13 Choices Happy Life Program
The 13 Choices Happy Life Program is a 13-week, self-help program designed to help individuals and families discover true happiness and high self-esteem. The program is centered around the 13 Choices for Happiness & High Self-esteem. This program is appropriate for any age group, including parents and children who want to work on this program together as a family.
Do you have high self-esteem?
Can you tell me how to get it?
For nearly two years, between 1989 and 1991, our family volunteered to be a “host home” for a drug rehab that our son Jonathan was in. At the time, I was 36, my husband was 39, and we had nine children ranging in age from 6 months to 16 years old. Like most of the other families in the program, we were encouraged to be a “host home” for the clients—even though we lived in Londonderry, New Hampshire, which was one and one-half hours away from the rehab in Massachusetts—and we agreed to participate. This was a real challenge and huge sacrifice for our family, but I was willing to do anything I could because I believed it was going to be the best way to help Jonathan, get him off drugs, and save his life.
We had many wonderful experiences with the numerous teenagers from the drug rehab who came to live with us. During that time, over 100 teenagers, ranging from thirteen to eighteen, stayed with our family. Some just stayed for one night, some for a few weeks, and others for a few months. One memorable night a beautiful, sensitive, 13-year-old girl walked in our front door. The first question she asked me was, “Is this a house of God?”
As I tried to figure out what she meant, I struggled for an answer. I thought to myself that we were a religious family, and we had tried to teach our children to believe in God, so perhaps our efforts would qualify our home for being a house of God. So I said, “Yes.”
She quietly said, “It feels like one.”
When I walked with her upstairs and showed her to her bedroom she asked me another thought-provoking question, “Do you have high self-esteem?”
Her yearning question caught me off-guard. I stammered out an answer as I said, “Well, um, I…I think I do.”
Then with great pleading in her voice and tears in her eyes she asked me, “Can you tell me how to get it?”
Questions began racing through my mind as I thought about my own personal quest to discover high self-esteem. Should I tell her of how I have had to struggle my whole life to conquer my own feelings of low self-esteem? Should I share with her my religious faith—that, most importantly, I knew I was a child of God?
Should I tell her that faith in God alone would not heal the pain of her personal insecurities? Should I tell her it’s going to take a lot of continual effort to change how she really feels about herself?
As I reflected on my past, I recalled some vague memories of feeling high self-esteem at one time. I was very sure of myself, I felt secure within my family, and I felt I could accomplish anything that I wanted to in my life. However, I was only five years old. By the time I was six, my confidence and feelings of high self-esteem began to diminish. Instead of feeling good about myself, I just pretended I did. I tried to figure out what happened to the positive feelings I had felt about myself as a child, but I couldn’t.
By the time I was married and had children of my own, I realized I had a serious problem. My biggest concern was how I could teach my children to have high self-esteem if I didn’t have it myself. As a young mother, I had begun a personal quest to change the way I felt about myself. I desperately needed to find the real path to high self-esteem. It was a long, slow journey.
It was true I had now made much progress in my life regarding my feelings of self-esteem, but I wasn’t exactly sure how I had arrived at this point. I hesitatingly told her a few things that I could think of about gaining high self-esteem including the importance of learning how to love and appreciate herself, and then I told her good night.
When I finally went to my own room to get ready for bed late that night, I continued to ponder her questions. I thought about what I had learned throughout my life that I could share with her, the other teenagers in this rehabilitation program, and my own children about discovering high self-esteem. I sat down and tried to organize my thoughts and put these ideas in a format that they could begin using immediately. That night was the beginning of my efforts to develop a simple, easy-to implement self-esteem program.
I initially came up with five choices that everyone has the power to make each day. I typed up these five choices, drew a little self-esteem chart, and shared this information with this sweet girl, Jonathan, and some of the teenagers in the program. They all told me that focusing on these choices every day helped them a lot!
When I developed this self-esteem program, I called each self-esteem principle a “choice.” I used the word “choice” because the teenagers who were living with us from the drug rehab seemed to be helplessly drifting through life not knowing how they could change. I wanted them to understand that the choices they made each day determined how they felt about themselves and what they could accomplish in life.
First, I wanted them to know which choices in life were ones that they could really make themselves. Second, I wanted them to learn how to make wise choices. Third, I wanted them to understand that if they made wise choices then they could then be more in control of their lives regardless of what was happening around them.
