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Not only do we undervalue the qualities that matter for long-term relationships, we overvalue irrelevant ones. In part, we can blame a cognitive error called the focusing illusion--our tendency to overestimate the importance of certain factors when anticipating outcomes, like our future happiness. Behavioral economists Daniel Kahneman and David Schkade explored this phenomenon. They asked people attending college in Michigan and Ohio who they thought were happier--Midwestern students, like themselves, or students in California. They asked students in Southern California the same questions. You may find that as you release some of the trauma through other therapies that feeling lighter, and maybe happier, slowly brings you closer to the Divine or your life force. It's hard to stay disconnected when you are able to experience true joy, gratitude for life, and peace within yourself. Meditation can also help lead you to your source. When we silence our mind chatter, we go within and we learn to listen, observe, and witness ourselves while connecting to our core. As we connect to our core, it's really hard to remain distant from a higher power. Your heart and soul will reemerge, reopening to the wonder and awe of this life, planet, and your existence. Spending time in nature is another key to unlocking your life force within. Sensing the beauty that is Mother Earth, seeing her leaves, rocks, and trees, feeling the wind, watching birds and other animals go about their days--all of this can generate that sense of awe and wonder. Slowly, your heart will crack open to the other side of suffering. Self-nurturing activities like creating art, music, or writing can also unlock that door. You could be in a social situation where the comfort of others must be considered. You could be in the middle of a medical emergency. When all else fails, follow your instincts and use your common sense. Just be sure that you treat your child the way you want to be treated when you are feeling needy. As a parent, the odds are pretty good that you will meet up with those who offer advice regarding the means by which to help your child succeed.

When that happens, ask how your child will feel if you use that advice. If you suspect that he will feel sad, uncomfortable, guilty, ashamed, or physically injured in any way, the advice is not worthy regardless of who recommended it. Artistically, your child is the planter of his own garden and he knows the flowers he wants to seed. If you push him to plant roses when he really wants daisies, he won't respond favorably. Notice what he welcomes and what he rejects. Both groups predicted that the California students were happier. Yet researchers found the overall life satisfaction for Californian and Midwestern students was nearly identical. It turned out that both sets of students overestimated the impact that living in a warmer climate has on daily satisfaction. That's because the climate is an easily observable and distinctive difference between these two places. They ignored all the other factors that contribute to happiness, which both sets of students shared: concerns about grades, social status, family issues, money, career prospects, and more. Those things are the same no matter the weather. However, when asked to compare life in those two places, the students focused on the weather and assumed it had a greater impact than it really does. Kahneman summarized this research finding perfectly: Nothing in life is as important as you think it is while you are thinking about it. Merely thinking about something accentuates the differences. We're guilty of falling victim to the focusing illusion when selecting potential mates. You may discover that it's not you who finds the Divine, but the Divine who finds you. And you may find that the Universe and life force within you never really left you--it was just waiting for you to remember and become ready for the connection once more. You've probably noticed that we've differentiated between organized religion and spirituality. Connecting to a spiritual practice doesn't have to come through a church, synagogue, or mosque. If it does, that's perfectly all right.

If your path leads you elsewhere, that's perfectly all right too. It will steer you in the right direction. Trauma can create harmful beliefs that rule our lives. Most of the time, we don't even know they exist. I'm unlovable, or No one will ever love me, or I'm unworthy, or I'll never amount to anything, or I deserved it, or It's all my fault are some examples of the infectious beliefs we absorb about ourselves and the world. The possibilities you offer can be numerous, but let him decide which are pleasing and which are not. Every soul brings a talent here to enjoy, and each soul knows the degree of proficiency it hopes to reach. Whether he wants to be highly skilled or moderately skilled has no bearing on his growth and well-being. He only hopes to feel the wisdom of the level he has reached. If you are rigid in terms of what those gifts must be and how much of a gift he must have, you both become frustrated. Some children emerge victorious from this battle to honor their individuality, and some struggle mightily. However, if you offer your children the freedom of choice, they find their niche. As they find their niche, they become that shining, glimmering beacon of self-achievement you have always hoped they would be. The way your teenager tackles her challenges often reflects how you tackle yours. The question you must ask is: Do I still believe that my goals are worth pursuing, or have I settled for less than I deserve? The people I coach often list requirements such as I need someone who loves to dance. In that moment, they're focusing on the fact that they themselves love to dance. Then, because of the focusing illusion, just thinking about it causes them to overestimate its importance. The truth is, even if they're notorious for sweating through their shirt on salsa night, they likely don't spend more than a few hours a month on the dance floor. But people tend to fixate on these insignificant characteristics and ignore the far more important factors that are correlated with long-term relationship happiness (more on those in a moment).

The same is true of looks, money, and more. These things make a difference, just much less than we tend to think. Don't get me wrong, money matters. When couples below the poverty line struggle to meet their basic needs, their marriage suffers. Texas Tech University psychologists studied married couples in therapy and found that low-income couples were far more dissatisfied with their relationship than middle-income couples. The earlier these were formed, the harder they can be to find. When we experienced Little t traumas, it can be especially tough finding the hook. We legitimately may have no memory. There may not be anything we can trace our trauma all the way back to. Yet we know something is off because we see it in our lives. It might show up as self-sabotage of our own success, finances, or health. According to Patrick Gentempo, DC, it's through affirmations, but not the ones where we repeat to ourselves, I am wealthy. When trauma is in the picture, positive affirmations often flop. That's because deep down, we don't believe them. Let's say you're broke and in debt, and you've struggled with it all your adult life. Your teenager's strength and stamina are blossoming and she is thrilled by that vitality. What are you doing to maintain your strength and stamina? Are you stimulating muscle growth with diet and healthy exercise, or have you succumbed to the doldrums of idleness and lethargy? Your teenager is developing character, as well as looking for leadership. Are you supporting your own development and seeking inspirational leaders?

Your teenager is paying attention to the changes in her body. She wants to honor that growth as an important part of her journey. Are you respecting the miracle of your body and its reflection of inner progress, or, do you still believe that the content of your mind has little to do with the functioning of your body? Your teenager is full of brilliant concepts that make her feel like a genius. She wants to share those ideas with anyone willing listen. In fact, low-income couples felt about as unhappy as divorced couples did in the month before they broke up. It's no secret that financial woes cause marital stress. It's one of the main reasons why couples divorce. If you have enough resources, you won't constantly face the strain of hard financial decisions, like having to choose between getting your oldest child braces and sending your youngest to a math tutor. What's more, research from Harvard Business School found that couples who can afford to outsource time-intensive tasks like cooking and cleaning enjoy greater relationship satisfaction because they can spend more quality time together. But that doesn't mean that in order to be happy, you should pursue the richest partner you can. While it's difficult to determine an exact threshold beyond which more money will no longer buy you more happiness, research by behavioral economists Daniel Kahneman and Angus Deaton famously found that there is no increase in emotional well-being (economist-speak for happiness) once salaries exceed $75,000 a year. In fact, additional research suggests that the extent to which you can derive happiness from money in the first place depends on the wealth of those around you. In other words, it's not really the size of your house that matters. It's the size of your house in comparison to the size of your neighbors' houses. I am abundant, it will create a dissonance inside. You'll say the words, but you'll feel broke and poor, and you'll feel like you're lying to yourself about your reality. Instead, we need to add two key words to our affirmations: I choose . I choose to be fit and healthy. What I'm saying is, Maybe I didn't make that choice in the past, but I'm going to make that for my future.