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Belle and the Secret to Happiness

Beauty and the Beast is another one of my favorite Disney movies. Belle and her father, an eccentric inventor,  live in small provincial town in France. Belle is deemed to be “odd” among the towns people due to her interest in reading books that take her off to far away lands and not really fitting in. Though Belle does not have many friends in the town, she greets each day with excitement of the possibilities that the day may bring.  Belle’s father, who travels to show off his new invention, ends up getting lost and ends up at the Beast’s castle with the hopes of having a place to spend the night, but is instead made a prisoner. Belle, who worries about her father at the return of his horse to their home,  begins on a journey to find her father. Belle too comes upon the Beast’s castle and finds her father. Belle makes a deal with the Beast to trade herself for her father. The Beast agrees and Belle’s father is free to go. Belle spends most of the story living in the Beast’s castle and accepting this life as her new normal. Later the Beast allows Belle to leave the castle to help her father who is about to be committed to an insane asylum but Gaston. Gaston, a villager,  wants Belle to be his wife for no other reason that she is beautiful and he deserves all things beautiful. Once Belle makes it back to town to save her father she is greeted by Gaston and the towns people who later make their own journey to the Beast’s Castle to kill the beast. A fight ensues but don’t worry, love ends up saving the day and the tears that Belle sheds over the possible death of the Beast brings him back to life and back to life he comes not as the Beast but as a hunky prince. I find the middle of the story the most interesting as that is where the major lesson I learned took place.

Belle is unexpectedly thrust into a situation in which she has little to no control over, minus the decision to swap herself for her father. She finds herself living in a dungeon and later a bedroom with talking objects like a candlestick, clock, duster, tea pot and tea cup. The only thing that Belle has control over is how she reacts and behaves in the new situation that she finds herself in. Belle could be bitter, angry, sad, violent or aggressive but instead Belle makes the best of the situation.  Belle does not allow her current situation to dictate her mood. She does not release her power over her own emotions or behavior over to the Beast. Her strength and happiness come from within and soon becomes contagious. She seeks friendship in the talking objects, she tries her best to make this new place a “home” and she even tries to have a civil relationship with the Beast who is keeping her captive. Some may argue she is suffering from Stockholm Syndrome but I disagree, this is Disney. Belle has actively made the choice to see the best in each day and in turn shows the others in the house, including the Beast,  who have lost hope how to find happiness in each day.

So many of us look for each situation we are in to be perfect and find ourselves unhappy when our expectations are not met. We say to ourselves, I will be happy when I have the perfect job, the perfect partner, the perfect house, etc. We are always chasing this dream of perfection and failing to see the pleasures and joy that greet us in the world we inhabit right now. SPOILER ALERT: There is no such thing as perfection and the more you reach for it the more it will elude you.

That is the key to happiness that Belle taught me. Look for the positive in the life you have now. What are things about your job that you enjoy? The people? The feeling of making a difference? The mission? Don’t focus on the negatives like  budgets, the hours, the pay, the commute, etc. Where you place your focus will determine your mood, your perspective and your overall happiness. When you focus on the positive, you will be positive. When you focus on the negative, you will be negative. The same holds true for your perfect partner. What are some things that they do that you love? Is it the way they hug you? Cook dinner? Make you laugh? Don’t focus on the clothes that don’t seem to have the strength to make it to the hamper, the wet towels on the floor or leaving dirty dishes in the sink. When you assess your relationship with someone, what really matters in the end, the love you felt or the dishes in the sink? If you don’t have a partner to share your life with, don’t focus on what you feel you are missing out on, instead focus on what you are brining into your own life. Seek fulfillment from within not from outside. In regards to the perfect house, I have moved around a lot and learned a very valuable lesson. There is no perfect house, only a place you make feel like a home. A house is a building that shelters a family. A home is a place built in love and safety that embrace the people who live there. No matter where I lived whether it be in a house, an apartment or a hotel, I have always done things to make it feel like a home and in turn, it has become the place that I choose and want to live for that period of time. Home is a feeling not a place, just like happiness. Happiness is not a destination or a finish line, it is the attitude you have when moving through life and experiencing everything there is to experience.

This week I challenge you to look at life searching for the bright spots; the hot cup of coffee on a cold morning, the sweet piece of chocolate during the day, a call from a friend you haven’t heard from in awhile, the embrace of a loved on, the wag of a tail from your dog or any dog for that matter. I promise you when you start looking at the positive, the negatives will start to fade away and soon you will only focus on the positive.

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