In Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist, the author tells of a young lad sent journeying to a wise man to discover the secret of happiness.
After a long journey, the wise man listened to the boy’s explanation for his visit, then answered, “I do not have time to reveal the secret of happiness to you.”
Instead, he handed the boy a teaspoon with two tiny drops of oil in it, and instructed him to wander around the castle for two hours without spilling the oil.
The lad did as instructed. When he returned to the wise man, he was asked, “Did you see my Persian tapestries, extravagant gardens, or parchments in my library?”
Embarrassed, the boy replied that he had not. He had been focused solely on the drops of oil.
The boy was sent back to tour the castle, and this time he focused on the beauty that surrounded him. He returned to the wise man thrilled at all he had seen. The wise man then asked, “And where are the two drops of oil?”
The boy realized that he had spilt them. The wise man then revealed his “secret” to happiness: “Happiness lies in looking at all the wonders of the world and never forgetting the two drops of oil in the spoon.”
I love that in Coelho’s story, the wise man gave the boy only two drops to carry in his spoon; not a quart, not a five-gallon bucket full, and certainly not back-breaking tank of the stuff. It was only a couple of drops, revealing that happiness is maintained by keeping our personal load as light as possible.
Do you want to be happy? Lighten your load. Simplify your life.
The most deeply spiritual thing that some of us could do is have a garage sale. Purge our calendars. Resign from a few of our activities. Our unhappiness isn’t related to a poor prayer life, the lack of reading the Scriptures, or going to church too little.
We are carrying too much baggage, trying to manage too much stuff; we have too many possessions, obligations, and too many batons juggling in the air. This is a recipe for misery.
When we simplify, we are doing much more than getting rid of possessions or conserving our time. We are choosing to be happy. Happiness, after all, is an intentional choice, and it is the wisest choice of all.
Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, speaker, and author of multiple books. You can read more and receive regular e-columns in your inbox at www.ronniemcbrayer.me.