of happiness? Here are a few thoughts to get you on your way: Do not try to control circumstances. One of the biggest “happiness busters” I see is in the frustration people experience (and wallow in) because circumstances have gone awry. This is because their mind-set, whether they know it or not, is that they should somehow be able to control circumstances. But let’s get this straight: You can’t! So the first thing you can do to give yourself happiness is to stop trying to control, or taking responsibility for, circumstances that are outside of your control!Understand that you can only control yourself. There is only one thing you can control in this world, and that is yourself. You can’t control the weather, other drivers, your kids or spouse, or anything for that matter outside of your own beliefs, thoughts, attitudes and actions. Focus all of your attention on developing yourself and doing what is right – controlling yourself while letting what will happen, happen – and you will find happiness opening up within you. Decide what it is that you want out of life, and then stick to it relentlessly. First, know what you want. Get real clear with yourself. Take a private retreat to be alone if you have to, but come to grips with what you want your life to look like. Secondly, devote yourself to that passion and do not be sidetracked. It is interesting to me how many options we have – good options – that if we pursue them, they will actually crush our happiness because they will take us away from what will really make us happy. Live for a legacy. We cannot be self-absorbed and live only for ourselves. Yes, we only control ourselves, but we can live for the betterment of others. Live your life in such a way that others are touched and you will find yourself feeling happiness in ways you never could imagine. For example, I get some of the most touching e-mails from people I have never met (and probably never will), who tell me how I have helped them. There is little else that brings me such happiness! Settle your finances. Whatever your financial goals are, get them! Having poor finances is one of the major causes of unhappiness. Now, some people are completely content on $30,000 a year. Others need $200,000 a year. That is OK. We all have different desires, needs and goals. But the key is to know what you want your financial life to look like and then do what it takes to get there. Among the major things to do is to eliminate as much debt as possible, if not all! Surround yourself with good friends. Good friends are such a blessing! I have some of the most intelligent, capable, successful and caring friends a person could have. I have three or four people in my life who I completely trust and admire. When friendships are clicking, there is almost nothing that provides more happiness. Take time to develop your friendships. Spend time with them; do fun things with them, etc. Even as life gets more and more busy, make time with your friends a priority. Develop your primary love relationship. I spoke at a groom’s dinner recently and one of the points I made was that marriage will show you both heaven and hell! Marriage, when it is going well, will send you out the door each morning on cloud nine. When it isn’t going well, it affects every area of your life negatively. Do whatever you can – work hard – at developing your primary love relationship. The rewards of happiness you reap will be tremendous! Happiness is yours for the taking, and I hope you will take the time to develop your life in such a way as to be able to experience all of the happiness you can handle! Chris Widener is a businessman, author, speaker and television host. A prolific writer and producer of CDs and DVDs, his most recent book is The Art of Influence. Widener is the host of the national interview show, Made For Success, and co-host of True Performance with Zig Ziglar. The Chris Widener newsletter is one of the most widely distributed on personal and professional development. Visit his website for more information.