Martha Washington, the first first lady, said that, "The greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our disposition and not on our circumstances." Our research certainly confirmed this. The women who could answer positively to the questions above had, on some level, simply decided that they were going to be happy. They made that choice.
However, more specifically, they:
Focus on Moments, More Than Goals, Plans or Dreams
Certain moments in your life create in you strongly positive emotions—let's call these "strong-moments." Not all moments are strong-moments—some moments spark negative emotions, while some don't spark any emotions at all. But when you do experience a strong-moment, it is authentic. It is true, in the sense that the emotions you feel are true. You may not know exactly what you should do with your emotions, or what label you should give each emotion, but you know how a specific moment made you feel. You know this more certainly than you know virtually anything else in your life.
It could be that moment yesterday when, as you again sat hunched over the year-end results, you found a revealing pattern in the financial report you were reading; or the snuggling of your grandson into the crook of your shoulder as you read him the last chapter in The Magic Tree House book, or that glorious sentence you wrote last night on your blog, or the way you managed to calm down your colleague after your boss changed everyone's schedule.
Whatever you are picturing, it will be a vivid, detailed moment, and as you think about it now, you feel yourself change. You are sitting up a little straighter than you were even a minute ago. Your shoulders are back. You've slowed down your breathing just a hair. Perhaps you are smiling. This moment, and the emotions you feel as you relive it in your mind, is you, in truth.
When you commit your life to being true to yourself, you are not committing to some far-flung destiny, some grand dream or some disembodied list of values, no matter how worthy. Instead, you are committing to the truth embodied in this strong-moment, the truth that this specific moment, for no rational reason, energizes you.