what makes us happy

What Makes Us Happy

Everywhere I go I see the quote, “Do What Makes You Happy”. I see it so much that I want to take the next mug I see with this quote and throw it against the wall until it smashes into smithereens.  😳

Not because I hate happiness….but because this quote is misguiding.

It doesn’t make sense. It sounds good, but what it is really saying is, “do what makes you feel good for the moment.”

A life led by the emotional whims of the moment sounds like a disaster.

Pretty fonts or backgrounds can make a lie so attractive.

I haven’t always disliked that quote. Actually, I use to share it on my own social media accounts. But recently I started thinking about what those short quips offered on social media were communicating.

Social Media has us convinced that everyone around us lives perfect, happy lives. So we cling to the quotes in between the pretty pictures of laughing people, yummy food, and perfect sunsets in the hopes that maybe tomorrow we’ll hit the jackpot of happiness.

What Makes Us Happy

According to popular motivational quotes, this is what makes us happy:

  1. Doing what WE want.
  2. Putting ourselves first.
  3. Avoiding and leaving people who annoy us.
  4. Only be in a relationship with people who make us smile/happy.
  5. Only do the things that make us smile/happy.

I bought into that lie for awhile. Then I started thinking about it.

Lost Love

Here’s the problem with chasing happiness and putting ourselves first in that quest:

  1. It’s the opposite of God’s Word. [We are to put others first (not ourselves).]
  2.  We lose the ability to truly love and instead we live a life of narrowness and exclusion.
  3. It’s elusive: happiness today may not be the happiness of tomorrow.

Momentarily, we may feel like our life is all “[happiness] and giggles”, but it’s either a fleeting feeling or there has been a tradeoff between true love and joy for a cheap imitation.

Relationships become tenuous and shaky when we live by “Do what makes you happy and only be around people that make you smile.” 

Maybe you are a much better person that I am, but I disappoint and annoy folks on a regular basis. Not that I plan to, but I do. 😌

The fact is, we all can be annoying.

We are sandpaper to each other. Remember, for every person that doesn’t make you smile, you are the one that fails to do the same for another.

If we were to walk out of every life of those who don’t “make us smile”, every relationship would be temporary.

Temporary Relationships


“….For better or worse, until death do us part…”

For those that are married, you most likely said these words of commitment in your ceremony. Some of us get the “for better” marriage, others get the “for worse” marriage.  How many marriages have ended because their spouse doesn’t make them happy or smile anymore?

Before we were married, we thought happiness was at the end of the aisle. After marriage, some thought happiness and freedom were at the sound of a gavel.


Many people have the blessing of having a “soul sister” or a “brother from another mother” that extends over many decades. They are closer than family and are there through thick and thin. That’s the way it is supposed to be! How wonderful if you have such a relationship.

Others have had the unfortunate experience of “friends” who walk out of their lives without much of an explanation. Their friendship is based on the ebb and flow of feelings. Those are the ones who will quickly leave your life if you are walking through tough stuff for an extended period of time. They don’t like the trenches, they only ride the waves. (Yet are usually the ones running back in times of need).


Family can be the source of the deepest pains in our life. Some of us move away as fast as we can, as soon as we can. We run and run, searching for other people that will make us happy and take our minds of our ‘dysfunctional’ family.

Surely happiness is moving far away from our crazy family and starting a new life with folks who aren’t related or didn’t know us “way back then”. Right?

We don’t know what to do with “the worse” part of relationships because we’re so focused on making ourselves happy by eliminating sources of discomfort and pain.

  • We divorce the spouse or leave the relationship that doesn’t make us happy.
  • Some refuse to visit elderly parents or grandparents because it’s not part of the their “happy plan”.
  • We move far away and distance ourselves from family members who annoy or cause us pain.
  • Others end friendships when the usefulness has run its course.
  • Folks leave jobs because they get bored or want to find something that is more “fun”.
  • We hop from church to church, looking for what makes us happiest and comfortable.
  • Some live every day for the next vacation. They come back unfulfilled and plan another in hopes that the next one will bring the happiness they are looking for.

Happiness doesn’t come from eliminating pain and unpleasant people or circumstances, it comes when we work through relationships and we learn from tough circumstances. 

Addicted To Change

In our effort to search for a higher happiness factor or a better experience, we become addicted to the “new” and exciting. Relationships, jobs, our lives, become more and more unsatisfying with each change and we move on chasing the elusive “happy life”.

As a nation that is so focused on being happy, I’ve never seen a more angry, offended, and miserable generation.

So many think the next relationship, next job, next church, next vacation, a new friend, new marriage, new car, etc will bring the happy life so desperately longed for.

Happiness is the proverbial carrot on the end of the stick for many – and they won’t admit they are chasing something they can’t catch.

In reality, happiness is being contented where we are. It’s learning what love really is. It’s:

  • putting others before yourself
  • doing good to those who hate you
  • loving those who annoy you
  • working through difficult relationships, difficult times to get to a deeper level.
  • spending time with family not because they are fun, but because it blesses them.
  • working with excellence even in a job you hate.
  • giving a gift or spending time with someone who can’t pay you back.
  • being a listening ear when you don’t want to.

Happiness is learning to love where you are, the people in your life, and being content with what you have. Everything else is a bonus.

Instead of doing what makes you happy, be happy in what you are doing. Instead of being around people who make you smile, be the person that makes the people you are around smile.

I’m preaching to myself here. I still have days I want to pack my bags, walk out the door, and drive across the country to start over. But then again, I’d have to establish new relationships, new job, new home and a new set of problems once the excitement and “newness” of everything wears off.

Instead, I think I’ll stay home and work through the tough stuff here and have the satisfaction of seeing the fruits in my relationships and business that only blossom out of hard work and time (but have just enough discontent to push you to be a better person, a better spouse, better in business!).

That sounds like a happiness that will stick around because I’ve had to work hard for it, versus a cheap, imitation happiness tied to a stick.


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