The I in HappIness: Tending Our Own Gardens

She sat there smiling. Her eyes shone behind the round spectacles of which bar was purple with a soft shade of pink. Fair skin, long hair, soft voice, she gave me the impression of a loving sister.

“What makes you happy?”

“I am happy when I make people around me happy.” She answered, still with a smile on her lips.

“Put all other people aside, is there an activity that you feel so happy while doing it? What is your passion?”

Her eyebrows rose through the smile was still on her lips. The contentment on her face faded away. She did not expect this question. It seemed that nobody had ever asked her this question, neither herself.


When I ask this question, I often get the same reply. I love all the owners of that reply though. Simply because they are good people. Their nature is caring, and they genuinely gain joy from the act of making others happy. However, I always see in them something’s missing: the answer to that disturbing question.

What’s your passion?

The question that I, 1 year ago, also couldn’t answer. I had worked in an incredible youth NGO called AIESEC for almost 6 years. That’s why it was always easier to say: “All I want to do is to help others.” Than to say: “I am passionate about writing. I’m working at becoming a writer.” There was something too daring about the second answer, too intimidating.

Luckily, I found my path. One day, I made a choice to dedicate my life to one thing that makes me most afraid, and at the same time, most alive. Or writing has chosen me.

Now I am no longer in the global executive board of a 100,000 people organization. I am no longer leading an international team. I am no longer traveling cross continents every month. I am no longer undertaking complex international assignments. I am no longer having a job title that makes me seem important.

Since August 2014 – when I decided to follow my dream – I’ve lived with my parents to save money. I don’t even have a business card. What I do is simple: I write. Strangely enough, more than ever before, I know I’m doing a much better job at healing this world, while all I’m doing is healing myself.


Many of us have spent years trying to ameliorate the world’s suffering without first comforting our own. … The truth is, when we are happy we spread happiness, and when we are in pain we spread suffering. If our aim is to alleviate the world’s suffering, we must begin with our own mind and body.

Rolf Gates, Meditations from the Mat

I learned the hard way that true happiness is self-given. No one can gives me happiness. Other people, even my lover, can give me certain level of gratification, but that does not last. It never lasts.

Happiness does not exist outside of me so I cannot search outside for it. Happiness exists within me. I am the only person in this world who has the power to find it and let it shine through. Nobody else but me holds the power to make me happy.

From the depth of my conviction, I know I am powerless at making others happy, truly happy. Doesn’t matter how pure my intention is, nobody is my voodoo doll to tinker with. The best thing I can do to make others happy is to not to interfere in their lives so as to face my own.

Like to stop peeking at others’ gardens, offering mowing their lawn and tending their lilies. And instead, take a good look at my garden, to face the withering daisies and the dry tulips and the dying apple tree, and do good work to bring them back to life.