Trish Muyco-Tobin photo by Sarah Crowder; makeup by Amy Koehler; hair by Ren Binder of Renditions Salon. Shot on location at the Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis.

Reprinted from July 7, 2012

What causes happiness? That was the million-dollar question my mother asked me the other day. Well, I wanted to say, at least a million dollars. But she already had an answer—and mine wasn’t even close.

My mom is a lifelong chemical engineer. She’s brilliant. Apparently, her employers must think so, too. After years of cultivating a consistently high retention rate among her staff, she’s been asked to do a large-group presentation about what makes employees happy. Ever the formulaic mind, she was able to dig up the so-called ‘happiness equation’ developed by American psychologist Martin Seligman. It suggests that happiness equals: genetics (50 percent), circumstance (10 percent) and choice (40 percent).

Mom drew my attention to what stood out for her: Voluntary control (choice) makes up a good chunk of the equation. So, she says, you may not be able to control your genes, but there is a lot you can do about what life has dealt you (circumstance).

It made sense. The happiest people I know have endured some pretty bad times. Yet, through the choices they’ve made, they’ve been able to—cue Mr. Mercer—accentuate the positive. As usual, Mom was right.

May eternal happiness be yours, Mom.