As we embark on a new year, so many of us make resolutions to lose weight, stop smoking, go to church, stick to a budget, and the annual list goes on. About two years ago, I decided I was no longer going to make resolutions each new-year and instead develop mantras that I would focus on living my life throughout the year.  Last year, one such mantra was to find joy and happiness in every situation – good or bad.

I didn’t know it then, but I couldn’t have picked a better mantra for 2011 because I surely encountered a lot of difficult situations. To put it lightly, 2011 was rough. Needless to say, I was happy to usher in a new year and optimistic about the possibilities. More importantly, I learned a valuable lesson that there is joy in every situation and I’m in control of it.

Last week, I was having year-end cocktails with one of my sister-friends who also had a tough year. Her marriage had suffered some serious blows and she was unhappy at work.  By the holiday season, she was at wits end and really was just ready to end the year.

“Girl, what’s the matter,” I asked (already knowing the answer)?  “Chile, it’s just been one ole’ year,” she sullenly replied as she sipped her Margarita. “Yes, but you look like you’ve been through World War III,” I quipped. “It feels like I have, you’ve had a tough year too!”

And, as I said, she was right, my year was challenging. However, I went on to explain how setting that mantra for myself at the top of the year had helped me through the most difficult times. True, my circumstances weren’t the most ideal, but what I’d discovered is that I had the power to make myself happy no matter what.

I shared with her my discovery, “Happiness is a choice, not a gift!” By going to gratitude and focusing on the things that were good in my life I was able to tackle the crazy stuff with a smile.  Sure, I didn’t like it, but wasn’t it enough that I had to deal with it? I refused to let mere temporary situations affect my overall happiness. So, I often found myself saying, ‘it is what is.’ And, once I stopped going against the flow of the universe I was able to accept the situation, try to move passed it and still stay happy.

“Alright, Deepak Chopra, I know you’ve been on this spirituality kick, but you can calm down. It’s not that simple,” she half-joked. “I had to deal with [her husband] cheating on me, my job being crazy, money wasn’t right…it was A LOT!!!”

“So, what?! [Stuff] happens, but you made the choice to focus on the bad parts. You made the choice to be miserable. You made the choice not to accept it for what it was, deal with it and move on.” I was not diminishing the severity of her issues. Instead, I was encouraging the power of her spirit to make the choice to find joy in her life in spite of those issues.

One thing about friendship is that you have to know when to pull back because no matter what you do the other person isn’t quite ready to receive the love you’re giving. Unfortunately, that was the case with my sister-friend last week. She wasn’t in the place to hear me. I will try again when she’s bounced back a bit because I do hope she discovers what I discovered.

We create our own reality and existence. If we say we’re miserable and focus on the bad then, we’re miserable. Conversely, if we focus on the good in our life and proclaim joy then, we become that too. So, my hope is that as you begin a new year that you go to gratitude in all situations, especially the bad ones, and remember that happiness is yours.

Wishing LOVE & CEASLESS JOY!  Follow @NathanHWilliams on Twitter!