“Remember happiness doesn’t depend upon who you are or what you have—it depends solely on what you think.”

Dale Carnegie 

In the grand, somewhat cluttered foyer of existence—where life’s numerous doors stand ajar, each beckoning with the whispered promise of untold adventures or at least a story worth telling at a dinner party—we find ourselves perpetually on the cusp of decision-making. It’s akin to being in a game show hosted by fate, where behind door number one might be a life-altering epiphany, and behind door number two, a goat. Not a metaphorical goat representing failure, mind you, but an actual, living, breathing goat with an appetite for your important papers and a knack for headbutting your shins at the least opportune moments.

Before flinging open any of these metaphorical (or in some regrettable cases, literal) doors, there’s a whisper of a question that should float through your mind, light as a dandelion seed caught in a breeze: “Will I be happier for having done this?” It’s a simple question, really, though the goat might disagree, given its limited understanding of human joy and its inability to participate in most of our activities, barring some unconventional pet choices.

This question, “Will I be happier for having done this?”, serves not just as a guide but as a personal litmus test, a way to cut through the thicket of indecision with the machete of introspection. It’s a beacon of light, or at the very least, a slightly unreliable flashlight with a flickering beam, in the vast, dark hallways of decision-making.

Imagine, if you will, standing before a door marked “Karaoke Night with Colleagues.” You pause, hand on the knob, and ask yourself the all-important question. Visions of potential futures dance in your mind: one where you’re belting out “Bohemian Rhapsody” with the gusto of Freddie Mercury reborn, basking in the adulation of your peers; and another where you’re mangling the high notes so badly, dogs in the next county start howling in despair. Will you be happier for having opened this door? Perhaps. At the very least, you’ll have a story that begins, “This one time, at karaoke night…”

Or consider the door marked “Spontaneous Road Trip with No Planned Destination.” Will you find joy in the unknown roads, the hole-in-the-wall diners with questionable hygiene standards but surprisingly delicious pie, the oddball roadside attractions like the world’s largest ball of twine? Or will the trip culminate in a vow never to eat gas station sushi again? The answer lies beyond the door, and the question is your key.

The beauty of this guiding inquiry is that it doesn’t demand a yes. Sometimes, the pursuit of happiness lies in recognizing that behind some doors, there’s nothing you wish to find. And that’s perfectly fine. There’s a certain joy in knowing you’ve dodged a bullet, or in this metaphor, a headbutt from a disgruntled goat.

So, as you meander through life’s foyer, faced with doors of all shapes and sizes, remember to pause and whisper that question to yourself. It might not always lead you to the path of utmost joy, but it will certainly make for an interesting journey. And who knows? You might just find happiness in the most unexpected places, like in the company of a goat on a road trip with no destination in mind.

Stephen Boudreau serves as VP of Brand & Community at Virtuous Software. For over two decades, he has helped nonprofits leverage the digital space to grow their impact. To that end, Stephen co-founded RaiseDonors, a platform that provides nonprofits with technology and experiences that remove barriers to successful online fundraising. He is an avid (but aging) soccer player, audiobook enthusiast, and the heavily-disputed UNO champion of his household.

Copyright ©2024 Stephen Boudreau.