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The Happiness Connection  

Do you think you can?

I wonder what life would be like if we believed we could do anything we put our minds to.

I just came across a reference to the story The Little Engine That Could by Arnold Munk. My mind immediately flashed back to my childhood. I could see myself sitting in our living room in Saskatchewan as my mom read this story to us.

I can still hear her voice in my head as she repeated, “I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.” This is a vivid memory considering I was only six when we left the prairies.

If you aren’t familiar with the story, it is about a train trying to get to the town on the other side of the mountain. Unfortunately, it breaks down before it gets there. A steep incline is between it and its destination.

Large engines are asked to pull the train to the town, but for one reason or another, they all refuse. The last hope of getting the cars to the other side rests with a small engine used to moving cars around the train station tracks.

When asked, instead of saying no like all the others, it agrees to attempt the task.

All the way up the mountain it repeats to itself, “I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.” When it reaches the top and starts its descent, the mantra changes to “I thought I could. I thought I could.”

This little engine did what none of the bigger and more powerful ones would even attempt.

This may be a children’s book, but the message applies equally to people of all ages. Imagine living a life where you aren’t afraid to challenge yourself, and you believe in your ability to do anything you choose?

I can think of many times in my life when I was afraid that I wouldn’t measure up, so I didn’t even try.

My two siblings were thought to be the smart ones in the family. I was the social one. The last thing I wanted to do was prove everyone right by trying my hardest in school and not doing as well as my brother and sister.

I worked hard enough to get respectable grades, but I certainly didn’t do more than that. I chose the mantra, “I’m afraid I can’t, so I won’t bother trying.”

I was just like the big engines in the story.

I passionately believe that the limitations that stop you are of your own making.

I was speaking with a friend who recounted how she tried out for the cheerleading squad when she was a teenager. She made it through the first round of selection, but decided to drop out because she didn’t think she’d be able to afford everything that went along with it.

Rather than believing in herself and her ability to find a way to make it work, she gave up.

I could relate to her story. I’ve done the same thing myself. I’ve created the limitations and then stopped trying.

Those days are gone. I know that I can do anything I choose to do.

  • I’ve learned not to pay too much attention to what other people think of my endeavours.
  • I’ve found people who believe in me when I’m struggling to believe in myself.
  • I remind myself of Kanter’s Law. Things always look like a failure in the middle.

It is never too late to create a life of possibilities rather than limitations. You are a survivor. If you set your mind on something, you can make it happen. The only one that can stop you is you.

If you aren’t used to living a life of possibilities, that might seem preposterous. But stop for a minute and think about it. You are human. Humans are survivors. If you need to make something work, you will figure it out.

That doesn’t mean it will be easy, or without challenges, but you can make it happen if you want it badly enough. Instead of limiting yourself, adopt the attitude of the little engine in the story.

Repeat to yourself, “I think I can.”

If you want to be bold, change it to “I know I can.” You might even want to throw in a few train noises to give yourself encouragement.

If you think you can do it, you can.John Burroughs



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About the Author

Reen Rose is an experienced, informative, and engaging speaker, author, and educator. She has worked for over three decades in the world of education, teaching children and adults in Canada and England.

Research shows that happy people are better leaders, more successful, and healthier than their unhappy counterparts, and yet so many people still believe that happiness is a result of their circumstances.

Happiness is a choice. Reen’s presentations and workshops are designed to help you become robustly happy. This is her term for happiness that can withstand challenge and change.

Reen blends research-based expertise, storytelling, humour, and practical strategies to both inform and inspire. She is a Myers Briggs certified practitioner, a Microsoft Office certified trainer and a qualified and experienced teacher.

Email Reen at [email protected]

Check out her websites at www.ReenRose.com, or www.ModellingHappiness.com



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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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