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Happiness is an inside job

To understand that happiness is a choice (SEAL theme 5: Good to be me).

by Janice Ross

Suitable for Key Stage 1


To understand that happiness is a choice (SEAL theme 5: Good to be me).

Preparation and materials

  • On a whiteboard, display the quote, ‘Happiness is an inside job.’
  • Practise reading the story.


  1. Quotes or sayings can be inspirational. Perhaps the children have fridge magnets at home with quotations that remind them of great truths.

    Say that you saw this one in a shop and you have been pondering what it means. Display the quote, ‘Happiness is an inside job.’

    Say that the following story might help us to understand its meaning.
  2. Read the story.

    Sam was a rather grumpy blackbird. He was grumpy in the mornings; he was grumpy when the weather was grey; he was grumpy when he had to peck in the garden for worms; and he was grumpy when it was a Monday, or a Wednesday, or even a Saturday. He didn’t mean to be grumpy. He just couldn’t help it. Grumpiness seemed to be in his nature.

    By far Sam’s grumpiest time was the morning. How many times would he be having a lovely ‘worm-feast of a dream’ just to be awakened by the sound of other blackbirds singing. Early morning, way before dawn, was a riotous time of chirping and trilling and harmonies in the trees and hedgerows as blackbirds and their neighbours woke up and sang their hearts out, heralding in a new day.

    Sam could just about cope with this wake-up call on a warm summer’s morning when the air was still and balmy and when the bright orange and yellow glow of sunrise promised a sunny day. But the problem with his bird friends was that they would sing any and every morning. It could be grey and wet with everything around smelling damp and mouldy. It could even be snowing with a biting north wind and not even a whisper of a streak of light in the east. Rain, hail or shine, off they would go!

    One morning Sam had had enough. It was one of those misty, grey mornings (dreich they call them in Scotland!) when anyone with half a bird-brain would decide to have a lie-in. But oh no, not those on his watch! A blackbird on a nearby roof perch started the joyful trilling, soon to be followed by another of the species who had definitely not cleared his throat on waking, and then another, until the whole neighbourhood was at it – blackbirds, sparrows, wrens, starlings.

    Sam opened one eye and peeked out from under his duvet. It was pitch dark, not a hint of dawn to be seen anywhere. ‘Pea-brains!’ he thought, and exploded into a fit of rage!

    ‘Shut up, you stupid birds!’

    The blackbird with the croaky voice tumbled from his perch in shock and the little jenny wrens scurried under a nearby bush in fright. There was silence all around. Sam, pleased with himself, pulled the duvet over his head and tried to return to his sweet dreams. The trouble was that half the neighbourhood did the same. Many people were late for work that day, many children were late for school, and Sam found that all his bird friends gave him a wide berth.

    There was a rush of wind as the wise old owl landed beside Sam. ‘Well, Sam,’ he said, ‘and how are you today?’

    ‘Terrible!’ replied Sam.

    ‘I had noticed,’ said the owl. ‘And your mood seems to have had a far-reaching effect,’ he continued, offering a nearby jenny wren his hanky.

    ‘Well, I can’t help it. It’s not my fault that I’m grumpy!’

    ‘No?’ asked the owl. ‘Then whose fault is it? I wasn’t aware that rain had power to make anyone grumpy. Grumpiness is an attitude of heart. You can choose to be grumpy – or you can choose to be happy. And grumpiness doesn’t seem to be making you happy.

    ‘Listen to some words of wisdom, my friend. Choose to be happy,’ said the owl, who was wise. ‘Happiness doesn’t just fall out of the skies. Happiness is a choice we make, an attitude of heart, an inside job. So, do your part. Happy, or grumpy, is what you choose to be, my friend.

    ‘How about trying out that piece of owl wisdom?’ said the owl as he prepared to leave. ‘You might even help some humans learn the lesson, too. Perhaps when they hear you singing on a dark, damp morning it might encourage their hearts to sing, too. It has been known to work, you know!’

Time for reflection

Let’s read out loud together the wise old owl’s words: ‘Happiness is an inside job.’

Now close your eyes.

Think of something sad, something that ‘makes’ you grumpy.

Now make a choice to smile, slowly does it. Let the smile come . . . and hold it there.

Dear God,
you are a God of joy and light and laughter.
You created us to be the same.
Help us to remember that ‘Happiness is an inside job.’


‘Lord of all hopefulness (Come and Praise, 52)

Publication date: May 2012   (Vol.14 No.5)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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