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Spencer Degraw

7 Keys to Happiness

What makes me happy is...

  1. Having my wife by my side.
  2. Having my son come and hang out with his old man today.
  3. Having another son on a mission.
  4. Chocolate makes me happy.

Some might consider happiness as relaxing and not feeling the stress of having to reach certain milestones in life... it might look like this:

Others might consider that happiness is being able to do what we want, when we want...I envision it looking something like this:

Happiness can affect our lives in many different ways. For example, being unhappy could cause problems for us. I had a boss whose personal philosophy in dealing with unhappy people looked a lot like this:

Regardless of how we define it, the desire to be happy is a fundamental part of being human. Father Lehi taught his son Jacob:

Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy. (2 Nephi 2:25)

Abraham talked about happiness:

And, finding there was greater happiness and peace and rest for me, I sought for the blessings of the fathers, and the right whereunto I should be ordained to administer the same... (Abraham 1:2)

NOTE: Abraham “sought” for this happiness. It wasn’t just provided.

Even the founding fathers of this great nation listed the Pursuit of Happiness as a fundamental right from God:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Don’t confuse Happiness with Pleasure. The poet Robert Burns (1759–96) wrote an excellent definition of pleasure in these lines:

“But pleasures are like poppies spread:
You seize the flow’r, its bloom is shed;
Or like the snow falls in the river,
A moment white—then melts for ever;
Or like the borealis race,
That flit ere you can point their place;
Or like the rainbow’s lovely form
Evanishing amid the storm.”

So, it is important to understand what real happiness is.... not the counterfeit. How do we navigate this life? Follow the rules that govern the universe:

“There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.” D&C 130:20-21

George Rogers, in his edited compilation of Benjamin Franklin’s “The Art of Virtue” wrote the following:

"The one unifying thread through all human endeavor is the quest for happiness. To be happy is, perhaps, the only common objective shared by all people in all ages. Every other human aspiration may be explained in context of its perceived value in contributing to this universal goal. For all its importance, however, few people seem to realize there are laws that govern happiness as surely as there are laws that govern the forces of nature. The better a person understands the laws of happiness, the greater his chances are of doing those things that will bring him happiness."

My 7 rules for finding true happiness:

1. Discover who you are.

“Discover” is an active verb, not a passive verb.

Ugly duckling - Hans Christian Anderson (1844):

And so they made themselves comfortable; but the poor duckling, who had crept out of his shell last of all, and looked so ugly, was bitten and pushed and made fun of, not only by the ducks, but by all the poultry.

“He is too big,” they all said, and the turkey cock, who had been born into the world with spurs, and fancied himself really an emperor, puffed himself out like a vessel in full sail, and flew at the duckling, and became quite red in the head with passion, so that the poor little thing did not know where to go, and was quite miserable because he was so ugly and laughed at by the whole farmyard. So it went on from day to day till it got worse and worse. The poor duckling was driven about by every one; even his brothers and sisters were unkind to him, and would say, “Ah, you ugly creature, I wish the cat would get you,” and his mother said she wished he had never been born. The ducks pecked him, the chickens beat him, and the girl who fed the poultry kicked him with her feet. So at last he ran away, frightening the little birds in the hedge as he flew over the palings.


(He hid for a year, then the following spring he saw some swans swimming in a nearby lake...)

“I will fly to those royal birds,” he exclaimed, “and they will kill me, because I am so ugly, and dare to approach them; but it does not matter: better to be killed by them than pecked by the ducks, beaten by the hens, pushed about by the maiden who feeds the poultry, or starved with hunger in the winter.”

Then he flew to the water, and swam towards the beautiful swans. The moment they espied the stranger, they rushed to meet him with outstretched wings.

“Kill me,” said the poor bird; and he bent his head down to the surface of the water, and awaited death. But what did he see in the clear stream below? His own image; no longer a dark, gray bird, ugly and disagreeable to look at, but a graceful and beautiful swan. To be born in a duck’s nest, in a farmyard, is of no consequence to a bird, if it is hatched from a swan’s egg. He now felt glad at having suffered sorrow and trouble, because it enabled him to enjoy so much better all the pleasure and happiness around him; for the great swans swam round the new-comer, and stroked his neck with their beaks, as a welcome. Into the garden presently came some little children, and threw bread and cake into the water.

