A group of 50 people was attending a seminar. For a group activity, the leader gave each attendee one balloon and asked each person to blow it up and write their name on it with a marker. He collected all the balloons and put them in another room.

Then the attendees were led into that room and asked to find the balloon with their name written on it within 5 minutes. Everyone was frantically searching for their name, colliding with each other. It was utter chaos.

At the end of the 5 minutes, only a couple people had found their own balloon. Now the leader asked each one to randomly collect a balloon and give it to the person whose name was written on it. Within minutes everyone had their own balloon.

The leader said, "Everyone is frantically looking for happiness all around, not knowing where it is. Our happiness lies in the happiness of other people. Give them their happiness and you will get your own happiness."

This story, from the publication Bits & Pieces, illustrates that we generate more happiness by working together and helping each other than we do working independently.

"Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" is an oft-quoted phrase in the Declaration of Independence written by Thomas Jefferson. But Jefferson avoided defining happiness.

I say happiness is like your shadow. Run after it and you will never catch it, but keep your face to the sun and it will follow you.

"A happy person is not a person in a certain set of circumstances, but rather a person with a certain set of attitudes," said the late Hugh Downs, whose television career spanned half a century. I suspect his thousands of interviews gave him a unique perspective on life and happiness. The pursuit of happiness is mankind's favorite sport. Happiness is in the here and now, not in the someday. Decide to be happy now. Only when you make a deposit into life will you reap the reward of life. You will reap the quality of life in proportion to the quality in which you plant.

I'm a firm believer in the adage, "A truly happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery while on a detour." These days, given current events and uncertainty, just getting through the day can feel like an enormous task. Happiness seems elusive when you don't know what the coming days will bring. But that's the point at which attitude is everything. Happiness is subjective. What makes one person happy — reading, exercising or bird-watching — may make another person decidedly unhappy.

An Indian fable tells us about a mouse that, like all mice, was afraid of cats. A local wizard empathized with him and offered to help the mouse dispel his fear. So, with the mouse's blessing, the wizard turned him into a cat. The cat, however, was afraid of dogs. So the wizard did his thing and turned the cat into a dog. Afraid of tigers, the dog was soon turned into a tiger.

The wizard discovered the tiger was afraid of big-game hunters, and exclaimed in disgust, "You're hopeless! What you need is a change of heart. And that I cannot give you."

If we want to be happy, a change of heart might be required. As Japanese philosopher and poet Daisaku Ikeda put it: "Genuine happiness can only be achieved when we transform our way of life from the unthinking pursuit of pleasure to one committed to enriching our inner lives, when we focus on 'being more' rather than simply having more."

Mackay's Moral: The happiness of your life depends on the quality of your thoughts.

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