COMMENTARY 970.5: Happiness Is a Choice

In a Peanuts cartoon, Lucy asks Charlie Brown, “Why do you think we were put on earth?” Charlie answers, “To make others happy.” Lucy replies, “I don’t think I’m making anyone happy,” and then adds, “but nobody’s making me very happy either. Somebody’s not doing his job!” People like Lucy are so sure happiness is a matter of getting something …

COMMENTARY 970.4: Good Relationships Make a Good Life

If we interviewed 100 happy people, I think the most prominent common denominator would be good relationships. Despite the widespread promotion of materialism and vanity in our culture, wealth and beauty are not enough to produce happiness. In fact, they’re not even necessary. What’s more, bad relationships — at work, at home, or among friends — are a surefire source …

Friendship - ITWbe a better friend

COMMENTARY 969.5: The Treasure of Old Friends

In my lifetime, I’ve had the good fortune of having a handful of good friends. Each of my four teenage daughters have many hundreds. At least that’s what they call every Facebook connection they collect like trophies. The list of those kinds of friends includes people they barely know, some they don’t know at all, and even some people they …

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COMMENTARY 969.4: Some of the Things I’ve Learned

I hope the new year is off to a good start for you, and that you are confident that 2015 will be full of opportunities and challenges that will bring you pleasure and fulfillment. It’s traditional to start the New Year with resolutions designed to help us live healthier, happier, and more rewarding lives. But the ritual of starting a new …

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COMMENTARY 969.3: Happiness Is More Than Fun and Pleasure

Ask young people why they get high on drugs or alcohol or seek sex without intimacy or commitment and they’re likely to tell you it’s fun and they just want to be happy. It’s tempting to envy the life of fun-loving “party animals,” “playboys,” and “good-time girls” until one thinks about how they feel about themselves and their lives when they’re …

COMMENTARY 967.2: What I Believe

Here’s a portion of my personal list of beliefs that you may want to pass on: I believe I’m a work-in-progress, and there will always be a gap between who I am and who I want to be. I believe every day brings opportunities to learn and do something meaningful. I believe the true test of my character is whether …

COMMENTARY 966.5: Making Resolutions of Principle

The tradition of making New Year’s Resolutions reflects one the very best qualities of human nature – the ability to reflect on and assess our lives in terms of the goals we set for ourselves and the principles we believe in. It’s still not too late to formulate a self-improvement plan to make our outer lives and inner selves better …

COMMENTARY 965.5: Make 2016 the Best Year Ever

I hope the past year will go down in your book of life as one filled with great pleasures and grand memories. But whether the year was good, bad, or indifferent, I hope you’ll enter the new year wiser and stronger for your experiences, and optimistic that the best is yet to come. A vital quality of a happy and …

COMMENTARY 965.2: Don’t Brag, But Be Proud

Today, after winning a big game it’s common for athletes and fans to chant, “We’re number one,” in a classless display of self-praise that comes off as conceit and disrespectful taunting. I sometimes feel that way about materials praising America. Still, national pride is important. Reminders about the high principles on which this nation was based are essential to keep …

COMMENTARY 963.3: Will This Be a Good Christmas?

Will this be a good Christmas? To lots of kids, the answer may be embedded in the response to the question: “Whaddja get?” On the other hand, retailers and Wall Street investors will look to sales and profits. What a pity that the spiritual and social potential of this holiday can be so easily lost. Of course, Christmas is a …

MJ - Coach Wooden interviewed by MJ

COMMENTARY 961.1: Coach Wooden the Philosopher

According to Henry David Thoreau, a philosopher is a person who seeks to understand and solve the most serious problems of life, not only theoretically, but practically. A true philosopher, Thoreau added, is so committed to wisdom that he seeks to live wisely and so lives a life of simplicity, independence, magnanimity, and trust. By this definition, John Wooden, my …

COMMENTARY 960.4: What I Know About Life

The older I get, the less I know — but I know some things: I know that I’m a work in process and that there will always be a gap between who I am and who I want to be. I know that I don’t have to be sick to get better and that every day brings opportunities to improve …

COMMENTARY 960.2: Lessons From a Carrot, Egg, and Coffee Bean

Let’s face it. Painful personal trauma and tragedy – like illness or injury, death of a loved one, loss of a job, or an unexpected breakup of a relationship – are unavoidable. The question is: Will these private calamities erode our capacity to be happy or cause us to become stronger and better able to live a meaningful and fulfilling …

COMMENTARY 959.5: Give Yourself the Gift of Gratitude

For some, Thanksgiving is the beginning of a holiday season filled with joy and happiness at the prospect of spending time with family. For others, it’s a sadder time blemished by bad memories or dread. Some people see their lives filled with abundant blessings and find thankfulness easy and natural; others are so pre-occupied with tending to past wounds or …

