Two Things That Always Make You Happy

I sometimes wake up with a deep craving that has no object nor direction, it’s just there. An emptiness that wants to be filled.  So I roll over to my bedside table in the pre-dawn dark, my hand automatically finding the one thing that brings a kind of instant relief: my smartphone.

The tender blue glow delivers what I want, that digital hit. 

I scan the notifications and small amounts of dopamine begin to fire, small cerebral firecrackers giving me a momentary reward. 

Emails, Likes, Hearts, and Comments. Facebook, Instagram. Pictures of friends in far-off places, kids, dogs, plates of food.  I really need to get up. 

Within 30 seconds I’ve consumed a night's worth of newness and I’m ready to head to the open web to find more. 

Making coffee, my phone, a portal to the known universe, is still in my hand. And yet, it never ever satisfies. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and back to bed, I yearn for something new, over and over. 

I can't seem to get enough. 

Then there is the bigger hit: buying things. 

The daily deals that you must act on now because if you don’t you’ll miss out.  Books, clothes, electronics and for me, the big daddy of stuff I like to own, motorcycles. 

There is a saying among motorcycle riders. “Which is the best motorcycle? The next motorcycle.” 

Replace motorcycle with handbags, shoes, or whatever you covet and you will probably agree.

If you are nodding your head yes, I appreciate your solidarity. 

Thankfully, not all mornings are like this, but enough of them are so I’ve learned to beware. With lots and lots of deep work and reflection, I’ve found for myself that stuff doesn’t bring happiness and fulfilment. (Ha! No, duh!)

Harvard University has been conducting an ever growing study that started with the class of 1938. The study was to measure, among other things, what brings an individual actual fulfilment. 

(Isn’t this what I’m also looking for when I reach over to my smartphone in the morning? Something fulfilling, even for just a quick moment?)

The scientists measured all kinds of things, tangible and intangible. Things like income, geography, marital status, home, and car ownership.

Every part of the participant's life was calculated. What they found was that buying all that stuff, no matter how much or how beautiful just led to wanting more. 

We all know this.

And, we’ve all heard that money can’t buy happiness.

However (interesting twist!) studies, including this Harvard study, state money CAN buy happiness if you spend it on the right things.

What are those right things?

Meaningful experiences and something BIG to look forward to. 

This is exactly what Morgan and I discovered a couple years ago. (Remember the last email?)

So what was that moment for us?

At a crossroads in our life where we could have decided to take the path well-traveled (buy a house, buy a nicer car, just buy more stuff), we decided to go against convention and invest in our own meaningful experiences.

  • We took our kids to Europe.
  • We went to Mexico with our friends.
  • We invested in yoga trainings and coaching programs. 

Without realizing it, we designed our life perfectly in-line with the research. 

(Turns out, our whimsical nature is Harvard-backed wisdom!)

We created remarkable memories with our kids (riding camels in Morrocco! making fresh orange juice at a farm house in Spain! eating percebes in Portugal!).

We fell in love again in Mexico, swinging in a hammock to the sound of ocean waves and tropical jungle.

We swam in warm waters with our friends and built a beach fort together in our own private cove.

We had things to look forward to. We were making plans in alignment with what we really wanted, not what we should want.

So I'll ask you this question again:

When was the last time you felt like you had something to look forward to, especially a trip that you know would speak right to your soul... and maybe even shift the trajectory of your life or relationship?