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Happiness against the odds

Published on Friday, 08 Oct 2010
Illustration: Bay Leung
Book: Happiness in Hard Times
Author: Andrew Matthews
Publisher: Seashell Publishers/Cognizance Publishing

For Andrew Matthews, who has written a series of titles on happiness, including best-seller Follow Your Heart, pain is an inevitable part of life - but misery is a choice.

"My son, Michael, had a car accident in 1987, in which he received serious brain damage," says Matthews, who has released Happiness in Hard Times.

For 23 years, Matthews and his wife, Julie, have been rehabilitating their son whose speech remains very limited, suffers short-term memory loss and will most likely never have a normal job. How does Matthews deal with the unexpected blow?

"Look for the good things. Michael is very loving and generous, and his courage has been a lesson to us all," he tells Classified Post. "And, in watching Julie, I have come to understand just how deep a mother's love can be."

Matthews says Happiness in Hard Times is about "bouncing back from disaster, triumphing over tragedy". "I tell the stories of everyday people who showed extraordinary spirit, [including] a man who went broke three times; a beautiful young woman who was raped and stabbed 30 times; a friend who lost his whole family in different car accidents; and a man who has lived with HIV for 20 years," he says.

"These are the people who say: 'Life is beautiful. Life is worthwhile'."

Drawing lessons and insights from these inspiring stories, the author offers advice and suggestions for achieving happiness, such as by focusing on the positive, looking at what you want to be rather than what you are, taking small steps and making success a habit, saying thank you, and praising others more. "Happy people don't get enough credit," Matthews says. "It is important to develop mental fitness [alongside] physical fitness."

Matthews started writing 20 years ago. "[Back then,] self-improvement books were fairly dry and boring. I thought if I can share helpful ideas in a simple book - illustrated with my own cartoons - I can reach people who wouldn't normally read about success, such as students, teachers and mothers."

A well-known motivational speaker, Matthews says the question he often gets in Hong Kong is "how to be happy without being rich".

"You deal with being short of money the same way as you tackle any other challenges. You have to make the most of what you have, set up an action plan, and implement it," he says.


Five insights

  • One negative thought attracts another
  • An attitude of gratitude ensures that we focus on what we want
  • The best place to make a new start is where you are
  • Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself
  • All you can do is give your best effort until bedtime. Let tomorrow take care of itself

Bringing you closer to joy

Title Happy: Simple Steps for Getting the Life You Want

Author Ian K. Smith

Publisher St Martin's Griffin

Category Motivational  

Happiness is the lasting feeling that comes from becoming someone you want to be. And someone others want to be with, too. Diet counsellor Dr Ian Smith has learned from his job that while achieving hard-fought goals can help make a person happy, even real accomplishments may not be enough to make happiness stick.

In his book, Smith presents a simple programme that motivates readers to understand the behaviour and mindsets that work and last, including:

  • How to be optimistic
  • The importance of family and community
  • Tapping the power of simple pleasures

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