Happiness From a 4 Year Old

So I was tempted to pick up Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project each time I walked into the big bookstore chain that was a stone throw from where we lived in the States. It was one of the few surviving American bookstore chains, that have survived the fierce competition from online bookstores and digital books.

The happy looking book stood out on the bestseller rack. Call me superficial, but aesthetics matter. The look and feel of the book often decides whether I will pick up the book and purchase it. With its vibrant and cheerful colours, Gretchen’s book met the criteria and I bought the book just before coming back to Singapore. Obviously, apart from being attracted to the book cover, I was hoping to find some great insights on happiness. Unfortunately, since we were back, the book has been sitting on my Billy bookshelf collecting dust. It was only recently that I started reading it.

Gretchen’s Happiness Project was a pretty light read but I felt breathless reading through her endless projects. Though inspiring, it felt like an arduous task with numerous projects aiming at changing a whole slew of habits. It almost feels like she can’t be happy unless she changes her life completely. Okay, I am more stubborn than I like to admit; convincing myself to change any habits even if it would lead to greater happiness is an uphill challenge.

My 4 year old had the day off from school while his elder brother had to attend full day school. We decided to go on a coffee date at the new Starbucks near our place, just me and him. As the new cafeteria was still pretty undiscovered, it was empty on a weekday morning. It has a huge outdoor area; perfect for kids to run around while the parents enjoy a break. I decided to read my book and let my preschooler entertain himself on his 2 wheeler bike.

I could hear his squeal of excitement. He would occasionally call out to me, trying to get my attention to watch him do some new tricks. He is a speed demon with an excellent sense of balance. He could peddle effortlessly while standing and could put his butt behind the seat, like how a mountain biker would descend a steep and rocky slope. At 4 years old, his skill on the bike put mine to shame.

He was zipping around on his bike at tremendous speed, snaking around the pillars, obviously enjoying himself. While I was there, poring over a book on happiness, my little fellow seems to have totally grasped it.

So I sat him down and asked him and this is what he has to say about happiness.

Happiness is riding his bike, going fast;
Happiness is eating his favourite pasta;
Happiness is playing Lego and train tracks;
Happiness is jumping off the diving board;
Happiness is swimming;
Happiness is roller blading;
Happiness is finishing his work in school;
Happiness is playing fight with kor kor;
Happiness is saying fart and captain underpants;
Happiness is being silly.

As simple as that. Why do I even need a book to teach me how to be happy. A 4 year old already knows how to be happy.

It doesn’t matter that Daddy and Mummy scold him. It doesn’t matter that he doesn’t like doing school work. It doesn’t matter that kor kor fights with him. He gets over it and he is happy.

Happiness is choosing to be happy when we don’t have that toy (car), when we haven’t made that first million, when we can’t have all we want or even if we are simply struggling to get by.

Happiness is all around us. Voila!
It is a choice. It is choosing not to delay happiness to some obscure conditions like “if only … I would be happy”. It is choosing to be happy with what we have, instead of focusing on what we do not have, what we should have done or what we could have been.

Robert Fulghum said that ‘All you need to know, you learned in kindergarten’, well then, perhaps all I need to know about happiness, I can learn it from my 4 year old.



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