Happiness: It’s a choice

Published 6:46 pm Saturday, June 13, 2009

You may have heard of the “Happiest Man in America.” Now, he has a show on local talk radio.

James Paul “Gus” Godsey is the host of “The J.P. Godsey Show” on WPMH 670 AM radio out of Chesapeake. The show is heard from 4 to 6 p.m. every Monday through Friday.

For 10 hours each week, Godsey hosts a variety of guests, including political candidates, entertainers, sports celebrities, military veterans and more.


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The convivial radio host earned the title of “The Happiest Man in America” from USA Weekend magazine in 2003. Since the magazine has not done the study again in the last six years, Godsey, age 50, still claims the title — and he’s still happy.

“You expect less and give more,” Godsey said during a commercial break in his show last week. Godsey earned the Happiest Man title by scoring in the highest percentile in America on several self-assessment tests — you can take them yourself at www.authentichappiness.com. His score was so far off the charts that he was made to take the test three times.

Preparing for the show last week, Godsey was clearly crunched for time — but he wasn’t stressed out. At 3:55 p.m., he was frenetically typing an outline for the two-hour program, but he still found time to joke with his staff and guests.

Wearing jeans, a pink T-shirt and cowboy boots that knocked on the tile floor of the studio with every step, Godsey rushed around with a smile on his face preparing for the show.

“Twenty seconds,” called one of his staff.

Godsey hit the print button on his computer and waited for his outline, calling out last-minute instructions to his two staff members and his first guest for the show.

When the intro music began and the printer still hadn’t spit out his outline, Godsey didn’t despair — he simply went to the microphone and started the show, while a staffer tried to fix the printer.

After a few seconds of small talk, Godsey just couldn’t bear it anymore.

“I’m lost without my outline,” he declared on air, asking his staffer (still on air) what was wrong with the printer.

To an observer in the studio or a listener in his car, the exchange might have seemed comical. But that’s just what makes Godsey the Happiest Man in America.

For many years, Godsey was a stockbroker with a Virginia Beach firm, but got out of the business several years ago. He felt “hypocritical,” he said, like he “was living kind of a faade.”

“I think it’s best that I got out of the business,” he said. “I was in the fortunate situation where somebody offered me a new job doing my radio show full-time.”

The gregarious Godsey jumped at the chance, and is now able to share his happiness with others through his radio show.

The secrets to happiness? Godsey says they aren’t really secret. He attributes most of his happiness to his faith in God.

“I am a Christian,” he said. “I do believe in a higher power. I’m sure the good Lord shakes His head at me may times.”

Also among the keys to happiness: count your blessings, say prayers, do something unexpectedly nice for someone else, apologize when you’ve wronged someone else, make a conscious choice each day to have a good day, make to-do lists, smile, exercise and “control the controllables.”

Godsey says it doesn’t matter when you count your blessings or pray – just do it.

“I say my morning prayers, nine times out of 10, with toothpaste running down my face,” he said.

Godsey also tells himself every morning that he’s going to have a good day.

“I make a choice immediately about what kind of day it’s going to be,” he said.

Godsey’s happiness doesn’t mean that he’s right most of the time, though – on the contrary, he admits that he’s probably wrong more than he’s right.

“I am very adamant about forgiveness,” he said. “Maybe it’s because I screw up a lot.”

Godsey said he doesn’t understand people who are afraid to say they’re wrong — or actually think that they are never wrong.

“I think when I’m wrong, I try to quickly and emphatically admit that I’m wrong and apologize sincerely to the person that I might have offended,” he said. “But I only apologize once. In God’s eyes, when you apologize and somebody accepts the apology, it’s supposed to be put in the past.”

Trying to do something nice for someone every day also is key for Godsey. It can be something as small as writing a note of encouragement, helping someone with his groceries or even just returning the shopping cart to the corral.

“It makes you feel good, and it makes them feel good,” he said.

Controlling the “controllables” also is important, Godsey says.

“I make a choice,” he said. “If I’m poor or I’m tight on money, I control that it’s probably not smart to go out and buy filet mignon and a new car.”

Godsey might know a little bit about being tight on money. He currently is in the midst of trying to refinance his Virginia Beach home to avoid foreclosure.

“I’ve just accepted it,” Godsey said. “It’s just bricks and mortar. I love the house, it’s on the water, but it’s just a house.”

Enjoying friends and family to the fullest also makes for true happiness, as well as not living in the past and regretting past decisions.

One last tip from Godsey — be grateful for the blessings you have.

“I am very grateful for the blessings that I have,” he said. “I drive a ’99 F-150 that just lost the air conditioning, but I drive past a lot of people waiting for the bus.”