How can teens REALLY be happier?

It’s no secret that scientists condition lab mice to act certain ways by offering them a big incentive—food. When the mice reach it, they get to eat, and are satisfied. In human terms, we’re also conditioned to act a certain way throughout our lives in order to obtain the “cheese” being dangled in front of us. When we reach it, we’re told, THEN we’ll be happy. Happiness is our cheese.

But if we’re constantly looking to what is next as we go through life, when, then, are we ever satisfied? If the answer is “never,” then we’re left to constantly search for happiness that never comes. Obviously, this “race to nowhere,” encouraged by our society and culture, is flawed. As I’ve discussed in a previous blog post, this needs to be replaced with the “race to right here, right now.” What you have right now can be enough. Who you are right now can be enough. What you’re doing right now can be perfectly sufficient and enough.

In my work with teens, I’ve often been asked whether this type of thinking provides young adults with a good excuse for not setting goals, like not taking part in…