20 March 2014

A STROLL WITH RANDY TARAN (For International Day of Happiness)

"My grandfather once told me; 'the soul of business is not making money but making people happy" ~ Aliko Dangote

It's what we are all looking for. It's the reason we work extra hours to make extra cash to buy that extra gadget or dress; it's the reason we want to loose weight, travel to see the beautiful places in another state; happy, happy, happy is what we all want to be. Happiness drives us all. But how sustainable is our pursuit of happiness?

This is question Randy sought to answer when she started a personal research into happiness which eventually led to; an award winning Documentary and Project Happiness a non profit organization that empowers youth to create greater happiness in their lives and in the world.

She's also the co author, with Maria Lineger, of the Project Happiness Handbook that talks about how to make the best use of Positive psychology, neuroscience and mindfulness. In course of our stroll we talked about what makes her happy, sustainable happiness, her work with Project Happiness, and lots more. Here's my stroll with Randy;

Ebenezar: Happy to do this stroll with you, Mrs Taran.

Randy: I’m happy to talk with you too, Ebenezar.

Ebenezar: Happiness means many things to many people around the world, so I'd like to know, what is your own definition of Happiness?

Randy: I like to start with Gandhi’s quote: Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony. For me that’s the starting point. Having people to love and those who love you is also important, as are giving back and connecting with something that you are passionate about. That is different for everyone, but altogether these contribute to both a happy and a meaningful life.

Randy Taran and His holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama
Ebenezar: People say happiness is a mirage because the more you chase it, the more it eludes you. Is this true?

Randy: Real happiness is not something that you can chase, though people do chase success, a perfect relationship, or acquire new gadgets thinking that these will make them happy. The truth is that chasing “things” only works for the short term. Real happiness starts within. We only have to watch young children at play to see that they already know how to be happy; that capacity is inside of them. As we get older, sometimes we forget… but anyone can reconnect with that joy. It comes through simple pleasures, heartfelt relationships, acts of kindness, quiet times and meaningful moments. Happiness is the truth of who we are.

Ebenezar: Is it possible to get happiness and remain happy for a lifetime?

Randy: Life is dynamic and so is happiness. It has a range of expression, from the peace of quiet contentment to the excitement of laughing so hard you have tears rolling down your cheeks. It is not possible to remain in that excited part of happiness for a lifetime – I don’t think we would want to. It’s better to enjoy the shades of happiness and the range of joyful experience that come our way.

The truth is that while we can’t control what happens in life, we can choose how we respond to the ups and downs we all have to face. Even in the most challenging situations, there is always one thing to be grateful for. Focusing on the positive aspects brings us more of the same.

Ebenezar: So, as an individual, what are the things that make you happy?

Randy: Many things make me happy: enjoying the company of wonderful people, travel, giving back, being in stillness or in nature, new experiences, yoga, writing, dancing, my family, my dogs: Happy and Montana, and knowing that the work of Project Happiness, which I am so passionate about, is reaching people all over the world!

Ebenezar: You just mentioned your dogs, you seem to have such a connection with dogs. How many do you have now? And what creates this connection.

Randy: We have two dogs now, who are very good friends. They are such personalities: fun to be with, very amusing and most of all, very sweet.

Ebenezar: In 2011 you worked on a documentary about Happiness and it was a huge success; in fact it won an award. What did you learn about Happiness in course of making that documentary?

Randy: When making the documentary I learned about the profound joy of creativity. I also learned to never give up. Listen to the small whispers and then proceed one step at a time. I discovered that people are very similar at the core: everyone wants to be happy, to be appreciated and to be loved. Real happiness can only start from the inside.

Ebenezar: Is that what inspired you to start Project Happiness?

Randy: What inspired me to start Project Happiness was that my own daughter was not happy. She told me one evening, “I want to be happy, but I don’t know how.” As I started looking for answers and speaking with the experts, I was shocked to see the degree of stress and depression taking place worldwide. The World Health Organization predicts that by 2020, depression will be the second leading cause of suffering all around the world and for every age. I had to do something, and my background was film, so I started there.

Ebenezar: What do you intend to achieve with Project Happiness?

Randy: Well, after the film, I co-wrote the book, and then worked with a team of educators to develop curriculum that is now in every state in the US and over 90 countries. We intend to have these resources available to people in every part of the world. World Happiness! As a matter of fact, we are having a pledge that people can sign at Projecthappiness.org, that reads: “Happiness is contagious. I pledge to pay happiness forward.” Even a smile can bring happiness to someone’s day. I’m so happy to see how this movement is growing.

Ebenezar: Are there other projects you're involved in? As in are there other things you do other than making people happy?

Randy: I am writing a new book and planning a new film. I’m also doing a new yoga teacher’s training…travelling, speaking. I love it all.

Ebenezar: Okay, before you go, today is international day of happiness and the world is filled with so much turmoil and you know, crisis here, hunger there... And all that. What is your advice to people on how they can remain happy in the face of all this?

Randy during her TEDxMission talk
Randy: There are many books on happiness and all sorts of advice out there, but only you can determine what evokes real happiness. You have everything you need inside of you. In the quiet moments you can access your inner guidance – this will help. Surround yourself with people who support your dreams and believe in you. Above all believe in yourself. Everyone is here for a reason. You will know what touches you at a deep level. Reach out to help others – even small ways count. Even when times are tough, that will contribute to your happiness. Express your authentic self – by shining your light, you give others permission to do the same. Finally, happiness is contagious – together we can create a better world. You have more influence than you know.

Ebenezar: Thank you so much for strolling with me Ms Taran, I've derived so much Happiness from talking with you.

Randy: Thank you too, Ebenezar – you are now an official AGENT of HAPPINESS!!

Ebenezar: (hahaha) Thank you very much, I'll gladly accept that.

For more about Randy and Project Happiness, visit Projecthappiness.org. 

A study done by the World Health Organization predicts that, "By 2020, depression will be the 2nd major cause of suffering on earth. And if nothing is done by 2030, it will be the biggest cause of suffering on earth. Can I also remind you that this is 2014? 6 years from the said time. How happy is the world?

Since we know it is the goal of life, why don't we learn to keep it sustainably? If your happiness is rooted on material things, permit me to announce to you that your joy will soon 'spill over' because, material things fade, they don't last!

True happiness comes from connection; connection with ourselves, others, and something bigger than us--say, God. It comes from giving rather than receiving. Decide to be an agent of happiness today. Go out and share some happiness with someone out there. It can be a smile, a handshake, a prayer. Just do something.

Till my next stroll on 21st March when I'll be talking with the owner of the world's happiest restruant, Timothy Harris--for World Down Syndrome Day--and Nigeria's Spoken word Poetry king, Sammy Sage Hasson--for World Poetry Day. Be good, be happy. Jesus loves you.

                                                                                                                         Ebenezar Wikina

"...Don't be sad! This is a special day for the Lord, and he will make you happy and stong." (Nehemiah 8v10B Contemporary English Version)


  1. Lovly stroll Ben.. Thanks


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