“See,” cried the youngest, “there is a new one;” and the rest were delighted, and ran to their father and mother, dancing and clapping their hands, and shouting joyously, “There is another swan come; a new one has arrived.”

Then they threw more bread and cake into the water, and said, “The new one is the most beautiful of all; he is so young and pretty.” And the old swans bowed their heads before him. Then he felt quite ashamed, and hid his head under his wing; for he did not know what to do, he was so happy, and yet not at all proud. He had been persecuted and despised for his ugliness, and now he heard them say he was the most beautiful of all the birds. Even the elder-tree bent down its bows into the water before him, and the sun shone warm and bright. Then he rustled his feathers, curved his slender neck, and cried joyfully, from the depths of his heart, “I never dreamed of such happiness as this, while I was an ugly duckling.”

How do you see yourself?

○ Do you view yourself through the filter of self-doubt?

○ Do you accept the lie that you are unworthy of greatness?

○ Or that you are incapable of success?

Stop it! Stop it right now! Each one of you is a swan! You may not look like those around you, you may not feel accepted by those around you...Remember you’re the swan. Let them be the ducklings.

Moses discovered his true relationship with God, God spoke to him:

And I have a work for thee, Moses, my son; and thou art in the similitude of mine Only Begotten; and mine Only Begotten is and shall be the Savior, for he is full of grace and truth; but there is no God beside me, and all things are present with me, for I know them all.

And now, behold, this one thing I show unto thee, Moses, my son, for thou art in the world, and now I show it unto thee.

And it came to pass that Moses looked, and beheld the world upon which he was created; and Moses beheld the world and the ends thereof, and all the children of men which are, and which were created; of the same he greatly marveled and wondered.

And the presence of God withdrew from Moses, that his glory was not upon Moses; and Moses was left unto himself. And as he was left unto himself, he fell unto the earth.

And it came to pass that it was for the space of many hours before Moses did again receive his natural strength like unto man; and he said unto himself: Now, for this cause I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed. Moses 1:6-10

Moses was raised as a Prince, yet he discovered that God was so much more powerful than any King, also that mortality is not the culmination of our existence, immortality is. If our view of our overall existence begins and ends with mortality, then we do not yet understand that “man is nothing, which thing (we) never had supposed.”

You know you are the son or daughter of God.... The son or daughter of God.

Ponder that for a moment. You are not just a person living pointlessly on this planet. You have the potential to spread your wings and fly as high as the next Swan. Don’t ever let Satan’s influence convince you that you are not worthy enough, or good enough. It’s a lie!

2. Tap into your spiritual self

Example of horse blinders... Keep the attention of the horse focused. They only see what is right in front of them. They don't see the whole picture.

We are not mortal beings trying to become spiritual. We are actually spiritual beings going through a mortal experience.

How do we tap into our spiritual self? Elijah teaches us what it is like to communicate with the Spirit...

And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake:

And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. I Kings 19:11-12

Ponder - How can we get in touch with our Spiritual self?

  • Turn off the electronics
  • Drive without the radio
  • Come here to Temple Square
  • Find your temple (my personal “temple” was on the side of the mountain overlooking the city.)

3. Think beyond your current situation

Story of David and Goliath:

And David said to Saul, Let no man’s heart fail because of him; thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine.

And Saul said to David, Thou art not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him: for thou art but a youth, and he a man of war from his youth.

And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father’s sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock: And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him.

Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God. David said moreover, The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine. And Saul said unto David, Go, and the Lord be with thee.

Don’t limit yourself. Just because you’ve always done something a certain way doesn’t mean it has to be done this way. Think beyond your past.

