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How we get happiness wrong (& getting it right)

Updated: Oct 25, 2022

Where did you seek happiness this week? Did you look around for it in your current life - or did you bank it away on some future scenario?

A lot of us are waiting to be happy. I'll be happy when…the bathroom upgrade is done, my commute is shorter, or when the kids get older, and life isn't so crazy.

Most of us grew up in the American culture where we're made to believe that being happy just isn't all that hard. From a young age, conversations center around pursuing what makes you happy. (Do you have those convos with your kids?) But we get to adulthood and happiness feels like a moving target. What's wrong with me that I'm not happier?

Yes, life is definitely hard (no, there is nothing wrong with you!). But not only that, it turns out we are really bad at predicting happiness. We misjudge not only what will make us happy, but how happy it will make us. We chase material wealth, achievements and success to make us feel good, but as we get to each stage of life and acquire more, we're devastated to find none of it truly satisfies.

As much as you want to remain in a state of appreciation and excitement, you get used to things. Our minds are built to get used to stuff. It's called hedonic adaptation. Good or bad, the feeling won't last.

So, if things and life circumstances don't make us happy, what does?

During WWII, Harvard University launched the longest study ever conducted on happiness. Called the Grant Study, researchers followed 268 undergraduates over a 75-year period with the goal of identifying what makes people most happy. What did they find as the single most important factor contributing to satisfaction? Social connection. Not things or even experiences, but our connections with other people.

Perhaps that partly explains Jesus' answer when was asked about the most important law by the religious leaders of his day. He responded with “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)

Love God first, absolutely. But why follow that up with instruction to love others? He knew the importance of loving others to create unity but also the immense joy that would bring us. God's instruction is always good for us.

And think about it. What in your life right now brings you joy? Make a short list of things that have brought a smile to your face or flooded you with peace over the last couple of weeks. How does that list compare to the running list in your head of I'll-be-happy-when's?

I encourage you to double down on the things that bring you joy instead of waiting for it to arrive. Put yourself in the oncoming path of it, don't wait for it to find you. Joy is a choice you can make every day. What can you do to create more room for those things?

If you're reading this and the thought of experiencing joy – or even knowing what brings you joy – feels out of reach, let's chat. I love helping women reconnect with who they are and where God is taking them. Book a chat here, and we can talk it out.

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