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Doug Smith '68 looking happy

How to be happy

Happiness is not always about being in a good mood or having a smile on your face.

It’s about having an underlying and predominant sense of well-being, said Doug Smith ’68, whose 2004 bout with leukemia caused him to quit work as a food industry executive and to study happiness, well-being and resilience in the face of setbacks. 

Since 2006, Smith has taught a winter-term course at DePauw that focuses on happiness. He is the author of two books, “Thriving in the Second Half of Life” and “Happiness: The Art of Living with Peace, Confidence and Joy,” and co-founder of Positive Foundry, an organization dedicated to enabling individuals and their organizations to flourish. 

One can achieve happiness, he said, by developing and practicing skills that lead to peace about the past, confidence in the future and joy and exuberance in the present. Here are his specific steps toward happiness:


  • Forgive. Forgiving yourself is the ability to learn from your mistake. Forgiving someone else is releasing the desire for vengeance.
  • Feel gratitude. Stop focusing on what you don’t have and be thankful for what you do have. 


  • Do now what you’re doing now. Stop multitasking. Have your head be where your feet are.
  • Honor mind, body and spirit. Pay attention to what you watch, read and eat, and with whom you socialize.
  • Be altruistic and kind. Before you take an action, ask yourself, is this kind? If it isn't, think of another action. 
  • Think with abundance. Stop comparing yourself to everybody else.
  • Master your stories. Most of us have a little voice in our head that’s talking to us from the second we wake up and often long after we’d like to go to sleep. It’s saying things about you and others that you’d never say out loud. How do you stop listening to that voice and start telling better stories? 
  • Find meaning and purpose. Figure out what you want to do with your life and get about it. 
  • Cherish relationships.


  • Practice faith.
  • Find optimism. 
  • Be flexible.
  • Exhibit openness.
  • Be inspired by love. Your life is either based on love or on fear – the fear that you won’t be enough or won’t have enough. Smith said those fears drove him “to get up really early in the morning and work really hard.” But if you’re driven by those fears, it’s hard to be happy. And there’s a better place to be: Inspired by love.
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