Thursday, December 6, 2012

How Toastmasters Can Make You Happy

    Do you know people in life who never have a down day? Do you hate them? Do you envy them? Or are you one of those lucky people? There is no secret trick to happiness. Rather, happiness is achieved by a series of actions we take every day. One action I encourage everyone to take is to join Toastmasters. Come again? Did you hear me right? Yes, a local Toastmasters can improve your happiness quotient in several ways.

    If you want lasting happiness, invest in relationships. Toastmasters in my hometown provides a great team of people to invest in. We have Sheila, our fearless president who knows the pressure we face as a team, representing such a small population. She has shown us that we can unite in the fact that we are the underdogs of our district. We have Jamey, our education officer, who constantly has to keep up with the Toastmasters schedule and make sure we have a space for our meetings. Lorraine, our stickler for grammar, does a better job than I think I ever could at meticulously hanging on to our every word. We have Amy and David. We are so glad to have David now. Amy has been a great person to emulate and look up to through her gift of speaking. I am so grateful we have a group of people to build relationships and to mentor each other.

    Speaking of being grateful, that’s another way to become a happier person – to sit down and think of all the things you’re grateful for. Although this is not easy to do, at times, Toastmasters can make this easier to do. First of all, I am grateful that I am able to stand up and speak my mind. In many places in the world, I would not be able to do that. I am grateful that I can read and write because – how else would I have written and organized this speech today? I am also very grateful to know that there are other people in Hardee County who value leadership and communication abilities. These are gifts that can be developed – just like the gift of happiness – they can be cultured and grown so that we each reach our full potential.

    One thing I mentioned before is that we mentor each other. We are all looking for a sense of purpose. I highly recommend Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl. This man survived a concentration camp, so he knows that happiness is elusive but he also knows that it has to do with an attitude of giving back. One of my favorite quotes from the book is: “Those who have a 'why' to live, can bear with almost any 'how'.” When we are given a purpose – be it mentoring a person or delivering a moving speech, we are transformed. The tasking chores of day to day life – gotta do the laundry, gotta cook dinner, clean the house, work, repeat – fade for just a moment. When we volunteer our time to mentor at Toastmasters, we reap immediate rewards. I have gotten great constructive criticism in the brief amount of time I’ve been at Toastmasters. I hope that everyone who has mentored me along this journey feels good knowing that you are helping me reach my goal of self-improvement.

    Another great way to improve your happiness quotient is to live in the moment. Many times, we are encouraged in Toastmasters to live in the moment. When I sit down to write a speech, I often see it as a daunting task. However, once I get in front of an audience, I realize that nothing on this paper matters. All the worry and stress I put into this speech doesn’t matter. What matters is how well I deal with being present. This is part of the reason I would like to encourage you to remain in or join Toastmasters. Toastmasters helps us deal with living in the present, makes us more resilient, and teaches us to wing it. After all, there is no dress rehearsal in life. Why else wouldn’t we want to learn to tackle an assignment with gusto?

    Happiness is an attitude. If you’re someone who is seeking your full potential, Toastmasters is the place to be. To sum it up, Thomas Jefferson once said, “Our greatest happiness does not depend on the condition of life in which chance has placed us, but is always the result of a good conscience, good health, occupation, and freedom in all just pursuits.” The mere fact that we attend Toastmasters to improve our lives through leadership proves that we are on the path to happiness. The more we grow in the freedom of the “just pursuits” while attending Toastmasters, the better our lives and the lives of others will be.