COMMENTARY 959.2: Converting Pessimists Into Optimists

Every full life has its bright days and its dark days, its triumphs and defeats, its calm and stormy seas. All these high and low experiences could justify viewing the past through the lens of gratitude or disappointment. And the way we characterize our history will determine whether we look toward our future with hopeful expectations or anxious trepidation. Scientists …

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COMMENTARY 958.4: Live Backwards

Ben just came to town as a new rabbi. Unfortunately, his first official duty was to conduct a funeral service for Albert, a man who died in his eighties with no relatives. Since Ben didn’t know the deceased personally, he paused from his sermon to ask if anyone in the congregation would say something good about Albert. There was no …

COMMENTARY 958.2: The Power in Me

When my daughter Samara was 8, she wrote a poem as a song for some friends who were thinking of starting a band. When she showed it to her mom she said, “Don’t show it to Daddy because he will want to read it on the radio.” She was right. I did want to share it, but she asked me …

COMMENTARY 957.2: You Change One Thing, You Change Everything

Looking back on your life, what would you change if you could? In the classic 1939 film “It’s a Wonderful Life,” the main character, a small town bank officer played by Jimmy Stewart, is about to commit suicide when an angel shows him how different the lives of people in Bedford Falls would’ve been if he hadn’t been born. The …

COMMENTARY 957.1: On the Passing of a Loved One

Just a few hours ago, I received a note from one of my oldest and dearest friends that his mom passed away. I was moved by the gracious way he gave the news and described her life and while all the feelings evoked by the news and the way he conveyed it are still enveloping me I want to share …

COMMENTARY 955.3: We Are What We Think

In the early 1900’s, a little-known philosopher named James Allen wrote a powerful essay called “As a Man Thinketh” in which he argued that we are what we think, that a person’s character is the sum of his thoughts. He declared that the power to control our thoughts (whether we use that power or not) is the ability to mold …

COMMENTARY 954.5: The Values Our Kids Learn From Others

Blessed with the opportunities and obligations of raising four young daughters, my wife Anne and I are profoundly aware of the importance of instilling good values that will help them become capable, honorable and happy adults. I think we’re doing a pretty good job, but we know that isn’t enough. Frankly, we’re worried about the values and character of your …

COMMENTARY 953.1: The Ultimate Gift

Jimmy was nine when his mom told him his little sister was sick and would die if she didn’t get a blood transfusion – and Jimmy was one of the only people in the world who had the rare blood type needed. She asked if he would be willing to let the doctors give some of his blood to his …

COMMENTARY 952.4: Be What You Want to Be

“What will you be when you grow up?” It’s a serious question. As kids, we knew we were going to be something and that to be something was to be someone. Even as our ambitions changed, we knew what we were going to be was important and our choice. When I entered UCLA Law School in 1964, I wanted to …

COMMENTARY 952.3: A Lifetime of Setting and Changing Goals

I believe in setting goals. I also believe in changing goals. As a fourth grader, I was a guest on the TV show Kids Say the Darndest Things and I said, “I want to be a lawyer because my mother says I talk so much I might as well get paid for it.” I entered law school in the idealistic 1960s, …

COMMENTARY 942.5: Eighteen Random Rules of Life

I love maxims, those concise capsules of worldly wisdom. I collect them and write them and, of course, love to share them. Here are 18 random rules of life worth posting on your mirror or, better yet, using as dinner-time discussion starters. Find the lesson in every failure and you’ll never fail. The likelihood that you’re right is not increased …

COMMENTARY 940.1: The Ethics of Gay Rights and Same-Sex Marriage

(This is one of those commentaries that evokes passionate response and, sadly, a few people will disagree so strongly that they decide to cut me out of their lives by cancelling their newsletter subscription or putting me on the “block sender” list. I realize the issue of same-sex marriage is only one aspect of the much broader issue of how …

COMMENTARY 938.5: The Road to Significance

The most traditional way to measure the quality of one’s life is to evaluate success by listing accolades, achievements, and acquisitions. After all, in its simplest terms, success is getting what we want and most people want wealth and status. Yet, as much pleasure as these attributes can bring, the rich, powerful, and famous usually discover that true happiness will …

COMMENTARY 938.4: Is Happiness Around the Corner?

For lots of people, happiness is just around the corner. They just need to get their degree, a particular job, a promotion, or a raise. Maybe they’re waiting to get married or have a child. Perhaps they will be happy when they retire. Alfred D’ Souza said, “For a long time it seemed to me that life was about to …

COMMENTARY 938.1: What Your Checkbook and Calendar Say About Your Values

If I wanted to check your credit worthiness, I’d look at your balance sheet — what you have and what you owe — and I’d want to know about your history of paying your debts. If I wanted to know your values, I’d look at your calendar and checkbook. How come? Well, the term “values” refers to core beliefs and convictions that drive …