The Happiness Choice

Excerpts from My Books:


My new book:
The Happiness Choice - The 5 Decisions that will take you from where you are to where you want to be

Life Purpose - Yours

These are the two most important days in your life:
1. The day you were born
2. The day you found out why you were born

~A humanitarian upon receiving an award for his work

Do you remember your dreams from when you were a child? You wanted to be some type of hero—someone who was inspiring for you—a cartoon character, a TV personality, a figure from a storybook, an inspiring family member, or some mystical creature that could magically transform your surroundings to the happy, fun place you hoped it would be. What happened to that dream?

Chances are it was squashed by other people’s expectations of you. “What are you going to be when you grow up?” people would ask. The acceptable answer usually was what they wanted to hear rather than what you felt was your life’s calling. You were supposed to be responsible; aiming for something that other people thought was proper and right for you. Your own hopes, dreams, and talents were almost an afterthought to them in many ways. They were seeing you through the lens of their own conditioning. Oftentimes, what they wanted you to take on was what they did or wished they had done; it had much more to do with their own hopes and fears than yours.

Then there is the media—glamorizing certain roles—movie and TV stars; athletes; rock stars; major business moguls; and the rich, indulged children of people with enormous wealth; and other unrealistic role models. These celebrities seemed to live charmed lives with little accountability and with nothing as mundane as bills to pay, dishes and laundry to do. Those subliminal messages crept into your mind, burrowed in deep, and emerged whenever you had a setback in your life; they made you feel inadequate, wanting, and unhappy.

Bombarded by the relentless conditioning of what you are supposed to be, you packed your own dreams away, so hidden that you may have forgotten that you ever had them. You internalized the message that society gave you: that you have to be rich, famous, multitalented, good-looking, and in excellent physical shape to be happy. Of course you also have to be accomplished in a profession, keep a beautiful home, have well-behaved and smart children, be self actualized, spiritual, do community service, and give back to the world. Oh, and you need to have the right—that is, rich, glamorous, and good-looking—partner on your arm to complete the picture. No wonder you may be confused as to your life’s mission!

I don’t think I have ever worked in my life, because work to me means that you are really doing something you don’t like.

~John Kluge, multibillionaire founder of Metromedia

Maybe you are one of the fortunate few who found their life’s purpose early and have stayed the course all your life. I am blessed to say that I am one of them. How do you find your reason for being? In my case it was through the realization that the world is a lot bigger when I am open to seeing it from other people’s perspectives.

I was shunted off to live with my aunt and uncle when I was seven in the hope that they would adopt me. They had no children after many failed attempts, and my parents had two daughters and three sons already. As the second daughter I was dispensable, and, in fact, as my mother frequently reminded me, I was worthless.

Staying with my aunt and uncle in the little fishing village where they lived exposed me to people of meager means who were nevertheless happy and productive. They liked the freedom of their lifestyle of being outdoors and in nature doing something they loved. My friends were the poor fishermen children and the child factory piecework workers with whom I worked. We assembled plastic flowers and embroidered needlepoint handbags at home or at special gathering places on the streets for pennies. Yet, I was comfortable. No one told me I was useless.

Then life changed again. My aunt gave birth to their first child, a son. I was sent back to live with my parents again. This gave me an even sharper understanding of what it means to be unwanted.

School uniforms are great equalizers; we have no idea of the relative wealth of each other. Without distinguishing clothes we lose a tool that is often used to judge other people. Rebecca, one of my classmates, turned out to be from a family of paltry financial means. With two working parents, my friend and her family lived in one room and shared a kitchen and bathroom with two other families. Often they didn’t have enough to eat.

I was filled with outrage when I found this out. It didn’t seem fair or reasonable that in spite of all their best efforts a family couldn’t maintain the basics of life. I realized that no matter how bad my life might seem to me, there were people who had it worse, much worse. No, not as some remote concept from TV, magazines, or books (this was before the Internet, after all), a real life person whom I knew was facing true hardship.

I vowed that I would grow up to help others attain what we all want—freedom from basic wants and happiness. My life mission was set; I was going to save the world. I was 11 years old.

It sometimes takes a defining event like my discovery of Rebecca’s home situation to ignite the inner passion of what drives us. Other times, your life passion may be so hidden that you are not consciously aware of it yet. But everyone has one. Finding out what yours is will propel you to another level of existence, one in which you are motivated to do what you are destined to do.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

~Steve Jobs

Joan Borysenko shared her own personal journey to finding her life purpose. Now looking back she realized that she discovered her life purpose in a defining event at age ten and then it took many years of development for her life mission to fully emerge as it is today. So it may be with you, your mission may have appeared as a shining glimmer at one time. Whether you followed it consciously or subconsciously or was distracted by something else, it is still there deep within you.

