By Barton Goldsmith McClatchy-Tribune News Service.
If you are wondering how to be happy, first take a look at what your gifts are and what your purpose is on the planet.
Sharing your gifts with the world is one of the best ways to create happiness. People who do what they love and give that love to those around them by simply being themselves are the happiest people on the planet.
Discovering and owning your purpose can sometimes be a confusing task.
A few lucky people seem to have always known what they were meant to do, and they propel themselves forward by setting goals and achieving them. But I believe we are all here for a reason, even if it's not immediately apparent. If you don't know what yours is, finding it can make the difference between a life of misery and one of joy.
Once you set a path and begin to take steps to make things happen, it will have a huge impact on your self-worth. Some people are afraid to set lofty goals because they don't want to fail, but the only true failure is in not trying.
If you don't reach your goal, you will learn what you need to do differently the next time. It's a process, and as the old saying goes, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again." Giving up will only make you feel badly, but changing directions is not the same as quitting.
Learn from your missteps and take another crack at finding your path to happiness.
If you aren't sure of your purpose here or what your gifts are, take an inventory of your life. Look at the times when you've felt the best about who you are, which could be when you were helping others or raising your family or creating something special.
It may be hard to acknowledge the good things you've done or to pat yourself on the back, so another idea is to consider times when other people have pointed out what a great job you were doing (the task doesn't really matter). Getting external validation can be very uplifting, and it can help point you in the direction that you want to go.
Some people give up when they can't get what they want from life, and that is such a sad existence. Yes, bad things happen to good people, but what you may need is a change of direction, not life on the bench.
If you think that you've gotten a raw deal because you don't have your own reality TV show, that's just being petulant. Most of us won't become stars, but it doesn't mean we can't shine just as brightly. The key is to set reasonable expectations for yourself and what the world has to offer.
So don't sit around and grouse about what you're not getting out of life. Find what is worthwhile about who you are, and start letting the people around you know that you are available to share your gifts with them. You'll make some new friends and become happier in the process. ___ (Dr. Barton Goldsmith, a psychotherapist in Westlake Village, Calif., is the author of "The Happy Couple: How to Make Happiness a Habit One Little Loving Thing at a Time.")