Ever face disappointment? Of course, you have.

A safe prediction: there's more on the way.

How about trauma, tragedy or crisis? Maybe so. (I hope not.) Sometimes, situations at least feel like those, if only for a moment.

How do you react?

Do you react like a happy person?

Wait. Just how do happy people react? If bad things happen to good people, how do happy people react to bad things?

Here's How
Several months ago, I heard an expert on the radio. (Is that a sufficient attribution? I don't think so. But, for the life of me, I cannot remember the expert's name. I'm sorry. How unethical of me. Let me know if you know.)

Anyway, the expert's comments have truly informed the way I react to challenges and hardships.

The expert said that, when faced with crisis, disappointment or trauma, a happy person reacts in this predictable, highly effective sequence:

  1. Feel. The usually happy person ("Happy") suddenly faces a horrible event. Anyone in Happy's shoes would feel awful. As a happy person, however, Happy doesn't ignore or try to immediately squelch feelings of sadness, frustration, or pain. Happy makes sure to take time (at least a few minutes) to truly feel — as deeply as possible. (Most of us are taught, especially as young boys, that our emotions are to be stifled. That's not what Happy does.)
  2. Think. Happy then moves into a phase of thinking: "What does this situation mean? What has truly happened? How does it change my and our lives?" After feeling about it, Happy has switched to thinking about it. It's a conscious, intentional switch. And, suddenly, as Happy flips this switch, Happy feels different. A different part of the brain — the logical, analytical part — takes over and Happy starts to take control — or, at least, as much control as is possible.
  3. Create. After feeling and thinking, Happy starts to envision: "What possibilities does this situation suddenly offer? What opportunities can be found in this otherwise unfortunate event?" Happy consciously seeks happiness amid the ruins — and finds happiness in seeking to achieve this new potential.

Timely Knowledge
I heard an expert — a psychologist —  on the radio when I was driving my car behind an ambulance.

I was following the ambulance to the hospital. In the ambulance was a loved one who had suddenly taken very ill.

On the drive and soon beside the hospital bed, I was sad and afraid. I allowed myself the time exploring those emotions. (Of course, I interrupted this exploration to responsibly drive a car and answer questions from doctors, nurses and hospital administrators.)

Then, with the help of the doctors and nurses, I explored the known facts of the situation and also what was not yet known. How this illness might unfold. What this illness might mean in the short and long term.

Within minutes, however, I was trying to envision how this unfortunate event might produce some unexpectedly good outcomes:

  • One came to mind right away: I had the opportunity to act and react as a fully formed adult. This was an opportunity to test (and prove) my maturity by communicating plainly and not presuming to make other family members' decisions for them.  
  • And another: Here was an opportunity for the rest of the family to come closer. This was a moment where we could clarify and strengthen relationships around our loved one.
  • And another: With the potential recovery of my loved one, I might have the opportunity to improve our relationship.

In retrospect, the event was able to produce these positive outcomes.

Happy is as Happy does. And, sometimes, perhaps often, Happy reaps what Happy sows.