Over the next several years, while trying to help other people with their self-esteem, I was frustrated with my own behavior. So, I analyzed my life and kept adding to the list of the choices I was making each day. I began to see which choices helped me feel better about myself and which choices caused me to feel worse. My list gradually grew from five choices to thirteen choices, which I needed to focus on in my life. I printed a copy of these thirteen choices, taped it to my bathroom mirror, and read it every morning and night as I brushed my teeth.
As I read these choices, they became a part of my subconscious mind. Simply by reading them every day, I became more productive. The most surprising discovery was that I didn’t have to be perfect in any of these areas to gain high self-esteem. All I needed to do was desire to make these choices a part of my life and then do the best I could. My feelings about myself improved dramatically. Finally, I got it. Change happens gradually. Focus on correct principles, and let it happen.
My difficulty was that when I stopped reading these choices every day, I gradually reverted back to my old patterns of behavior. This caused me a great deal of emotional distress, but I finally understood the problem—and found out the solution.
The problem of returning to bad habits can be called relapsing or backsliding, and it is described in the scriptures with vivid imagery: But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire (2 Peter 2:22). But God promised relief: I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely (Hosea 14:4).
I realized that the solution to my problem was the need to be reminded of my self-esteem choices every day to feel consistently good about myself. The scriptures teach: Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways (Isaiah 58:2).
After many more years of living life and gaining valuable experiences while working on these self-esteem choices, I was still did not feel quite right about the wording of the choices. At one point, I knew I had made them too complicated when this thought came into my mind, “Make them so simple that a child can understand them.”
I revised them and revised them so many times that I was completely frustrated. Finally, I knelt down by my bed one day and said this prayer: “Heavenly Father, I have been working on this project for years. If you want me to ever get it finished, you will need to tell me the right words to say.”
I stayed on my knees for a long time meditating and waiting for some new inspiration to come to me, but nothing happened. Feeling dejected, I finally took my whole project and put it away in the bottom drawer of my dresser. I refused to work on it any more. It sat there untouched for six months.
Then early one morning, when I was not expecting it at all, I woke up with some words flowing into my mind. I grabbed a pencil and a piece of paper and started writing down all the words that were quickly coming to me. I realized that the Lord was finally answering the fervent prayer I had offered six months earlier. He was now giving me the words I needed for my self-esteem choices. Amazing.
I now had the answers to those two questions that beautiful, sensitive, 13-year-old girl from the drug rehab asked me so many years ago:
Do you have high self-esteem? Yes.
Can you tell me how to get it? Yes.
The answers are found in the 13 Choices for Happiness and High Self-Esteem.
13 Choices for Happiness & High Self-esteem
I choose to worship my Father in Heaven every day and live a Christ-centered life.
I choose to keep my body healthy and clean and avoid addictive substances at all times.
I choose to use my mind to create, explore the universe, and find my place in it.
I choose to share my feelings kindly and honestly with others and strive to be peaceful.
I choose to look at all people as equals and never judge or compare others to myself.
I choose to accept full responsibility for all of my choices and never blame others.
I choose to educate myself on a daily basis so I’ll be useful to the betterment of society.
I choose to work within the time frame I’m given without being stressed or rushed.
I choose to keep my surroundings clean and beautiful and live in a house of order.
I choose to enjoy my work, live frugally, and use my means to help other people.
I choose to only see and listen to those things that uplift and inspire the human mind.
I choose to be the transitional figure in my family to free future generations from abuse.
I choose to obey all of God’s commandments and love and honor each of His children.
Discovering Happiness & High Self-Esteem
When I first started writing this self-help program, I called these thirteen choices simply, “The 13 Choices for High Self-esteem.” When I was trying to teach one of my daughters about my program she said to me, “I don’t like you always talking to me about high self-esteem because you make me feel like I have low self-esteem, and I don’t.”
I said, “Okay, I understand. I can fix that problem.”
I went to my computer and changed “13 Choices for High Self-esteem” to read, “13 Choices for a Happy Life” and gave it back to her. She glanced at the title and said, “Very funny.”
