Your Happiness: Cars, and Shoes, and Money, Oh My!
Depending on how you look at it, I'm either about to share really great or really disappointing news:
Your status symbols barely have a measurable impact on your life's true happiness.
How so!? you say in disbelief. I know I felt happy when I walked away from the shoe department this past weekend with those new kicks I was coveting for months! And the reality is that yes, you did feel happy. You felt satisfaction and pleasure. There was something innately fulfilling about the purchase, the knowledge of having something new that you love, or even just like a lot, in your possession.
But there's a difference between lasting, deep and innate happiness and fleeting, changeable satisfaction. My hope is that this series will shed light on some of those differences for you, and will thus enhance your ability to focus more strongly on the aspects and areas of your life that can do the deep work of bringing you lasting and profound fulfillment.
Research in positive psychology shows staggering numbers about the sources of our life's happiness. What I'd like to focus on in this segment is the scientific fact that only 10% of our happiness comes from our status symbols.
In Western culture especially, we spend a large amount of our time and energy emphasizing money, status, and belongings. These are the things that we believe have the power to make us happy, almost instantaneously, as with waving a magic wand.
It's the reasons our closets are overflowing, our credit cards are maxed out, and our supersized carts at Costco are full,... you get the gist.
The basic reason our possessions don't carry their weight in making us truly happy is that as human's we're highly adaptable creatures... And we simply adapt to all of those good things we have when we have them. We get used to the clothes. the car, the paycheck. And when we do, we feel strongly that we then need more.
Take. for example, my brief story: two summers ago I was driving my grandmother's 16 year old car after she had sadly passed away. I had never owned a car because I had lived in cities for years, and so this was the perfect car to park on the street. It had two different colored rear view mirrors and so many deep scratches it looked like it had gotten in a prairie fight with Simba. Sure, it was kinda embarrassing, but I had wheels! I could go places! I was jazzed.
Fast forward a couple of years when my husband and I moved from the city to the suburbs. We'd had our daughter, and suddenly it felt dangerous to drive her around in an old, perhaps unsafe car. I made the decision to take myself to the car dealership one weekend and trade in ol' faithful for a shiny, fresh smelling, next year's model SUV. I drove off that lot at zero miles on the dash and felt like a million bucks! This was living!
Just six months later I was used to my new car. All I noticed was every little scratch or ding, I wondered whether the engine was getting sluggish, and worried regularly that I should have gotten the next model up. Sure, it still made me feel better to press the unlock button and walk up to this new car in the public garage, but my deep, profound joy I had felt when driving off the lot with it that first day was largely diminished.
In short, I had adapted to my new car -- the one that aside from simply being safer for my family, I had also looked to to bring me feelings of status and belonging. So, all in all, I'd agree that my car gives me about 10% of those positive feelings in my day... probably even less when I really consider it honestly... and the rest of how I experience happiness comes from my own current feelings of self worth, deserving, and outlook.
Well, then what DOES contribute to my happiness? You ask. I'm so glad you did! Read on to discover the areas of your life where you can actually get a bang for your buck (read: free) and begin to dive into today to deepen your sense of real and lasting gratitude and fulfillment.
So what does make us happy? Up next, happiness factor #1: your marriage or partnership...
Lauren L. Drago, MSEd, LMHC, LPC is the founder of Lauren Drago Therapy in Old Saybrook, CT and in greater CT, NY & PA. She specializes in working with smart, insightful and capable women to overcome stress, anxiety, loss of identity, self-limiting beliefs, perfectionism, marriage strain, and the pressure of "trying to do it all." Lauren has a passion for helping others to achieve the happy, fulfilling, productive, and meaningful life they deserve by changing how they experience and understand their world. She believes that every woman can and should live out her personal definition of her own best life. Follow Lauren on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Call (860) 339-6515 for your free initial 15-minute consultation.