Reverse Engineering Happiness (Part 1) – Nov. 24

November 24, 2015

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”  Romans 15:13


My daughter’s birthday present was the DVD, “Inside Out”.  The animated movie is about the life and mind of a young girl named Riley.  The premise is that Riley’s emotions (Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Fear, and Anger) live in the headquarters of her mind where they influence her actions and responses.  Every memory comes into Riley’s mind as an orb tinted by the emotion associated with the event.

At the beginning of the movie, Riley’s life has been predominately golden (happy).

Joy Orbs

Not to spoil the movie but the frequency of golden memory orbs decreases significantly when Riley and her family move to a new city.  The most poignant moment for me was Joy’s despair for Riley as she cried “I just wanted Riley to be happy” while Riley’s world seemingly crumbles.

I hate it when cartoons make me cry but this one hit a chord.

What parent has not made that same plea for their children?

I just want my son…my daughter, to have a happy life.

What person hasn’t felt that same desperation when faced with crumbling dreams and hopes, “I just want to be happy.”

I recently typed “How to Find Happiness” into Google, satisfying my curiosity as to what is currently being written on the topic.  Google returned a myriad of articles, which enumerated the necessary steps to achieve happiness.  I was struck by the definitiveness of the titles.  “Top 7 Tips for How to be Happy”; “10 Simple Ways to Find Happiness”; “3 Ways to Find Happiness Within You”.

The general impression given from my exploration was an implied assumption that happiness is formulaic.  How else can you put it into 3 easy steps?  I imagined visitors driven to these sites by their own emotion of Joy, searching for the elusive ingredients to answer the question “How can I be happy?”; desperate to achieve a golden tint in their lives.

I think it is a mistake to think that the formula
for my happiness will be the same as yours. 

We are unique humans.  We all have different strengths and weaknesses.  We have been born with different advantages and disadvantages.  We have known different successes and failures.   We are at different levels of maturity.  Few of the “how to be happy” lists seemed to account for these differences.  They provided very generic slogans like “recognize the love within you” or “motivate yourself to quit looking back”, which I doubt are very helpful to someone despondent in sadness.

Happiness is a God-given emotion.
There was a reason that he gave us happiness.
I believe that happiness in the form of joy (gladness) is available to every person.

I have seen too many people quietly losing their self, who they were…who they are…who they might be, as the years mechanically progress, producing orbs tinted by every color of the spectrum but gold.

“The greatest hazard of all, losing one’s self, can occur very quietly in the world, as if it were nothing at all. No other loss can occur so quietly; any other loss – an arm, a leg, five dollars, a wife, etc. – is sure to be noticed.”
― Søren Kierkegaard

I don’t have three guaranteed steps to achieve happiness.  I have yet to see a universal formula for happiness that will fit every person in every circumstance.  Rather, I believe that happiness is the product of a purposeful life.  Therefore, the formula for happiness is going to be derived uniquely.

For the currently happy, you may not care that much about how you came to be happy.

I am writing for the currently despairing; those who may have searched Google for more than curiosity.  To those, I want to give some tools that I have found helpful to reverse engineer my happiness.

You need to individually take the final product (happiness) that you intend to achieve and deconstruct it in order to discover the elements required to produce the desired end result.  This process of reverse engineering allows you to account for your current circumstances, health, strengths, and weaknesses in your unique joy producing formula.

In the next couple posts, I will give you what I think are the essentials to reverse engineering happiness. 

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for creating us to experience happiness.   Thank you for giving us gifts through which we can experience happiness.  Lord, help us to find our true selves and be all that you have called us to be.  Don’t let us quietly be lost in an ever progressing world.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen


  1. […] of our existence.  If you want to read the first two posts on this topic you can find them at: Reverse Engineering Happiness (Part 1) & Reverse Engineering Happiness (Part […]

  2. […] my last post, Reverse Engineering Happiness (Part 1), I asserted a disbelief in a universal formula for happiness, applicable to every person in every […]

  3. Great post,
    For many years I had periodically been overcome by “sudden” depression to the point of attempted suicide. Thank God these attempts all failed!
    Then God gave me the tool of reverse engineering that specific attack of depression. Since then I am able to handle my depression and experience happiness, but I still struggle from not having structured steps.
    I am looking forward to your insight and help in this regard.
    God bless!

    • I hope that these posts will be helpful. Depression is such a challenge. I praise God that He saved you and sustains you. Thanks for you comments. God Bless! JD

  4. “The general impression given from my exploration was an implied assumption that happiness is formulaic.” I like that. Great post. God bless you.

    • Thank you very much. God Bless! JD

  5. Reverse engineering our way to happiness–an intriguing premise, JD! I’ll be interested to read about those essentials you mentioned.

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