In this book, I relay a rather startling set of facts. Gallup routinely conducts a survey to find out what people associate with the American dream. Of the top 20 elements that people report as being part of the American dream, the field of positive psychology knows that only two of them actually contribute to greater happiness when achieved.
Not surprisingly, things that dominate the list are making more money, getting a new car, getting a new home, getting a second home, etc. When any of these is actually achieved, there can be a brief bump in happiness that vanishes within hours or a few days. For example, each time I have bought a new car I feel like I’m a bit happier than I was with the old car. There’s the new car smell, new gadgets, and a bigger engine. Within a few days, it’s nice having a new car but it pretty much does what the previous one did which is get me from point A to point B. If I’m paying attention, I realize the short-term jump in happiness has now returned to its previous level.
Of the top 20 things on the list that Gallup publishes, only two are known by the field of positive psychology to produce a lasting increase in happiness. First, if we have a loving and caring family life, on average people are much happier than people who do not have this. Second, if we have an important and active spiritual life, we tend to be happier than people who do not have this. Both of these things are known through research done by people in the field of positive psychology.
You can learn about this and a whole a more in what is probably the most practical and helpful book I’ve ever written: Ultimate Happiness.