Finding the Keys to Your Happiness

“Maybe the key to happiness is to focus less on making moments last and more on making them count.” ~Lori Deschene

Over the years, I have had my fair share of trials, many having to do with being bipolar and having OCD and ADD.

These illnesses combined have made for a rough go. One day I might feel spontaneous and want to take a trip to Disney World, the next day I may want to end it all.

Going back and forth with happiness and despair is an emotionally draining process. Knowing that it’s all in my mind is the most frustrating thing to deal with.

It’s hard to describe an emotional illness that takes you up and down to those individuals who might not understand, but keeping your perspective in tune is the best solution. When I read Lori’s blog on focusing on making moments count, I knew I needed to write something in response.

So I want to share with you how I find my keys to happiness because we all know keys go missing from time to time.

1. Don’t get caught up with the negatives of the world.

When you are driving to work in a traffic jam, instead of slamming your hands on the dashboard, put on your favorite tune. Let it take you back to the moment when you first heard it.

2. Stuff happens.

Don’t let the stuff determine how your day is going to be. 

Just last night I let my computer literacy frustrations dictate how my day was going. I was slamming things about, and then my four-year-old daughter brought me one of her toys and said, “Maybe this will help.”

What a fool I was, letting something so menial take over how my day was going. When you feel like the world has turned against you, don’t react. Instead, reflect on when the world was by your side.  (Sometimes it makes you realize your four-year-old may have a better perspective than you do.)

3. Be the driving force.

Make the day go the way you want it to. If it seems bad, do something that makes you happy or remove yourself from the picture. It’s okay to wake up on the wrong side of the bed. Just know you can choose whether you want to keep your bunny slippers on and roll back over and wake up again a second time in a better mood.

4. Enjoy other’s joy.

Instead of sharing your unhappiness with someone else who isn’t having a bad day, let their happiness rub off on you.

5. Look for your keys.

When all else fails, remember your memories. I lost my mom to cancer in 2004 and I often catch myself saying, “If mom was here… it wouldn’t be this way.” That may be so, but her memory is one of the things I cherish the most.

When I think of all the napkins she drew little pictures on with the words “I love you” in my lunchbox for over twelve years, I may cry a little but I will never forget how much one napkin could change my perspective on the day.

Everyone has heard this before, but I swear to you it is the complete truth: “When one door closes another one opens.”

When I spent years in my early adulthood looking for a spouse I found nothing. When I had finally given up, I met someone who changed how I felt about myself. He was full of patience and made me realize my life has value—that I have value. Now I do what I can to share that value with others.

Remember earlier when I said I was so mad at my computer, I was frustrated with the world, and I had drama in my life? I forced myself to go to our SGI-USA Red Mountain planning meeting, where I received abundant support, and ultimately I left there happy.

It’s amazing how sharing your frustrations with others can help you find the keys to your own happiness.

Photo by Sabrina Campagna

About Jennifer Butler-Williams

Jennifer is the Red Mountain District Young Women's Division Leader in Soka Gakkai International - USA, Buddhist Association for Peace, Culture & Education. She is also a Professor of Communications and Humanities at five different Colleges/Universities. Her greatest success is her daughter Nina.

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  • JohnDoe


    Great post. Although I am not diagnosed with any of your illnesses, I can relate how my mental state drives my words and actions. If I get a negative thought in my head it immediately becomes the truth to me and causes me to behave very poorly. What I have to focus on and remember is that nothing is good or bad, it just is and it’s entirely up to me how I react and perceive information. It sounds like a simple concept, as do do many of the teachings on this site. But they can be very difficult to practice all the time. The key is practice and faith that it works.

  • Nina, you really hit the nail on the head. I was wondering how your intro was going to go – I was expecting something different. I wake up some days ready to re-invent the wheel and run 40 miles and rock the world. Then I have days where I can barely get off the couch and not even my passions inspire me.

    Thank you for writing this article. I know a lot of people “like” stuff these days and say it was a well written piece but I really CONNECTED with this.

