I’ll ask for forgiveness upfront because this post isn’t about the science influence. It’s about an exploration of feelings which do influence our choices but this is based solely on a recent experience of mine.
Our daughter, Abigail, got her temporary driver’s permit in early August and will get her driver’s license in December. The game plan has been to keep my 1998 Pontiac Grand Prix in good working order – despite rust – so we could give it to her when she was old enough. She’s been a very good, responsible kid and we think she’ll continue that pattern behind the wheel.
This summer Jane and Abigail started looking at cars in anticipation of me giving Abigail my car. Not too long ago they came across two really nice vehicles; a 2008 Buick Lacrosse and a 2008 Pontiac Grand Prix. Both were very nice cars and after some online research I felt both were about the best deal I’d get locally. Jane’s heart was set on the Buick but I favored the Grand Prix. The dilemma was that each had attributes the other didn’t. Bottom line; if I wanted the big car luxury feel the Lacrosse was the way to go but if I was looking for a sporty, powerful car then the Grand Prix was the right choice.
I settled on the Grand Prix, much to Jane’s dismay, and without going into all the details I’ll tell you two big factors were that I’d had so much good luck with my first Grand Prix and the 2008 Grand Prix had 16,000 fewer miles than the Buick.
I think I’m a pretty simple guy because I really don’t want for much. I could have continued driving my old car and been content with it for quite a few more years. Jane and I have lived in the same home for more than 20 years and are very happy. Many things that were original in our home were fine by me but, like many people, once Jane made changes to the house I really liked our home even more. In a similar way, I drove a newer vehicle all of a sudden I felt myself wanting it.
Getting a new car was fun but it was a tiring process. It wasn’t just the warm August day that had me tired later on, it was the decision making process, spending a good bit of money, and knowing my choice wasn’t the one Jane wanted. In her defense she was very gracious and told me multiple times she wanted me to get what I wanted because I’d be the one driving it.
So why didn’t I feel more excited when I left the lot in my new car? Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy driving the car! However, I was conscious of the fact that I wasn’t really excited, or at least wasn’t as nearly excited as I thought I’d be.
I know I was more conscious of all of these feelings because I happened to be reading a book called Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert. Happiness is a subject I wrote about a while ago in a post titled The Secret to Happiness.
Here was the strange thing, the thing that really made me happy that day. We happened to be celebrating Abigail’s “Special Day” when I closed the deal on the car. Her special day is a random day once a year where I take the day off and Jane and I give Abigail breakfast in bed, some gifts and then do some of her favorite activities. It was unplanned that I’d end up getting a car on this day but because it worked out I was able to tell Abigail my old car was now her car on one of her favorite days of the year.
Here’s what truly made me happy that day; Abigail’s Facebook post said, “Well, since my dad got a new car today, i get his old one! Sooo i have a car now! (: woo hoo”. It would have been easy for her to look at my new car then the one she’s getting and feel some discontentment, but she didn’t. I knew she genuinely appreciated getting the old car and for some reason, even after getting a new car my joy was because I made her happy. The Lord was right when he said, “Tis better to give than receive.”
Here’s the really cool thing; we can all be a little happier if we look to give to others. I write about influence and persuasion so I must point out that giving engages reciprocity, the principle of persuasion that tells us those you give to will feel some obligation to give back to you at some point in time. But that aside, the feeling you get having made someone happy, especially someone you love, is more than enough return. There’s no “thing” my daughter could give me that I couldn’t go out and buy myself but you can’t buy happiness and even if you could, it would be more expensive than any of us can afford.
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.