The pursuit of happiness & the gratitude experiment…

The preamble to the Declaration of Independence states a belief that the Creator has given us certain inalienable rights, including life, liberty, & the pursuit of happiness. Even if we haven’t been in a civics or government class in a while, we know, as Americans, these things are our birthright.

It’s interesting to me that Jefferson (& his editors) included the phrase “the pursuit of happiness” – & it makes me ask the questions, “What would it take for us to BE happy?” And “If I’m pursuing happiness, what does it look like when I CATCH it?”

Think about it: what would make you happy… for a long time? Think big. Winning the lottery? Being able to live in a tropical paradise? Your favorite sports team winning the Super Bowl/World Series/etc…?

It seems like that would do the trick – surprisingly, however, statistics say something different. For example, a study of lottery winners showed an initial spike in happiness immediately following their winning the big bucks. However, within 9-12 months of the win, lottery winners reported that they felt no more “happy” than they had before they won all the money.

People adapt to their life circumstances – & in order to “be happy” we need to do something/try something new. Which works for a while – until we adapt again. It’s like being on a “pursuit of happiness treadmill,” always chasing, but never quite attaining it permanently. (The scientific name for this phenomena is “the hedonic treadmill.” Read about it HERE.)

So what can a person do to increase their longer-lasting feelings of happiness? Again statistics reveal that people who regularly express gratitude & thankfulness to those in their lives have a significantly higher sense of happiness. I think that the reason for this is expressing gratitude involves being mindful of our life circumstances, & actively looking for the areas where we have been blessed, loved, & cared for. Check out this brief VIDEO for some really great info on the ‘gratitude/happiness’ corollation’

Over the next couple of weeks at Hillside, we’ll be in a series called, “The Gratitude Experiment.” I’d like to encourage you to take time to write some lists of the people, places, & things that you are thankful for. Then, write a brief note to/call the people in your life that you’re thankful for & blessed by & share that with them.

A study that proves what we’ve suspected all along…

“Not only do the incompetent reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the ability to realize it.”

–Justin Kruger, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Illinois, and David Dunning, professor of psychology at Cornell University, on people who do things badly but think they do them well, New York Times, Jan. 18.

The Hypothesis:

  • incompetent individuals tend to overestimate their own level of skill.
  • incompetent individuals fail to recognize genuine skill in others.
  • incompetent individuals fail to recognize the extremity of their inadequacy.
  • if they can be trained to substantially improve their own skill level, these individuals can recognize and acknowledge their own previous lack of skill.

    The results:
    Across 4 studies, the authors found that participants scoring in the bottom quartile on tests of humor, grammar, and logic grossly overestimated their test performance and ability. Meanwhile, people with true knowledge tended to underestimate their competence.

    APA Journal Well worth the read.

    Or, you can take a look at the WIKIPEDIA article.