  • Marsuti

    I’m Marcela from Argentina. Thanks a lot for this great post. As usual, it arrived just on time. Nowadays, I feel a bit (to be optimistic :,) about my job. I’m so desperate to get a new one that sometimes I just can´t focus on anything else….and even when a part of me knows that I have to relax to open new doors, for some moments this is very difficult. You are right….small things like an “Iloveyou” note on a napkin can make somebody’s day completely. When I think better about it, I realize that I have so many small and beautiful things that also make my day. 🙂
    God bless you. 

  • janieo

    Great ideas!

    Thanks for sharig!

  •  I saw “Nina” under the author – sorry about that Jennifer.

  • I love your focus on personal accountability.

  • Debra

    LOVE IT!It is amazing how GOD gives you just what you need ,when you need
    it.Again,my comfort came from knowing
    and identifying with your struggles.There is no feeling like the one where you can walk in a room of people who are struggling with the same imperfection,and share honestly where your at,and leave with the same struggles, but have peace
    and know you are okay just how you are.

  • I just loved this… ” – then my four-year-old daughter brought me one of her toys and said, “Maybe this will help.”” 

    It would be really useful if we could ‘bottle’ this feeling and give it to every adult to help them snap out of their own self-created dramas.

  • myra

    Hello John,

     I feel the same way as you have. What have you been doing to practice this, if you do not mind sharing?

  • Jennifer Butler-Williams

    I’m honored my blog reached Argentina! Keep a hold every positive moment you can because they truly do keep you strong in the weakest of times.

  • Jennifer Butler-Williams

    Not a problem, Nina is my daughter. 🙂

  • Jennifer Butler-Williams

    I am so happy I was able to touch someone. Honestly I wrote it entirely from my heart and hoped that I could connect with just one person and so many people read and liked it. I have my own personal blog you might enjoy, you should be able to find it by searching my email on blogger. I am also on Facebook with the same email, feel free to add me.

  • Connie

    Jennifer I really needed to read this and am so glad it came to me at the right time. I’ve been sending out my resume for months and recieved a call and went to the interview yesterday, they asked for my references. However, I recieved an email today indicating I wasnt chosen. I knew when I left the room that I didn’t want to work with that particular individual because I could feel she sold try and cramp who I am, logically I know this but I’m feeling quite down and it hit me. I know its the fact that I had to fight depression, getting off my meds and work my way back to me however I was hoping for a streaky income, which is all that position would have represented. When I read ‘One one door closes another one opens,’ it resonated with me. I worked too hard and must not settle. I also have another interview on Monday so I’ll keep my head up. Thanks again.

  • Jennifer Butler-Williams

    Perception is everything. I believe we evolve because of it. Thank you for reading my post.

  • Jennifer Butler-Williams

    Exactly! Thank you for reading.

  • Jennifer Butler-Williams

    A child has the best perception of life. Thank you for reading.

  • lynn fux

    NAM MYOHO RENGE KYO from Northern Israel. This was a fine example of Nichiren’s Buddhism for everyday life applied. Best to you ,Lynn

  • Tiela


    This post is wonderful in more ways than I can count!  My favorite part was your 4-year-old offering up one of her toys to help you out.  Adorable!  My kids did stuff like that, too.  (They’re now 20 and 28.)

    You and I have several things in common…  Although I’m not bi-polar, until relatively recently I suffered from clinical depression and anxiety (and have had a number of bi-polar people in my life, including an ex-husband).  No matter what our diagnosis, life/reality is ALWAYS in our own mind!  It took me a long time to learn that.  Perhaps that’s the gift of your challenges – you learned a lesson early in your life that most people learn late, if they learn it at all!

    My mother also died in 2004, also of cancer, so I related to that part of your story, as well.  

    Finally, I practiced Buddhism for a number of years and, ironically, only a few hours before reading your post, found myself in a discussion with someone who claims that SGI funds the Japanese right wing, including the Japanese mafia!  I hope this isn’t true, but in any case, my friend has no understanding of the value of the practice in terms of personal evolution.  In fact, she fights hard to deny herself any connection to any kind of spirituality.  As far as I’m concerned, that’s a far greater tragedy than any kind of psychological disorder.

