Bill Cottringer

“We've got this gift of love, but love is like a precious plant. You can't just accept it and leave it in the cupboard or just think it's going to get on by itself. You've got to keep watering it. You've got to really look after it and nurture it.” ~John Lennon.

The degree of happiness you have in hand depends upon the quality of relationship you have with three things—life, yourself and others. Here are some important insights about each type of relationship to use as a reality check on your current level of happiness and a way to increase it.


At the end of the day, life seems to be a mixture of what it is and what we make it into. Getting to this point is a struggle, but as it turns out, the real struggle starts when you try to change the realities if life that you don’t like, into what you would prefer. This takes great hardiness of the head (critical thinking) and heart (emotional intelligence). An essential realization in this struggle is that you can’t change reality until you see it as it is and deal with it from that accurate viewpoint.

At birth, we separate from life as our separate self so to speak, and so at death we probably rejoin it as our united self. At any rate, it is what life we experience in between that counts. The best perspective is being optimistic and hopeful and that—with all the unwanted pain, suffering, problems, and conflicts that we are being pulled through the tunnel with—there really is a light at the end which isn’t a freight train coming straight at us. Otherwise life is mostly dread and little fun as a bad choice.

The main trick in having a good relationship with life is to accept and respect it for what it is—the grand opportunity to feel “alive” and enjoy that feeling, as opposed to the alternative. All our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are the composite of that experience and really can’t be judged or categorized as good or bad, right or wrong. We ruin the experiences when we do that. Experience is experience and no more.


Your ego is really all you have of yourself apart from your physical presence. The trouble is that it can get in the way of your relationships with life and others if you don’t control it from being so “loud.” You can’t ever get rid of your ego so there isn’t much sense trying. But, you can manage it by managing the way your mouth communicates about it. And often, silence is the best communication.

If the gap between where you are (your real self) and where you want to be (your ideal self) is too wide, it gets in the way of all your relationships with life, self and others. It is a good idea to pause now and then, to explore this gap and do what you can to keep from getting wider. This usually involves getting and using valuable feedback from others, but this takes courage. The good news is that there is always feedback for the asking.

When you can finally begin to see through the illusion of the separation between you and life and others, happiness suddenly but gradually comes and visits. But this is only a glimpse as to what may be coming, as the greatest secret of life that is virtually indescribable with words. Great art comes close. But, it is not to analyze or explain, just enjoy.


Getting along with others is essential to happiness, because not getting along with workmates, partners, family or friends can be a great source of worry. We all know how to get along with others—by being agreeable, supportive, positive, honest, patient, empathetic and accepting—but doing these things consistently, especially when stress abounds, is the hard part to work on.

Knowing exactly what you want and expect from others in your relationships is a good thing; but, knowing what you need is even better. Unhappiness can fill your head from unmet wants, but when needs go unmet, they fester in your heart and there is no equivalent aspirin for that heartache.

We are all on a common mission of learning, growing and improving into our best selves. However, this is where the similarity ends and the differences start. No one is ahead or behind, right or wrong, or better or worse, just on the same journey in a different place in space and time. We just have to accept this reality and savor the few moments when we come together in agreement and understanding and experience the momentary sense of union and oneness. This experience happens to counter our usual alienation and is a much welcomed and deserve relief.

The only “wrong” thing about living is not enjoying the opportunity to have great relationships with life, yourself and others. But then again, that is a personal choice and the only real question is what are you waiting for?

“The only real security is not in owning or possessing, not in demanding or expecting, not in hoping, even. Security in a relationship lies neither in looking back to what it was, nor forward to what it might be, but living in the present and accepting it as it is now.”
~Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Author's Bio: 

William Cottringer, Ph.D. is Executive Vice-President of Employee Relations for Puget Sound Security Patrol, Inc. in Bellevue, WA., along with being a Sport Psychologist, Business Success Coach, Photographer and Writer living in the mountains of North Bend. He is author of several business and self-development books, including, You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too (Executive Excellence), The Bow-Wow Secrets (Wisdom Tree), and Do What Matters Most and “P” Point Management (Atlantic Book Publishers) Reality Repair Rx (Authors Den), and Reality Repair (Global Vision Press) Bill can be reached for comments or questions at (425) 652-8067, 425-454-5011 or or