  • It doesn’t matter if your parents were divorced.
  • It doesn’t matter if you were orphaned as a child.
  • It doesn’t matter if you’ve failed before.
  • It doesn’t matter if you have no money.
  • It doesn’t matter if you’ve never accomplished anything substantial before

Do NOT let your past limit you! Another example is Jonathan Livingston Seagull (Richard Bach). He wanted to see what he could do, he wanted to fly higher, dive faster, and do it without killing himself, but he kept failing... and finally after a particularly nasty crash he pondered:

“As he sank low in the water, a strange hollow voice sounded within him. There’s no way around it. I am a seagull. I am limited by my nature. If I were meant to learn so much about flying, I’d have charts for brains. If I were meant to fly at speed, I’d have a falcon’s short wings, and live on mice instead of fish. My father was right. I must forget this foolishness. I must fly home to the Flock and be content as I am, as a poor limited seagull.”

But as he slowly flew home and pondered some more (see how he’s using the learning model here?)

And then he realized..... “It’s dark! The hollow voice cracked in alarm. Seagulls never fly in the dark! If you were meant to fly in the dark, you’d have the eyes of an owl! You’d have charts for brains! You’d have a falcon’s short wings!

And there in the night, a hundred feet in the air, Jonathan Livingston Seagull blinked. His pain, and his (negative resignations) vanished.

Short wings! A Falcon’s short wings!

That’s the answer! What a fool I’ve been! All I need is a tiny little wing, all I need is to fold most of my wings and fly on just the tips alone! Short wings!

He climbed two thousand feet above the black sea, and without a moment for thought of failure and death, he brought his forewings tightly into his body, left only the narrow swept daggers of his wingtips extended into the wind, and fell into a vertical dive.

The wind was a monster roar at his head. Seventy miles per hour, then ninety, then a hundred and twenty and faster still. The wing-strain now at a hundred and forty miles per hour wasn’t nearly as hard as it had been before at seventy, and with the faintest twist of his wingtips he eased out of the dive and shot above the waves, a gray cannonball under the moon. He closed his eyes to slits against the wind and rejoiced.”

4. Define your priorities

Clayton Christensen’s example of his classmates from Harvard--reunions every 5 years:

Among his classmates were executives at renowned consulting and finance firms like McKinsey & Co. and Goldman Sachs; others were on their way to top spots in Fortune 500 companies

“Despite such professional accomplishments, however, many of them were clearly unhappy...My classmates were not only some of the brightest people I’ve known, but some of the most decent people, too. At graduation they had plans and visions for what they would accomplish, not just in their careers, but in their personal lives as well. Yet something had gone wrong for some of them along the way: their personal relationships had begun to deteriorate, even as their professional prospects blossomed.”

At the time, I assumed it was a blip; a kind of midlife crisis. But at our twenty-five and thirty-year reunions the problems were worse. One of our classmates -- Jeffrey Skilling -- had landed in jail for his role in the Enron scandal....

Personal dissatisfaction, family failures, professional struggles, even criminal behavior -- these problems weren’t limited to my classmates at Harvard Business School. I saw the same thing happen to my classmates in the years after we completed our studies as Rhodes Scholars at Oxford University. One played a prominent role in a major insider trading scandal. Another ended up in jail because of a sexual relationship with a teenager who had worked on his political campaign. (He was married with three children at the time.) One who I thought was destined for greatness in his professional and family spheres had struggled in both, including more than one divorce. I know for sure that none of these people graduated with a deliberate strategy to get divorced or lose touch with their children, much less to end up in jail. Yet, this is the exact strategy that too many ended up implementing.

“How will you measure your life?” Clayton Christensen

What are your priorities?

  • Making lots of money?
  • Job title?
  • Church title?
  • Being a good husband or wife?
  • Being a good father or mother?
  • Being right in every argument?
  • Getting a college degree?

Christ taught:

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matt 6:33

5. Serve those around you

Love is a verb. Story of Grandpa taking care of Grandma.

We love whom we serve - Good Samaritan - “Go and do thou likewise”:

“And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?

He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou?

And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.

And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.

But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?


Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?

