As humans we naturally compare ourselves. How do we match up physically or intellectually with our neighbor? Do we have more or less friends than our peers? The list of possible comparisons is endless…and we can drive ourselves crazy with jealously or obsession by trying to meet or beat the competition.
I think the same applies to happiness. Dr. O’ Connor’s book, Happy at Last, talks about how we often define our happiness based on how well we think we’re doing compared to our neighbor. (To read my full review of his book, you can go here). For example, if you are getting A’s when everyone else is fighting for C, you’ll be pretty happy and you’ll feel proud of yourself. But if you’re the only one that can’t afford that new BMW or Gucci purse among your friends, then chances are you’ll feel embarrassed and unhappy.
This is where intrinsic vs. material happiness comes into play. If we define our happiness by our grades, our possessions, or our image, then we are setting ourselves up for continual disappointment. There will always be something better and if you constantly match yourself up, you’re bound to lose the happiness game. But if you derive your happiness from your spiritual wellbeing, the positive relationships with your loved ones, and living a healthy and fulfilled life, then you’ll be able to find happiness no matter what you’re wearing or what you’re driving. Heck, if I can drive a Gold 2003 Toyota Corolla and still be happy, then you know it’s true!
I encourage you to recognize the people, experiences, and emotions that make you happy rather than the objects that give you that temporary high.