"What makes me happy?" It's a question we all should ask ourselves periodically, since all of our actions should, in some way, be directed toward achieving happiness. Initially, thoughts of riches beyond imagination may fill your mind. If you are honest, you will probably find it to be a more difficult question than you would expect.

Abraham Lincoln is purported to have once said, "Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be." Abe knew what he was talking about, and in the final analysis, I think you will find the only thing that can make you happy is you.

Happiness is just a state of mind -- so are anger, sorrow, disappointment and loneliness. The mind is the most powerful tool in the universe, but you are the one who controls it. Like your car, if you see your mind heading in the wrong direction, you can steer it the other way.

Of course, it is easier to steer your mental car toward happiness if you have directions. That brings us back to the question, "What makes me happy?" By answering this question, you will be drawing the map. Try an easier question if you are stuck: "What has made me happy in the past?" My guess is that it was not something material.

My definition of happiness is not the fleeting, live-in-the-moment feeling that accompanies a birthday present. Rather, I think of happiness as a way of life. Truly happy people may have difficult times, but they know how to bounce back because they know better times are possible -- and probable. They also understand that their happiness depends largely on how much happiness they share with the people around them.

Build a powerful reserve of positive feelings that will carry you through the tough situations that life throws at you.

Studies have shown that too much stress can inhibit your immune system, causing many of the health problems that plague our society. Heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcers, migraine headaches and mental illness are just a few of the health issues linked to excessive stress. So in addition to improving the quality of your life, reducing your level of stress and increasing your happiness may also help to save your life.

Researchers at the Institute for Aging Research at Albert Einstein College of Medicine questioned 243 people who were 100 or older. According to a blog for pharmacy technicians at cphtcentral.com, researchers "found that centenarians tend to share certain personality traits" (in addition to other factors, like genetics). In general, these long-lived people are: outgoing, positive-minded about other people, full of laughter, open with their emotions, conscientious and disciplined, and unlikely to obsess about anxieties or guilt.

"The scientists point out that these characteristics don't necessarily represent a cause and effect relationship. They did notice, however, that in many cases the personality traits they observed weren't necessarily lifelong tendencies, but behaviors their subjects learned as they grew older. Focusing on the good and not worrying about the negatives may have a positive impact on overall life expectancy."

So now that you know what finding your bliss could do for your quality of life, why wait? Organize your life so you have time to do the things you love.

I am not advocating you abandon all responsibility. Life's pressures are going to prevent you from playing golf seven days a week, and even sunsets start to look alike after a while. However, the more attuned you are to what truly makes you happy, the more your life will align itself with the things you value and treasure.

Mackay's Moral: Only you can draw the map of the road to your happiness.

Harvey Mackay is a Minneapolis businessman. Contact him at 612-378-6202 or e-mail harvey@mackay.com.