As I continued to ponder about what my daughter had said to me, I realized that a lot of people might not think they need help with their self-esteem, but everyone is looking for happiness. I suddenly realized that these choices really do work just as well for finding happiness as they do for discovering high self-esteem. I then permanently changed my title to “13 Choices for Happiness and High Self-esteem” and created this self-help program, which I call the “13 Choices” Happy Life Program.
Building a Spiritual Foundation
I now know that the real foundation of high self-esteem is spiritual. When you feel the love of God in your life and rely on the redeeming power of Jesus Christ to heal you from sin and sorrow, you find true peace. However, the healing process requires you to accept full responsibility for your actions. When you stop reliving past shame, assigning past blame, and feeling past pain, you can allow love and forgiveness to fill your heart. As you repent of your sins, seek forgiveness from those whom you have offended, and forgive those who have offended you, then you can be spiritually healed.
During my own lifelong search for high self-esteem, I came to understand a profound, eternal truth: As spirit children of God, each individual is born with high self-esteem. Because of this divine birthright, you do not need to develop high self-esteem; you simply need to discover the high self-esteem that is inherently within you.
I love the poem by William Wordsworth (1770-1850), “Ode: Intimations of Immortality.” His words capture the vision of where we came from and who we really are:
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
The Old Testament clearly states: So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them (Genesis 1:27). Knowing this divine truth, it is easy to believe that high self-esteem is a heavenly gift given to us by God. Sadly, it often remains an unopened gift.
In many cases, the environment and circumstances around us—and our own poor choices—contribute to losing the high self-esteem we were endowed with as newborn creations of God. Traumatizing experiences can shatter high self-esteem and continual negative influences can slowly erode it. We then often go searching in all the wrong places with the hope of filling that nagging, empty void that is left in us. But, we have the power within ourselves to change.
My wish for you is not that you change who you are, but that you can discover who you are. May you be blessed with inspiration as you learn to accept and appreciate your own intrinsic uniqueness.
Using the Wings of Glory Album for Happiness & High Self-esteem
I often listened to the album Wings of Glory: Songs of Hope and Healing from Addiction, which I had written for my son Jonathan, to give me hope as I watched him continue to struggle with his addictions. Other times I found myself listening to Wings of Glory just for myself. As I listened, I would quietly ponder and reflect on my own personal life.
One day I decided to listen to Wings of Glory while I was cleaning and organizing my home. While I was doing my housework, I started asking myself some questions: “Why do I like listening to these songs? Why does it make me feel so good? Why does it give me such an amazing inner strength and resolve?”
After continually listening to Wings of Glory for three hours that day, I realized that the messages of these songs can bring feelings of hope and healing to many types of problems in our lives. The words and music not only inspire recovery from addiction, but also provide inspiration for other trials we have to face—low self-esteem, grief, depression, loneliness, illness, family strife, fractured friendships, lack of faith, and all types of compulsive behaviors.
When I listen to this music, it helps me feel good about myself and gives me courage to do what I need to do each day. It lifts my spirits and helps me to have clarity of thought. It inspires me and brings me closer to my Savior, Jesus Christ. It makes my Heavenly Father’s love seem tangible and real. It gives me confidence that I can overcome all my compulsive behaviors. It fills my heart with serenity and peace. It encourages me to have high self-esteem.
In addition to listening to other inspiring, uplifting music, please listen to Wings of Glory: Songs of Hope and Healing from Addiction. It will give you extra courage to follow through on commitments you make to yourself and feel greater happiness and high self-esteem in your life.
The 13 Choices Happy Life Program is designed to be simple. The only hard part about this program is being consistent. But, consistency will gradually come over time as you commit yourself to the program. As you begin following this program and learn to make positive choices each day, you will quickly discover true happiness and high self-esteem.
My idea of how to implement the principles taught in this program came from my father. When I was in elementary school, he spent time with me one summer and taught me about Benjamin Franklin’s “Thirteen Virtues” that included Temperance, Silence, Order, Resolution, Frugality, Industry, Sincerity, Justice, Moderation, Cleanliness, Tranquility, Chastity, and Humility.
