By Boyd Matheson
Published on January 1, 2018

Originally published in the Deseret News.

The year 2018 has dawned, and many of us have embraced the excitement of the new year with the resolution to be better and do more.

Renewed memberships at the local gym or the purchase of a new exercise gadget are popular first steps into the new year. Many have launched into new diets. Still more people are committing to downsizing and simplifying, while others are determined to upsize their standard of living and supersize their material success.

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Most of these attempts at achieving happiness and a better life will be tossed onto the ash heap of self-improvement before Groundhog Day. In fact, this annual ritual often feels like the Bill Murray classic “Groundhog Day”! I have put the same goals on my annual New Year’s list for decades without significant steps or progress.

Considering the perpetual pursuit of success and the re-creation of activities to chart and check off, it is worth wondering what we are really pursuing and why.

Chasing some media-driven definition of happiness will lead to a long and frustrating journey. But happiness also won’t be found in the halls of Congress or emanating from some central government agency for happiness. It won’t be discovered in a miracle product, nor will it be created in a corner office or inherited from a rich uncle. Happiness won’t be bestowed in a new title or job, nor will it appear in a bigger bank account. Authentic happiness is found by following a set of simple principles.

The road to happiness and prosperity doesn’t need to be as difficult as we try to make it. In the late 1800s, an unknown author penned a set of principles titled “The Road to Happiness.” The years have flown, the centuries have turned, times have changed, and technology has transformed the world — yet the road to real happiness remains unchanged.

Consider the principles in “The Road to Happiness”:

“Keep skid-chains on your tongue; always say less than you think. How you say things often counts far more than what you say.

“Make promises sparingly and keep them faithfully, no matter what it costs you.

“Never let an opportunity pass to say a kind and encouraging thing to or about somebody. Praise good work done, regardless of who did it. If criticism is merited, criticize helpfully and never spitefully.

“Be interested in others: interested in their pursuits, their welfare, their homes and families. Make merry with those who rejoice and mourn with those who weep. Let everyone you meet, however humble, feel that you regard them as a person of importance.

“Be cheerful. Keep the corners of your mouth turned up. Laugh at good stories and learn to tell them.

“Preserve an open mind on all debatable questions. Discuss, but don’t argue. It is the mark of a superior mind to disagree and yet be friendly.

“Let your virtues, if you have any, speak for themselves, and refuse to talk of another’s vices. Discourage gossip. Make it a point to say nothing to another unless it is something good.

“Be careful of others’ feelings. Wit at the other fellow’s expense is rarely worth the effort and may hurt where least expected.

“Pay no attention to ill-natured remarks about you. Simply live so that nobody will believe them.

“Don’t be too anxious about getting your just dues. Do your work, be patient, keep your disposition sweet, forget self, and you will be respected and rewarded — on the road to Happiness!”

Simple, powerful principles to build a better individual, family, neighborhood and nation. These principles are a way of traveling. While there would still be an abundance of problems to solve in our country and around the world, imagine what could happen in 2018 if everyone pursued this path. The destination of peace, prosperity and opportunity for all would still be far in the distance — but choosing to get there on the road to happiness would propel all of us toward that destination faster, with less struggle and strife, more hope, and greater compassion for our fellow travelers.

My resolution for 2018 is to better live the principles of “The Road to Happiness.” I have much to improve and more to learn, but I believe that taking this road can make all the difference. I invite you to join me! As individuals, as a community and as a state, we can prove that Utah is pursuing the road best traveled — the road to happiness.

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Boyd Matheson is president of Sutherland Institute. Boyd, who served as chief of staff for Utah Senator Mike Lee in Washington, D.C., has a wealth of experience as a coach, executive adviser and business consultant.

In addition to his service as Sen. Lee’s chief of staff, Boyd most recently built a successful political consulting firm advising national and state elected officials and candidates. From 2005 to 2012, he served as president of Trillium Strategies, a consulting firm focused on branding, business transformation and operational excellence.

Boyd and his wife, Debbie, have five children and four grandchildren.

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