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Every Day is Boxing Day for Peter Jones, author of How to do Everything and Be Happy.
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Peter Jones Back before my wife became my wife our first Boxing Day together went something like this: We got up around midday, opened a bottle of champagne, looked at our presents from the day before, roasted chestnuts in the oven, played a silly board game, watched Ghostbusters in our bath robes, and stuffed ourselves on posh nibbles. And as the sun gave up its fruitless attempt at breaking through the grey December sky, and the lounge was once again lit by tree lights and candles, I found myself going down on one knee.

'Marry me,' I said.

That gives you some idea how good I was feeling. And there hasn’t been a Boxing Day since that hasn’t given me that same inner glow, that same joy for life. And I can speak with some authority here because in the last seven years I’ve celebrated Boxing Day approximately eighty four times.

Not that long ago - before the days of conjuring words out of the air and rearranging them into an entertaining order - I worked in banking. Credit Card Banking. I was a fix it man. An ideas man. Wealthy men would ask me how to make even more money with the tools they had at their disposal, and I would tell them. Though it pains me to admit it the 'credit crunch' is partly my fault – not my idea, but I was there, pulling the levers and pressing the buttons that made it happen.

I hated banking. It was about a million miles away from what I’d always hoped I would be. But you know how it is. You grow up. Put aside childish things. Get real. And all the dreams you had – becoming James Bond, becoming an actor, writing stories, making books – they all get compromised. Down to nothing.

By my thirty-second birthday, all I actually wanted was a girlfriend of some description. And that too was looking increasingly unlikely. Colleagues had long since stopped describing me as an eligible bachelor, and some had even questioned my sexuality. But the thought of being single for the rest of my days was unacceptable. Something had to be done.

So I started to plan. I made lists. I came up with a strategy. I took all the problem solving skills I was developing to make rich men richer, and applied them to my own life.

I ordered a truck load of ‘dating’ books and stacked them by my bedside ready for those evenings when I found myself alone (ie. all of them). I tracked down an Image Consultant (picking the one I fancied the most on the grounds that any woman I found attractive would probably dress me in a manner she’d find appealing). And once my wardrobe had been completely replaced I booked myself on a 'flirting weekend'.

I took my place in the front row and when instructed, nervously introduced myself to the stunning blonde sitting next to me.

'I’m Peter,' I said. 'I’m Kate,' said the blonde. Then she smiled. And I was smitten.

The course wasn’t that much of a success, in that it didn’t teach me how to flirt, not that it mattered. My strategy had worked, albeit somewhat differently but infinitely better than I’d hoped. I’d found myself a girlfriend. Then I found myself on one knee. Then I found myself married. But ultimately, I found myself alone again.

People rarely ask me how Kate died. It’s just not the sort of question they feel comfortable asking. Most assume she must have had cancer – that we’d have had some warning. We didn’t.

I’ve learnt since that sudden deaths like hers (a sub-arachnoid haemorrhage) are surprisingly common. Kate had a weak part in her brain, probably since birth. It could have happened at any moment. It was almost inevitable.

I learnt too that after the shock comes the guilt. Every cross word, every nasty thought, every lie – they all come back to haunt you. And amongst the demons that were queuing up to torment me was the realisation that I still wasn’t happy, and maybe I never had been.

There had been happy moments, of course. Quite a lot of moments. Most of them in the previous three years, and most of them down to Kate, but they were moments none the less. And I wanted to be happy all the time. Not just occasionally. Not just for a moment. Something had to be done.

And so I decided to tackle the problem in the only way I knew how: by making lists, and coming up with a strategy.

Of all the ‘happiness’ ideas I’ve developed, ‘Boxing Day’ has been without a doubt one of the easiest to implement. It’s also the one that raises the most eyebrows. It’s basically a reworking of that first Boxing Day Kate and I spent together – a day when I allow myself to be driven by the moment, the heart and the opportunity. It also happens once a month, without fail.

'That’s bonkers,' my friends would say. 'Brilliant, but bonkers. So what else is in this… 'happiness strategy'?'

I tell them about my ‘Now List’, my ‘Wish List’, how I set myself yearly goals, and how I make sure I actually achieve them. I tell them how I’ve taken back control of my life, decided how I want it to be, pointed it in that direction, and given it a kick up the backside.

'Those ideas are too good to be kept to yourself,' they say eventually. 'You ought to write those things down.' And so I did. Thirty something years later I am finally doing something that I want to do; I’m realising a childhood ambition - I’m making books.

I’m also having more fun than I’ve ever had. Smiling more than I ever did. There’s love in my life again. And that I can finally say, I’m happy.

See the full range of Peter Jones books at Audible.

Image source: 1.peterjonesauthor.com

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Audible Customer Review

  • Simple. Sensible. Salubrious. Sharp: I thoroughly enjoyed this book by the good Mr Peter Jones. I've read half a tonne of self help and personal development books, but Peter's approach is both a pleasant distillation of other good material, as well as a welcome divergence from the traditional, somewhat overly heavy, personal development tomes. With a great balance of science, sense, and practical guidance that is INCREDIBLY easy to implement, follow, and stick with - I would highly recommend this book to both newbies, and seasoned self-help readers alike. Expect a pleasant, funny, chatty, and useful journey that will help you make 'those' changes you've wanted to make sometime to make yourself.... well.... happier!

    How to Do Everything and Be Happy

    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs and 3 mins)
    • By Peter Jones
    • Narrated By Peter Jones
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (57)
    Performance
    (21)
    Story
    (22)

    Every now and then a self-help book comes along that questions the very nature of happiness, shakes the very foundation of all the things you hold dear, and forces you to reconsider every assumption you've ever made. This isn't one of those books. How to Do Everything and Be Happy is a book for ordinary people. With ordinary lives. It's for people who have been ambling along and wondering why they're not - well - just that little bit happier. It's a book for most people. It's a book for you.

    Jamie says: "Simple. Sensible. Salubrious. Sharp."