When Joan was ten, her parents took her to a horror movie with poisonous snakes, headhunters, and ferocious animals in the jungle that scared her so much that she believed that the frightening scenes will happen to her and her family. Being a precocious and sensitive child, Joan developed a fantasy belief that the only way her family could be saved was by what psychologists now define as an obsessive-compulsive ritual to keep harm away. Joan started a series of habits, hand washing, specific sayings and other patterns, which she did repeatedly all day.

Understandably alarmed, Joan’s parents took her to a therapist to seek help. Joan’s behavior was so consuming that she was held back from attending school and her beloved Jewish girl camp, which was upcoming. Upon learning that she would be denied the many things that gave her joy, Joan prayed fervently for help. In that place of prayer and reflection she found a powerful sense of peace and love, and she knew how to she get well. She had to stop all her ritualistic behaviors at once, cold turkey. And with the inner peace she received from her deep prayer time, she found the strength and wisdom to cease the rituals completely.

After she regained balance, Joan realized that what she experienced was a profound spiritual phenomenon, and wondered if other people had similar experiences. She wanted to bring back that sense of enveloping love and peace she felt at that time. It became Joan’s life mission to understand and develop that deep sense of stillness, wellness and love, and to share that with others. How does a normal functioning child become obsessive-compulsive and back again? She wanted to find out, she was going to become a psychiatrist when she grew up.

Joan majored in biology and psychology in Bryn Marr and worked at Wyeth Labs researching objective conditioning while she was in school. She was fascinated by the advances in neuroscience and cell biology and entered Harvard Medical School to study for her doctorate in cell biology. Along the way she had many inspiring mentors who guided her and her research in biofeedback, and in cell biology on how cells interact with each other, the primary communication system that determines our body’s health. Her interest in cell biology and biofeedback led her into cancer research.

Joan flourished in her work, and for a while was teaching and doing research at both Tufts Medical School and Harvard Medical School. It was a fascinating and energizing time. And then tragedy struck. Joan’s beloved father was diagnosed with a virulent form of leukemia and was placed on large doses of steroids that left him unable to think and caused severe psychosis. In a small window of time when he was taken off the steroids for another operation, he realized his mental condition and committed suicide rather than face the prospect of being put back on the steroids that would render him again incapable of normal cognitive functioning.

Joan was devastated - a cancer biology expert who could not help her own father. She switched from research into working with people and helping them use all the tools of mind, body and spirit to regain and maintain health. She started sharing the entire body of work she was integrating, from the newest medical science, to the ancient wisdom of yoga, meditation and prayer. It was a transformative and exciting time for Joan as well as in the field of mind, body and spirit in health and wellbeing.

In her relentless zeal and fervor Joan’s overworked world came crashing down, literally. She was severely hurt in a car crash. It was a wake up call. She could not sustain her research, clinical work with patients, write leading edge books on her work, be a good mother to her teenage sons and have a meaningful relationship with her husband all at the same time; much less maintain her personal physical and mental health too.

It was time for her to truly embody what she found out at ten years old. She was primed and ready to follow her life purpose of developing inner peace, wellness and love and to share how with others. Joan resigned from her Harvard post and devoted her time and energy to writing, speaking and to her personal and family life. It took Joan many years from that ten year old’s first inner knowing to fully living her mission. And when Joan looks back, she says that each step along the way was blessed with mentors, synchronicities and lessons that lead her to her following her life mission.

And that can also be for you. You may not be completely clear on your life purpose and what makes you happy. Keep leaning into it. Ask yourself why a particular situation is developing the way it is. What can you learn? Are you moving closer or further away from what you want? Like a sunflower that always grows facing the sun, are you turning towards what give you energy and life or are you moving away?

Next – the Four Stages in Life……


Buy it on Amazon  




How to use what you've got to get what you want.

Chapter 1 Inside You

The common wisdom is that in order to be a success, you have to have certain advantages: knowing the right people, going to the right schools, belonging to the right clubs, looking the right way -- I am here to tell you that you can use what you've got to get what you want.

My own life has been extraordinarily diverse. I grew up in a traditional Chinese family in Hong Kong as the lowest person on the totem pole: a second daughter who was quickly followed by three sons. My childhood was an all-too familiar litany of abuse and neglect. If the common wisdom were true, I should have been a miserable failure in life, struggling to overcome a low sense of self-esteem and fighting a losing battle to win the affection of parents who are never going to give me the acknowledgement I crave.

And yet I managed to rise through the executive ranks of the international business world and become an influential corporate leader, speaker, consultant, author and philanthropist.