And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise. Luke 10:25 - 37

Story at BYU. Struggling during a semester and so I volunteered at a special ed school in the evenings.

6. Bend your knees

Pray often, for you receive not because you ask not. Joseph Smith did not receive any heavenly visitations until after he asked. The entire restoration was triggered because of answers to prayers.

2 Nephi 32:4

“Wherefore, now after I have spoken these words, if ye cannot understand them it will be because ye ask not, neither do ye knock; wherefore, ye are not brought into the light, but must perish in the dark.”

Doctrine and Covenants 29:33

“Speaking unto you that you may naturally understand; but unto myself my works have no end, neither beginning; but it is given unto you that ye may understand, because ye have asked it of me and are agreed.

D&C 38:30

“I tell you these things because of your prayers;”

1 John 3:22

“And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.”

7. Take responsibility for your choices

The essence of this life is Agency. God wants us to create our own happiness because we make our own choices. Personal responsibility - we choose our destiny.

Perhaps it’s appropriate to quote the very wise and very honorable professor and world-renowned historian, Indiana Jones:

The scene in the cave when Indiana Jones meets the one remaining knight who is protecting the Holy Grail. The Nazi rushes to find the grail and drinks from the wrong one... the results are not pleasant. The knight quietly observes: “He chose poorly.”

Father Lehi taught:

And now, my sons, I speak unto you these things for your profit and learning; for there is a God, and he hath created all things, both the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are, both things to act and things to be acted upon.

And to bring about his eternal purposes in the end of man, after he had created our first parents, and the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and in fine, all things which are created, it must needs be that there was an opposition; even the forbidden fruit in opposition to the tree of life; the one being sweet and the other bitter. Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other. 2 Nephi 2:11-12

Are you being acted upon? Are you letting your life just kind of take you where it takes you?

When Adam and Eve were being obedient, they enjoyed the presence of God and lived peaceful lives, but once they had sinned, their actions and thought-processes seemed to change. Now they’re starting to sound like us:

When the Lord asked Adam, whether he’d eaten of the fruit, his response was to blame Eve.

And the man said: The woman thou gavest me, and commandest that she should remain with me, she gave me of the fruit of the tree and I did eat. Moses 4:18

Of course, Eve was no better:

And I, the Lord God, said unto the woman: What is this thing which thou hast done? And the woman said: The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat. Moses 4:19

Sin changes us....

“Something about sin changes us, kind of like bodily addictions do. We view the world differently after we sin than before. Like Adam, we become more concerned with ourselves and with how we look, and we somehow lose sight of the Lord and our need for him. We begin to see the world in ways that excuse our indiscretions. And then, like a kind of addiction, I suppose, we find it easier to continue in sinful paths. In fact, after Adam and Eve’s transgression, Satan was able to get them to do something that never would have entered their minds before --- to hide from the Lord.”

The Peacegiver - James Ferrell.

The Lord has made it very clear that your own personal happiness is totally within your control. Alma’s own son, Corianton, was making some poor choices:

“Do not suppose, because it has been spoken concerning restoration, that ye shall be restored from sin to happiness. Behold, I say unto you, wickedness never was happiness.” Alma 41:10

In Tolstoy’s book, War and Peace, the Russian writer opined:

“that man is created for happiness, that happiness is within him, in the satisfaction of simple human needs, and that all unhappiness arises not from privation but from superfluity” (translated by Louise and Aylmer Maude [1942], 1176).

Superfluity is defined as “unnecessary things.” So often we find ourselves striving for the “unnecessary thing.” We are not content with what we have and think that happiness comes from having more or acquiring more or being more. We look for happiness but go in the wrong direction to find it.

King Mosiah preached a powerful sermon on happiness. The way in which we live our life does matter:

“And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it.” Mosiah 2:41

So there you have it... Brother DeGraw’s 7 Keys to Happiness

  1. Discover who you are
  2. Tap into your spiritual self
  3. Think beyond your current situation
  4. Define your priorities
  5. Serve those around you
  6. Bend your knees
  7. Take responsibility for your choices

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.



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