Monday, April 22, 2024

The Craft of Happiness


By Veronica Elias Ugian 

  • Title: Life, Lessons… My Path to Happiness
  • Author: Abisola Biya
  • Publisher: Parrésia Publishers Ltd
  • Number of pages: 116
  • Year of publication: 2017
  • Category: Essays

Is happiness attainable? In Life, Lessons… My Path to Happiness, Abisola Biya answers in the affirmative and further says it is a choice. The book seeks to develop the mind of readers in order to enable them see things positively and strive for happiness regardless of the prevailing situation. The lessons Biya explores cover different experiences that people go through. She advocates that anyone can live a fulfilled life if only they cultivate the right mentality by approaching challenges through the prisms of self-love, self-value and the right disposition.

The book is written both like an autobiography and a diary, which is the author’s unique way of conveying her experiences. It is a handbook through life’s journey, coloured by the good, the bad and the ugly. Biya recreates familiar scenarios and appeals to reason; she uses the words of other writers where pertinent; she borrows freely from the experiences of real people – not excepting herself – to enrich the narrative. Furthermore, the book is timely, given that issues of mental health challenges, on the one hand, and the search for happiness, on the other, are now on the rise.

Comprising seven chapters, Life, Lessons… begins with a preface relating how Biya’s journey on the path of happiness began and the lessons she has learnt so far. Biya is not afraid to expose her own vulnerability, as shown when she delves into an early phase of her life defined by negative thoughts about herself, and how that negativity inspired the raw material for this book. She shows how having the right mentality brings happiness simply because a problem is only as big or as small as one makes it out to be. It is about perception, daring to see the good in a given situation and being equipped to handle it.

The first chapter, titled ‘You Are Stronger Than You Think Emotionally’, focuses on emotional strength, which most people do not think about until they are tested. The author explains that while unexpected challenges knock everyone sideways, responses differ from person to person: some are able to handle them, others are not. Nevertheless, every individual possesses the mental ability to handle them. This final point is buttressed with real-life experiences.

Biya sees financial liberation as one of the most important paths to happiness. In the second chapter, ‘Financial Liberation at Any Age’, she interrogates the reason people acquire items they do not need and cannot afford. She implores the reader to avoid unnecessary expenditure, made solely to prove to others that one is wealthier. Rather, she encourages investing in a business and/or saving for the rainy day. This chapter also encourages parents to open a savings account for their children while they are still young, for which the children will be forever grateful. The author frowns at the notion of employment as a way to get rich. She prefers to see a job as a means to an end, that is, financial liberation.

Chapter three considers the third path to happiness, which is relationships. The author questions people’s reasons for entering into relationships, going on to explain that negative reasons will invariably impact negatively on one’s life, while the opposite will make one’s life better. She questions the adage, ‘Familiarity breeds contempt’, on the grounds that ‘if people believe that familiarity is bad for them in any way, they would never experience the wonderful side of familiarity’. As she sees it, contempt implies feelings of disgust when, on the contrary, people generally only love people they are familiar with. According to her, ‘Familiarity is actually the stepping stone for greater intimacy and love; familiarity breeds liking especially when it is positive’.

Chapter four presents the fourth path to happiness in its title, ‘Having a Strong Sense of Self’. Although similar to the path treated in the first chapter, this chapter dwells on personal development, self perception irrespective of the perception of others, and the need for a high sense of self worth.

Chapter five, titled ‘Self-love, Acceptance and Selfishness’, is an abridged version of the previous chapter. It deals with unconditional feelings of love, appreciation and acceptance of oneself beyond one’s physical appearance and personal grooming habits. In particular, the writer advocates self-love and acceptance among black people, and interrogates the attitude of those who cower before whites and discriminate against their own kind.

Chapter six begins by informing the reader of their sole responsibility for the outcome of their lives because life itself is not a fairy tale. The author gives deeper insight into how problems of all kinds can be dealt with if one has the right mindset. She also stresses the importance of gratitude for the present in anticipation of the future.

Chapter seven, the last path, titled ‘Managing Time’, emphasises the need to use time wisely as it controls everything. This emphasis is particularly important considering that time can neither be bought nor borrowed, only managed, and it is limited for everyone, regardless of status.

Life, Lessons… is a good read, although occasionally confusing in style, whether it is fiction or non-fiction. Biya uses quotes extravagantly but aptly. Worthy of special mention is her honesty and ability to explore the vulnerability of her characters.

Photograph: ‘Path to Happiness, Northenden’ by David Masters

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Veronica Elias Ugian
Veronica Elias Ugian
Veronica Elias Ugian is an award-winning poet and was a Wawa Book Review Young Literary Critics Fellow. She was on the long list of the 2018 Nigerian Students Poetry Prize (NSPP). She writes under the pen name Veralyn Chinenye, and moderates the 365-day Poetry for Advocacy Challenge on

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