Will it cost your happiness?

I’m a type-A kinda guy–always antsy to do something–always antsy to achieve something. It’s not enough that I’ve got my PhD and have a comfortable job. No, I want more! It’s not enough that I have you, fare reader, finding inspiration from my blog. No, I want more!

More, more, more!

But what is the cost?

I once had a psychology professor who spoke of athletes who worked for their entire lives to achieve one goal–a national championship (or whatever the pinnacle of sports success is, be it a Superbowl win, a Wimbledon championship, the world series.) When these athletes achieve their goal, guess what happens?

They’re subsequently consumed with depression. It’s as if they say, “Really? That’s what I’ve worked my entire life for? Yeah, it was nice. But now what? My life has suddenly lost meaning.”

Why were they depressed? Because they spent all their energy focused on what they didn’t have rather than having gratitude for what they did have.

The story

I was about 16 years old and was at a youth church camp thingy. (Especially for Youth, or EFY). Our counselor (Preston) gave us a challenge. He handed each of us a Jolly Rancher and invited us to say a prayer of gratitude. Ask God for nothing! Only express your gratitude for what you have. And don’t stop expressing gratitude until the Jolly Rancher dissolves.

Easy to do, right?


That’s like 20 minutes of gratitude, man! After the first two minutes, I ran out of the “surface” level things that I was grateful for (e.g., my family, my health, my hobbies). So I started spewing out whatever came to mind–“I’m grateful for the grass. The trees, I guess. The clouds. The sunshine.”

And I still wasn’t halfway through my Jolly Rancher. Oy!

But I kept going.

And then something amazing happened.

You ready?

My heart changed. I wasn’t just reciting a long list of objects anymore. When I said I was grateful for the grass, I was really, genuinely grateful for the grass. The sunlight warming my skin suddenly felt blissful. For, perhaps the first time in my life, I truly appreciated the way that oxygen felt as it filled my lungs.

I was “in the moment”–truly grateful for everything that existed now. For once, I wasn’t wishing for something more, something bigger, something better.

I was perfectly content.

I was happy.

What does it take to be happy?

How you gonna find your happiness?

It’s not going to be just beyond your reach. It’s not going to be in five years when you’ve saved enough for that sports car. It’s not seven years down the road when you make tenure. It’s not when the kids move out of the house.

It’s now. Happiness is now. 

You just gotta stop reaching for it and find it. Choose it.

Sure, it requires a ton of effort. But it’s available now.

The Jolly Rancher challenge

I know not everybody who reads this blog is a believer. Not all of you pray, and that’s okay. You’re always welcome here. For those who believe, do as I did–say a prayer of gratitude. For those who don’t pray, start a journal–a gratitude journal. Whether through prayer or typing or pondering or speaking, I want you to take the Jolly Rancher challenge. Do not allow yourself to consider what you lack. Only consider what you have and what you’re grateful for. Before that Jolly Rancher dissolves, your heart will change.

I guarantee it.

And when you finish, drop a comment and tell me about it.


14 thoughts on “Will it cost your happiness?

  1. This is something I’m definitely guilty of. I find it difficult to live in the moment. A timely reminder, thank you 🙂

  2. Pingback: Why I don't believe in New Year's resolutions | Dustin Fife

  3. This is a great post.

    I became active on our church group last year. And they taught me to be grateful for what I have now, but what influenced me in a big way is seeing how my grandmother acted all our lives and during a big problem last January.
    Despite our problem, she is happy and she is not stressed out, the way I was.
    And at the moment, I told myself, I want to be like her.
    Can’t say I’m already like her since it’s only been a year, but I do feel lighter and happy of what I have now.
    It’s a great feeling to be grateful and happy now.

    • It’s it great having good examples around us? I often find myself becoming better just because I’ve watched how others behave in similar situations.

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