Photo Credit: Camille Orgel,

“(Because I’m happy)
Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof
(Because I’m happy)
Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth…”

Pharell Williams

I met an Uber driver whose initials are S.W., and whose infectious optimism prompted me to arrange to talk to him later to write an article about his happiness. He agreed. When he talked about his wife, his face glowed and he smiled so broadly he had to stop talking for a minute.

It wasn’t his birthday. Or Valentine’s Day. Or any other gift-giving holiday that I knew of.

He just seemed filled with happiness from the inside out.

Bruce D Schneider, the founder of the coaching methods used in the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching, developed seven levels of energetic self-perception that can be seen as the thoughts that generate the emotions that can fuel actions. In iPEC, the ability to be happy regardless of circumstance is developed in levels five, six, and seven — the top three levels.

Level five’s the beginning of non-judgment, contentment, and peace. People at that level find the best in each situation, and they interact with people if everybody can “win.”  They say, “We all win or nobody wins.”

At level six, people can feel absolute joy. They can trust their intuition and they understand that people “win” depending on their attitude. At level seven, people can have absolute passion!

How did he develop that quality of “happiness?”

When S.W. first saw his future wife, he was ready for a change. He’d become the father of a baby girl at age 15 and again at age 16 with his same teenage sweetheart. S.W’s mother had been 15-years-old when he was born and her education had been cut short as a result. He offered to drop out of high school himself and leave a promising future in football to support the love of his young life and his children. Both the girl’s family and his accepted his offer to sacrifice his own happiness. Subsequently, S.W.’s girlfriend graduated from high school, even though she was pregnant in her cap and gown.

He’d grown up surrounded by a loving, multi-generational family with grandparents, aunts, and uncles, but without his own father. He decided that his children would have both of their parents actively in their lives so they’d have a different degree of happiness than he’d experienced.

The 15-year-old boy had uncles for role models and mentorship in a career of street drug sales. He learned marketing, enforcement, and distribution skills quickly, so his business was financially profitable. S.W. didn’t think much about the costs to other people or to his community.

At level two on the self-perception chart, the primary thought is that of conflict and winning at all costs. People at that level often have “black and white” thinking and act in defiance of whatever structure is limiting them. It’s a way of life that’s filled with adrenaline, not happiness. S.W. was fully engaged in surviving.

However, something was wrong.

He broke up with the mother of his children and found a new girlfriend who soon had two daughters herself. Women offered themselves to him easily and often. He dwelt on the difference between a father and an uncle. His uncles taught him how to conduct himself in the streets and stand his ground. At the same time, S.W. could see that there was no future in those streets.

He told me that maybe a father would’ve guided him toward something with a future, where he could be both successful and proud of himself — with happiness for the long-term. S.W. made sure he spent time with each of his children and provided for them, but he wondered where was he guiding them. He wondered about their long-term happiness.

The core feeling at level three is responsibility. People at that level let go of resentment or anger and become accountable for their actions. Their happiness is related to the happiness of people around them. S.W. began to see the consequences of his actions.

S.W. wanted to get out of the drug trade but didn’t know how. 

An uncle, who’d been his mentor, died protecting him, and then S.W. went to prison for things he had done. While there, S.W. came to believe that crimes — all crimes — are motivated by lack of finance and lack of hope. He wanted to do something about that.

After he was released, he ended the relationship with the second mother of his children. He was driving near his apartment complex and saw an attractive young woman walking quickly through another group of buildings. He pulled over and asked her name. She wouldn’t tell him. He offered her a ride in his car. She refused. She was wearing a Brown’s Chicken uniform, and later he went with a friend to Brown’s Chicken hoping to see her.

He found someone who could help him find another way to live.

She was a college student and had her own ambitions of becoming something great. They exchanged numbers. Eventually, he agreed to change his life and promised to marry her when she graduated. He runs two legitimate businesses now and she has an MBA. Together they’re creating a non-profit organization that’ll offer guidance to young people so that his experiences can be a benefit to his community.

Level four in the energetic self-perception chart’s filled with healing, growth-oriented energy. It helps people achieve positive, long-term, sustainable results.

S.W. fought his way up through the energetic self-perception levels, experiencing all of them at one time or another, using his past thoughts, emotions, and actions to prepare for future ones.

The result was happiness, regardless of circumstance.

You can be happy, too, no matter what your circumstances were in the past!

Photo Credit: Camille Orgel,