In Happiness in Hard Times, Matthews share golden nuggets of wisdom on how to be happy during the difficult times in life through self-awareness and self-realization. He especially highlighted the challenges in Relationships, Wealth, dealing with one self and with life crises. Matthews didn’t cling to specific religions or school of thought or point of view, so basically anybody from any walk of life can read and relate to this book.
For me, the book did hit the spot in making me realize what habits and ways of thinking I should change to lessen the loads of my life. However, if I compare this book to its predecessor, Being Happy, I’d pick the later one. I felt that Matthews plagiarised himself in this book. Most of the concepts of Happiness in Hard Times are similar to Being Happy and many parts (as in verbatim, actually came from the first book, as if they’re trying to re-market the successful concept into a new book).
Nevertheless, the book did provide practical guidance on how to attain joy in any life situation. He also shared life stories of people who successfully lived their lives well despite of the challenges and sufferings they went through. Here are the major lessons I have picked up from the book:
- Accept your situation – To often, we complain about the negative situation we are in (I’m guilty of this) that we resort to denial and resistance. In order to smooth-sail into our mess, we must first come to terms that we are indeed in a terrible situation. BUT, we should not stop there. This awareness must propel us to take the next step and resolve the situation ourselves.
- Let go (In order to gain something, you must not be afraid to lose it) – I must say this is one of the best things I learned in the book. We were taught that in order to achieve our goals and dreams, we must fight hard for it. But too often, our desperation (and obsession) over our goals end up making us not achieve the goal. Yes, we must give our best. However, we must also learn to let go, hope for the best and let the matter take care of itself. Further, we must also learn to walk away from certain deals with confidence that even if one deal does not work out, you’ll be able to achieve something else sooner or later.
- Be happy NOW – We are wasting our time and our lives if we wait for things to become A-OK first before being happy and content. We cannot control the universe. Thus, challenges and trials will come as much as success and triumphs. But our quality of life and way of living will be more worthy if we choose to be happy. In this disposition, we’ll be able to attract positive vibrations and open our hearts to possibilities and blessings.
- To be successful, you have to be happy and grateful FIRST – This thought is similar to # 3. In life, we are taught that everything must be ok first before being happy. But life isn’t always ok and many things will take time to grow and to succeed. So as mentioned, in order for good vibes and graces come, we must be able to see the good and what is possible in our situations.
- Be flexible with people – We have made up rules on how people should treat us and we become disappointed when they don’t follow our expectations. But we forget that we cannot control people and they are distinct from us. So to live in harmony with our loved ones and people, in general, we have to lessen our expectations toward them and don’t always expect anything in return when we do something for them. If you want to do good things to people, do so because of your love for them or because of your desire to do good for them. (Of course the dynamics are different at work when there are KPIs and targets expected of you from your boss). As Paulo Coehlo said, If you love with an expectation of being loved in return, you are wasting your time.
- Be comfortable with money – Many people lived in poverty for so long that they are not comfortable when they receive money or resources. They will do all that they can to make the money disappear (gamble, shop to death etc.). When we receive such resources (or when working for it). We must have the conviction that we deserve it and we are worth it, so that when the blessings come, we’ll be able to use it properly and to work in ways that will keep the resources flowing.
- Ask – If we need help or if we want something, we must ask for it. Again, this is in relation to worth and self-esteem issues. When we know that we deserve a promotion, or a more improved life, we will let the world know and let people help us. Otherwise, we will be stuck in our ruts and continue the cycle of suffering.
- Know that you are deserving and you are worthy – Babies and young children know more about this than adults ever would. When they need something, they don’t need to prove themselves in order to get what they want. However, as Matthews said, somewhere between 2 – 22 years old, so many expectations and pressures have been placed on us by our loved ones, our environment and even media. Being ourselves is not good enough to get what we want and need. We must first learn that despite of our shortcomings and mistakes in life, we deserve and we are worthy of receiving blessings and good opportunities. Otherwise, we will systematically find ways to sabotage ourselves and settle for things (or people) that we really don’t want.
- Focus on what you want – To get what we want, we must reframe how we think and how we speak. Instead of “ I hope I don’t fail the test”, we must think, “ I will pass the test.” Rephrasing our word and changing our trail of thought to a positive note will help us to achieve better results.
Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars. I’d recommend for others for a feel-good read. But only if you’re into the self-help thing.