    My wish for you, Jennifer, is that you experience as much joy in your days as you gave me in this delightful article!

  • Reetsoo

    Great story,,Thank you!!!

  • Connie for about two years, I sent resume after resume out and never even got to an interview so I gave up. Let me explain why though – I realized that for some reason I needed to stay working at the job I was at. No it isn’t the perfect job but it does pay the bills and I honestly feel that I do make a positive difference there.  Sometimes you have to dig deep into yourself to find the meaning. One door closes another opens, I promise you by keeping your faith you will be prosperous. Good luck Monday!

  • Thank you Lynn! Nam myoho renge kyo to you as well! 🙂

  • My sympathies for your mom, even though it was 2004 I know how it can feel like yesterday.  Nicherin Buddhism is definitely not mafia related, these are rumors spread by Buddhist monks who believe regular people should not be priviledged to read the sutras. As Buddha would say “Believe what your heart tells you to believe, not what I say or what others say.” You are the driver of your life.

    Thank you for reading my post.

  • I hope you have a chance to visit my regular blog and find more you enjoy.
    My personal blog is:

    Thanks again for reading my post.

  • I believe everyone is accountable for their own actions and must be for the greater good of human kind.  If everyone sets out to create their own human revolution full of respect and peace, accountability is the way to keep that in check.

    Thank you for reading my post.

  • Thank you for reading, I have a personal blog if you would like to read more:

    All the best to you!

  • Thank you all for taking the time to read my post. I welcome you to add me on facebook or follow my blog at

  • Fran

    Connie, from personal experience, I know how hard you have worked to get off your meds.  I have tried several times & hope for success soon.  You obviously know instinctively who you resonate with & how wonderful that you have honored yourself.  Never give up.  When it’s time, it will happen.  I applaud you for moving forward with your life .. I just turned 70 & I know how hard life can be.  Keep fanning your inner flame, your essence, your “me.”  Congratulations on all of your successes to date.
    Many blessings, Fran  

  • Great post thanks for the reminder a lot of time our busy life distracts us from happiness

  • Bigpumpkin

    Hi Jennifer,
    I, like you, had given up on finding my life partner. Then, not six months later at the age of 38, we found each other. If to change anything in my life that had happened until then, good or bad, was to mean we would never had met, of course I would not change a thing. She is my light, my life, and the rock I swirl around. She gives my life value, and I will always be thankful that this gracious person came into my life to teach me love, patience, humility, and to smile.

  • Jrobs74136

    Really great advice! I love this. These are 5 steps we can take at any moment of our lives that allow us to refocus and find our center. Thanks for your article!

  • Thanks again for this wonderful post,  “Earthly desires are enlightment.” The True aspect of all phenomena. NMRK—–> for you, I love you <3

  • Thank you for reading my post.

  • Myra,
    I hope you don’t mind me responding to your question.  I first learned about the idea that ‘things are neither good or bad, they just are’ when I was reading Feeling Good by David Burns (  Honestly, just reading that sentence changed my perception.  The whole book isn’t about that concept, per se, but there’s a section in there on it (it’s a really good book overall, though!).  I just constantly remind myself when I’m quick to label things that I can change how I see them.  It’s so easy for me to say I had a “bad” day, but really, just because things happened that made me feel angry, sad or unhappy don’t HAVE to make me feel those ways.  Every time something happens, how I react is up to me.  Thanks to a regular meditation practice, I’m familiar with my thoughts and feelings that arise daily and I can be an observer and not act on them.  So when I’m able to be mindful during arguments or irritations, I can see what’s going on without taking it on or making it personal.  Of course, there are still things that happen that aren’t as “easy” to deal with, but when I’m focused and present I am able to disconnect myself from a lot of the daily dramas and labels I used to put on everything.

    I hope that helps a little – excuse me for butting in!  Best wishes to you.

  • Thank you for reading it my friend from afar. 🙂 NMRK!

  • Thank you so much for reading it.

  • It’s funny when you least expect it, love shines through. Thank you for reading my post 🙂

  • Mlaragutierrez

    Thanks for the words!,it´s amazing!!

  • Thank you for reading.

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