One of the biggest Happiness Blockers in today’s world is what I call the Myth of More: that shared, insidious, and often unconscious belief that more toys, success and money means more happiness.
In my research for my book Happy for No Reason: 7 Steps to Being Happy from the Inside Out, I came upon this startling statistic: nearly 40% of the people on the Forbes list of Wealthiest Americans are less happy than the average American. Although we know deep inside that our “desire to acquire” won’t bring us true joy, why is it so hard to escape?
Because Madison Avenue doesn’t want us to. Advertising exists to perpetuate the Myth of More. Billions of dollars are spent every year to convince you that you’re not okay the way you are and that you need things—lots and lots of them—to make you happy.
With children watching an average of five hours of television a day, is it any surprise that we have a bunch of unhappy kids in a frenzy to get the next toy, video game or designer label jeans? If you’ve been around children at Christmas, you’ll know why I was so touched by the following story that a young father I interviewed told me:
When my oldest daughter, Victoria, was almost three, we read Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas every night to her before the holiday.
She’d curl up beside me as I’d read: Every Who down in Who-ville liked Christmas a lot….
Victoria followed along as The Grinch unveils his plans to ruin the Christmas of the Whos. Disguising himself as Santa and his dog as a reindeer, The Grinch steals into the Whos’ homes and takes everything, leaving only the hooks and wires on the bare walls. But to his surprise, the Whos remain happy despite the loss of the presents and trees and trimmings and trappings. He hadn’t stopped Christmas from coming; “it came just the same.”
On that Christmas morning, we woke just ahead of Victoria so that we could watch her three-year-old enthusiasm as she saw the presents under the tree. She first ran to the kitchen table where she had left a snack for Santa and his reindeer. She looked at the evidence of Santa’s visit: the cookie crumbs on the plate and the empty milk glass and the missing carrots.
My wife, pregnant with our second child, and I beamed seeing our daughter so wide-eyed and excited at the thought that Santa himself had been in our home. Next, she ran into the living room and saw the presents under the tree.
We expected her to dive into them—but she didn’t. She held up her little hand and she said, “Stop. Let’s pretend. Let’s pretend The Grinch has been here and took everything and left just hooks and wires and we’d still be happy.”
So we stopped, and were happy. And like The Grinch, my heart grew three sizes that day.
Imagine what your life would be like if you could “still be happy” no matter what? When you’re Happy for No Reason, you still enjoy the things in your life, but don’t look to them to make you happy.
Bye-bye, Myth of More!
Marci Shimoff is the author of Happy For No Reason: 7 Steps to Being Happy from the Inside Out (Free Press, January 2008)