According to the common wisdom, I didn't have the advantages you need to get to the top. Instead of having connections or running with the in-crowd, I grew up in a foreign country where English was my second language. Instead of getting an Ivy League education, I went to a State University. Instead of being one of the guys' in a man's world, I'm a woman. The lesson is this: If I can use what I've got to get what I want, you can too. I know this isn't how the psychologists, philosophers and rescue workers think it's supposed to be, but I believe that the struggles of my childhood – all the misery, loneliness and grief – are responsible for my success. When I stood at the edge of my future, looking toward the uncharted terrain of my career, the skills I learned in childhood were all I had.

My life has proven that what I had was enough.

Merely surviving in my family gave me the skills and the inner knowing that guided my career and my success in life. I built on those early traits through trail and error with the help of Spirit and many teachers as I journeyed through life.

What I did was this:

  • > listen and trust my inner voice,
  • > envision what I wanted,
  • > plan and anticipate the challenges,
  • > learn and practice the skills needed to carry out my vision,
  • > confidently proceed as the situation develops
  • > keep trying different ways to achieve my goals until I succeeded.


And what I learned is this: What’s inside of each of us is powerful enough to help us achieve anything we want.

You’re Good Enough Just as You Are.

You are good enough now. You don’t have to wait for anything, anyone or any situation before you can start making a positive change in your life. You don’t have wait until you get a new job, lose fifteen pounds, move to a new house, get a new relationship, wait until an existing situation improves or hold out for any other reason. The time and place to begin working toward your goals is here and now.

Believe in yourself and hold onto evidence that you are good enough.

“Think you can, think you can't; either way, you'll be right.”
-- Henry Ford

My family was devastated when I was born. They'd already had a girl and were desperate for a boy. When my younger brother was born soon after me and two more boys followed him, I was made completely superfluous. My brothers inadvertently cemented my position as the unnecessary and bothersome child. As a result, I was alternatively ignored or punished for reasons that were mostly unrelated to anything I did.

It was a situation that had great potential for being a training ground for me to go through life as an insecure victim. If things had been different, I might have fallen into that role without realizing it. But I had a secret weapon: my grandfather, Ah Yeh. The spark of belief he had in me gave me a sense of self worth that kept me going when others were doubting me.

It was Grandfather Ah Yeh who gave me my Chinese name, Hay Lit. Hay and Lit are the names of two of the Emperors in China; one was known for his intellect and wisdom and the other for his prowess in military strategy. It was a most unusual name for a Chinese girl, but it registered with me like a permanent vote of confidence from a man I deeply admired.

I never spent much time with my grandfather. He died when I was about seven. I didn’t see him but a few times a year even when he was alive. But the powerful name he gave me made me feel he must really have believed I was strong and thought I was something special.

That little kernel of hope and inspiration held me in good stead when the world around me told me otherwise. That kernel of hope and my own inner knowing always kept me going and gave me hope when I didn’t know how I was going to survive the situation at hand.

You can do the same thing by holding onto any time in your life when you felt the approval or support of someone who believed in you. Dive into that feeling of acceptance. Let it sink into your bones. Cherish it as you go forth and deal with the world. You’ll find your interactions much more successful when you have confidence and self-worth.

Trust in Something Bigger than Yourself

Throughout time, people have searched for the meaning of life. Countless religions, philosophies, and books are dedicated to answering that perennial question: What is the meaning of life? Do we enter this world from nothing for a certain number of years and then disappear forever? Is this all there is? Is this sixty, seventy, eighty or ninety or so years on planet earth all there is for us? What are we here to do?

I started discovering the meaning of life early in my childhood. I found that there was something more powerful than what met my eye. I found the power and comfort from a deeper source than the everyday reality; I found the power of Spirit.

As a child, I treasured my alone time, spending much time up in the trees where people couldn’t get to me. I found a sense of calm and security in the trees which meant much more to me than just physical safety. I felt the presence of a greater power than what I can see with my eyes.

This power which I call Spirit -- and you may call God or the Universal Power -- was very nourishing to me. I sensed that I was taken care of and that there was a greater plan for my life than what I could envision then. I felt that Someone was taking care of the big picture and that if I did the best I could, I could trust that somehow the overall story would turn out good in the end.

This inner knowing gave me great comfort and courage to take steps and risks to forge ahead. This inner knowing of my connection to a greater power sustained me when the outside circumstances seemed hopeless or unbearable.

What Spirit means to you may vary from what it means to me. The key to tapping into that sense of peace and wisdom is to trust that you are part of a bigger picture. You are not just a bobbing cork in a stormy ocean. You have a reason for being on earth and you have a mission and purpose. You are unique and have a gift for the world that only you can share. As Martha Graham said:

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening, that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.”

You are here for a reason. You have a unique gift to offer the world. Once you find your special talents and pursue it, whether it is to be the best carpenter, accountant, singer, mother or nuclear physicist that you can be, you will have a sense of inner peace. You will feel that you have found your reason for being. You may have several talents and you have the choice to follow one or a combination of them. What an exciting adventure!


Follow your Passion



Buy it on Amazon