It was the transcendental-realist (a contradiction in terms if there ever was one) poet Walt Whitman who once wryly remarked, “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then, I contradict myself. I am large. I contain multitudes.” The world of thought is large indeed, large enough to encompass seemingly contradictory thought. To illustrate, Mother Teresa asserts that “we can do no great things, only small things with great love.” It’s a sentiment with which most of us would agree.

Agree, that is, until we read what the American architect Daniel Burnham had to say about efforts toward goal-accomplishment: “Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized.” At first blush, the two exhortations seem to conflict. But, depending on the circumstances, the times, the individuals involved, the saint’s encouragement might be just as appropriate as the architect’s.

The universe is filled with such contradictions. Working through them often helps us determine our positions on issues large and small. Reemain open to possibilities and know that different possibilities will work exceedingly well in various situations.


Don’t just consider the questions that follow. Talk them over with people whose opinion you value. And revisit the questions, and your answers, a few times a year.

The universe may be trying to tell you something you might not otherwise hear.

1) How would you define happiness?

2) Who is the happiest person you know? Have you asked him or her the secrets of having a high HQ? If not, can you promise yourself you will ask within the next few weeks. (Be sure to take notes on what you learn.)

3) On a scale of 1 to 10, with ten being highest, how would you rate yourself on the happiness-scale?

4) If you’re already a 10, to what do you attribute your success at finding happiness?
5) If you are not there yet, what steps will you take to get there?

6) When you feel peace of mind, what are the conditions surrounding those moments?

7) From what do you derive strength?

8) What elements constitute happiness, in your opinion?

9) To what extent do you attempt to help others find happiness of their own?

10) Are you an optimistic person? If so, what are the sources of your optimism?

11) How frequently do you walk “on the sunny side of the street”?

12) Do you typically expect the best to happen? If so, what is the basis for those expectations? If not, how can you effect a turnaround in your attitude?

13) How often are you told you are a happy person or that you make others feel good? If you can’t remember the last time, vow to improve the visibility of your happiness and keep a log of other people’s comments in order to learn how well your efforts are working.

14) How do you channel the anger you sometimes feel?

15) How carefully do you state your criticism of others?

16) If your friends and/or family were to read an article about you, what would it be likely to say?

17) What is the best that is in you?

18) How much faith do you have in the future?


It’s been said that in a contest between yourself and the universe, you should bet on the universe. You can come out a winner, though, by listening to the universe, and then heeding its advice. Affirmations offer an excellent means of “heeding.” Here are a few you may wish to include in your repertoire.

The way I deal with imperfections speaks volumes about my character.

It’s easy to criticize. Just look as the posts that follow virtually everything that appears on social media sites. It’s not a perfect world and there are no perfect people in it. While you may be tempted to criticize yourself and others, take the high road. Let your actions bespeak your character and take positive actions. Employ a positive tone. Easier than criticizing is telling yourself every morning that you are in the best of spirits. Your good mood will get even better as the day proceeds. And, if it doesn’t, make a funny story out of the things that go wrong.

I will speak my own thoughts and be heard. Parroting others is not my style.

Yours is a unique voice. Let it be heard. Worried that your thoughts may not be original? First of all, realize that many famous people know their “original” contributions are mere re-fashioning of the ideas of those who have gone before them. Voltaire, for example, asserted that “originality is nothing but judicious imitation.” 

One thing you can do is take a truly original thought from someone else and put your own spin on it. And, if you are seeking to be that truly original thinker, here’s a tip: take two totally unrelated words and find a link or connection between them. To illustrate, “art” and “cactus” are two words that seem to have no relevance at all in terms of meaningful association. But, if you came up with this metaphor, “I think of abstract art as a cactus struggling in a dessert of modern mediocrity,” yours would be a truly unique expression. (Be prepared to explain your original thought if someone asks for a fuller understanding of what you mean.) Play with words—you have a million of them from which to choose.

The Universe is looking out for me.

If you are religious, you may already know that the words “Do not be afraid” appear in the Bible 365 times. That means there’s enough ecclesiastical encouragement to sustain you for a whole year. And, if you are not inclined toward the Scriptures, you can still vow to start each day without fear. Of course, you shouldn’t be throwing caution to the wind—if a situation contains possible danger, avoid it or be prepared for it. But practically speaking, you can live most of the day and most of your days with the faith that someone, or some thing has your back.


  • Dr. Marlene Caroselli is the author of 60+ books, the most recent of which ("Applying Mr. Einstein") will be released by HRD Press in 2020. You can reach her at [email protected]