Benjamin Franklin’s self-improvement plan was to develop one of these virtues each week. Over a year’s time, he would diligently work on each of his thirteen virtues four times (13 virtues x 4 times = 52 weeks). I decided that if Benjamin Franklin’s plan worked so well for him 250 years ago, it could work for me today! I have a suggested reading list of thirteen of my favorite books that relate to each of the 13 Choices. Please begin reading the suggested book during the week, or choose one of your own inspirational books to read, and write your favorite quotes in your journal. By focusing on one of the 13 Choices each week, gradual improvement begins to happen.
Take time to read the 13 Choices for Happiness & High Self-esteem every day and check off each goal for the Daily Dozen and Five Elements of Joy in the program. This will help you to keep track of the progress you are making. Remember, “. . . by small and simple things are great things brought to pass” (Alma 37:6). For added inspiration. please read the “Thought, Scripture, and Quote” during the week.
After completing this 13-week program, it is important to keep following the 13 Choices Happy Life Program to stay consistent. You can download and print off a one-page check-off sheet, which includes the 13 Choices, Daily Dozen, and Five Elements of Joy. This is found at the end of this book. I like to fold my copy in half and keep it in my journal so I can remember to check it off every day.
Information about how to complete this 13-week program is available in the booklet, Explanation of Self-Help Programs. For more stories about discovering happiness and high self-esteem, please download my book, Wings of Glory: Addiction, Recovery, and High Self-esteem. You might also like to read the memoir I wrote about my son, Jonathan: Freedom from Addiction—A Mother’s Story of Hope.
Five Elements of Joy
I define "joy" as a combination of happiness and high self-esteem. To discover joy in the 13 Choices Happy Life Program, you must have the desire to learn from the past, make wise choices in the present, and visualize a future filled with opportunity. The word “desire” means longing or wishing for something with great intensity. Without desire, there is no change. With desire, you can become who you want to be. Pray for the desire to improve your life as you embrace the past, present, and future.
The past is past. You cannot change the past. All you can do is accept it, learn from it, and then share your wisdom and experiences with others. As you look honestly at yourself and observe the frustrations that have been going on year after year, you can see patterns of behavior that you know in your heart you need to change.
The present is for making wise choices. The choices you make each day affect how you feel about yourself and how you interact with other people. Decisions determine your destiny. To achieve long-term happiness, you must consciously resist the impulse to seek short-term pleasure.
The future is filled with opportunities. The dream of who you want to be and what you want to accomplish are all real possibilities. As you prepare yourself in advance for the challenges and trials that will come to you throughout your life, you will be ready to deal with the future with faith, not fear.
The past, the present, and the future are all woven into the fabric of your life. As your feelings of happiness and high self-esteem begin to rise, your life will gradually become like a strong, beautiful tapestry, and you will feel true joy.
As you embrace the Five Elements of Joy, you’ll come to understand who you really are. High self-esteem is within you. You can discover it.
1. Faith in God
Your self-esteem needs to be built upon a strong, spiritual foundation. As you develop your relationship with God, your life will be filled with joy and peace. God loves you and knows you by name. Have faith in Him. When you want to feel God’s love, read the scriptures. When you want to express love to God, kneel down and pray. When you want to receive personal revelation, write in a journal.
2. Desire for Change
One of the greatest detriments to discovering happiness and high self-esteem is feeling depressed. There are ways to eliminate depression through medical, psychological, natural, and spiritual remedies. When you have a desire to change and are willing to seek help when you need it, you will learn to feel God’s “natural high” in your life every day.
If you want to have high self-esteem, be accountable to yourself and to others for your actions. In simple words, do what you say you will do. If for some reason, you can’t keep a commitment, let others know as soon as possible. To keep commitments to yourself, it is important to counsel with a “mentor” to set personal goals and then report back once a week. A mentor can be a trusted family member, reliable friend, or a professional counselor when necessary.
4. Family Love
The family is the most important organization on earth and it must be given the attention it deserves. There is no real quality time without an ample amount of quantity time. Love and loyalty within the family are increased through acts of kindness and consideration. As hearts are softened through forgiveness and lives are linked through love, the family can anchor each other in the turbulent seas of life.
5. Friends with Integrity
Friends who are honest with you and stand by your side during hard times are a wonderful gift. As you seek true friends, you must be a true friend in return. It’s important to reach outside yourself and befriend those who look sad or lonely. When counting your friends, remember that relatives count—sometimes our best friends are found within our own family! Yes, “He is rich who hath two friends.”