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José Guerra believes in finding happiness from within

Upper Canada College initiated a “This I Believe” essay for stewards and other boys in the leaving class a number of years ago. The students are then asked to share them in assembly.

The essays are narrowly focused on one principle or concept, and are expressed in the form of an affirming belief that’s often described through personal anecdotes or experiences. José Guerra recently delivered one of these speeches that focused on finding happiness from within.

Here it is:

“Good morning everyone.

“Over the past while I’ve had to think about what I wanted to make my ‘I believe’ speech about. There are so many things I would like to speak about and so much advice I would like to give. However, I think it is only fitting to share with you today what this school has helped teach me during my time here.

“Over my five years at Upper Canada College I have learned and experienced many things that make me who I am today. The school has helped me grow not only intellectually or athletically, but also as a person. The school teaches you many things, but the most important lessons are often learned outside of the classroom. These lessons cannot be found in a textbook, but rather through interactions with other people and simply living your life. I want to focus my speech today on what I find is the most valuable lesson: how to be happy — or at least my perspective on it.

“I had many issues growing up, the bulk of them beginning in Grade 7, my first year at the school, when my parents separated. Many problems arose and I suffered from depression from Grades 7 to 9. During this time, I wanted nothing more than to simply be happy. I was on a desperate pursuit of happiness.

“However, what I have come to realize over the past five years is that it is not the pursuit of happiness that leads you to true happiness, but rather a search for happiness within yourself. I say this because true happiness comes from within, when you are truly content with yourself and who you are as a person. A pursuit of happiness implies that you are chasing happiness, which leads you to look elsewhere for it.

“This may include material things, such as money or objects, but it can also include other people, such as friends or loved ones. While usually there is nothing wrong with these things and they often bring joy, they will never give you true happiness. That is why I call it a search for happiness and not a pursuit, because you have to find it within yourself. This means not relying on other people to make you happy, which is often hard to do. But I can tell you from experience that once you are truly happy with yourself, you will start to make the people around you happy as well.

“I realized that if I wanted to be content with myself and who I was I would have to work at it. Many of you are familiar with Mr. Heffernan, and those of you who know him well will recognize his famous saying ‘Be better.’ You might hear him say it jokingly or not think much of it, but I can tell that those two words are some of the best advice you will ever hear.

“They urge you to become a better person. They urge you to grow as a person. They urge to always be a bit better than you were yesterday, and that is truly the best advice. Work towards the person you want to be little by little. This means that each day you try to improve on who you were yesterday.

“It’s hard. It requires a lot of character and perseverance to always put your best foot forward, especially when it feels like the weight of the world is weighing down on you. But you can never give up. Work at being a better person. Work on yourself.

“I found that with myself, my biggest problem was my self-esteem and self-confidence, so I decided to work on it. At the same time, I kept in mind on who I wanted to be in the future. I wanted to be a successful student athlete with good friends, so I worked on it. This meant every day doing one thing to get closer to that goal.

“Sometimes it was doing well on a test and sometimes it was just putting in my best effort at practice. Little by little I started to become the person I wanted to be, and little by little I was more confident with myself, more comfortable with who I was. Now I can tell you that there is no better feeling in the world than being content with who you are as a person and loving yourself. That is the key to happiness: loving yourself. And once you love yourself, it becomes easy to love others, and I urge you to always help the people around you without expecting anything in return.

“I speak from experience when I say that the people you are kind to and help are the people that will help you in your times of need. I had several of my friends help me this past week when I was going through a tough time, and the little things they did to try and help meant the world to me. I am forever grateful to you guys.

“After my five years at the College, I think I have found what I truly believe in. I believe in happiness. I believe that true happiness comes from within. I believe in friendship and brotherhood. I believe in helping others, especially those in need. I believe in love. But most importantly, I believe in myself. And I believe in all of you.

“If you leave today with one takeaway, it should be that you should believe in yourself. If you believe in yourself and trust yourself, you will accomplish anything you set your mind to. I promise you this.

“Thank you for your time and attention.”