(Prefer to read rather than listen? Download the transcript right here!)
Cheri and Amy discuss the hard but important work of developing new ways to develop greater happiness. As they examine their own happiness habits (and their opposites!), gratitude, hope, and choosing the positive emerge as ways to break out of the rut of our default to unhappy.
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- Jennifer’s new book The Happiness Dare: Pursuing Your Heart’s Deepest, Holiest, and Most Vulnerable Desire
- Jennifer’s first book Love Idol: Letting Go of Your Need for Approval and Seeing Yourself Through God’s Eyes
- Brene Brown’s book The Gifts of Imperfection
- Cheri’s “Break Free From Baditude” blog series
- Amy’s blog post “Getting Out of Bed Grumpy…and Still Choosing Joy“
- Amy’s Facebook video about her “strange super-power”! (What’s yours?)
- Cheri’s Hurt Cycle and Hope Cycle — (“The Hardest (and Bravest) Gift You May Ever Give” explains both cycles)
- Episode #13 Transcript
Transcript — scroll to read here (or download above)
Grit ‘n’ Grace: Good Girls Breaking Bad Rules
Episode #13: Finding the Grit to Be Happy
I wonder what duck-billed platypuses or pi, what’s the plural? It doesn’t matter. I
wonder what they think of us. Do they look at us and think we look strange? Do
we look really abnormal to giraffes. I think they’re adorable, but, oh, my
goodness, hello, proportions.
Exactly. They probably do. I always wonder that when I go to the zoo. What are
those animals thinking about us as they look at us looking at them?
Hey, this is Cheri Gregory, and you’re listening to Grit ‘n Grace, Good Girls
Breaking Bad Rules. Today my delightful co-host, Amy Carroll, and I are debriefing
from our conversation with Jennifer Dukes Lee about The Happiness Dare, finding
the sweet spot of your heart’s deepest holiest and most vulnerable desire.
You’ve actually read more of the book than I have, which is something I don’t
really want to confess on air unless it makes a good outtake, “Cheri’s a slacker.”
Let’s start out with the question you tackled here. Is it really okay to be happy,
and is God happy? Talk about some of the “Ahas,” the reason why that was even
so revelatory for you.
To me, it was amazing that Jennifer had to take so much of the book convincing
me that it was okay to be happy, that God is a happy God. It took the three or
four chapters that she dedicated to it. It really did. You know, it’s so funny.
Years ago I was having this interaction with this person that I love deeply, who
loves God deeply, and I was talking about this old series of videos that some of
our listeners might know about. It was called the Matthew Series. It was just
beautiful. In that, Jesus was very robust, carpenter-ish, and he laughed a lot. He
smiled and he laughed a lot. I just remember it made a huge impact on me to
I was telling my loved one about this, though, and how wonderful I thought it
was, and I got a little rebuke.
He said to me, “Well, that’s not right. Scripture says Jesus is a man of sorrows.”
Oh. Of course.
I just was like, “Oh, good grief,” because this particular person I could say that to.
But really that stuck with me. Over the years I kinda started thinking, “Well, is he
right? Am I wrong? Was that not correct?” So it kinda had just really worked on
me more than I thought it had. But when I read the book, I thought, “You know,
that is true. It does say that in Isaiah, and it’s a beautiful part of Jesus’s character,
but it is only part of Jesus’s character.”
Jennifer spends a lot of time talking about God as a happy God. I loved in her
interview that she mentioned some of the funny things in creation, and I thought,
“Hello, duck-billed platypus.” What an odd creature. What was he created for
except to make us laugh and think, “What is that strange mix of an animal?”
So there’s that. Then I love — she really centers in on Jesus’s first miracle, where
he turns water into wine. Really the significance of that is, number one, Jesus was
at a party, and it turned out that the happiness of those at the party was
important to him, and so he did a miracle purely … There was no other purpose
for that except to make the party lively and keep it going and make the people
there happy. What an astounding thought.
I think the reason that I love this book so much is because my natural personality
is one that likes to have fun and be happy. I have felt my whole life that that
makes me somehow less spiritual, like somehow it’s only being really serious and
sober and super-duper deep — that’s what really matters and that we should try
to be more like that. I love the freedom that she offers, especially with, and we’ll
talk about this in a bit, the happiness styles. Actually, let’s talk about the
Oh, great. That was so fun to me. I think I said in her interview, I love a quiz.
That teenage girl has never quite gone away. I did it in Tiger Beat or Teen Beat, or
whatever that was.
What’s your happiness style?
My number one was Relater.
Are you shocked?
No, not at all.
This is why it is so much more fun to do this podcast with you than sit behind my
computer screen and write. It is so true. If I have any chance to do something
that’s going to make me happy, it involves my husband or my kids or my friends.
It’s my favorite, yep. And you?
Probably no surprise. My number one turned out to be Thinker.
Here I am, once again, a nerd. And she said, probably the thing I would be most
lost without is my books. I’m like, “Well, yeah, of course.” It’s so helpful to realize
two things. One is it’s okay for me to be this way, and, oh, yeah, not everybody is
Two solid decades ago, Daniel and I were going through marital counseling, and I
remember driving home one time, and I was trying to get him to understand that
my goal in life, which was happiness, was a worthy goal. He said duty was the only
worthy goal in life. Just talking and thinking about the happiness styles, it’s
occurring to me, he must be a doer, because doers and a sense of duty go
Learning to validate and respect other people’s happiness styles without feeling
like we have to imitate them. I think that’s really, really important.
Absolutely. Did you have a close second? My close second was Doer, I mean, very
close second. They were very close together. I thought, “Oh, this explains my sick
love for cleaning out a closet.”
Yeah. I think my second was definitely Doer. I love getting things done. I love a
good check-mark. I also appreciate how Jennifer pointed out that what is our
strength can also, taken to extreme, become a weakness.
This is for a thinker specifically. “You can get so lost in your mind that you neglect
relationships that need to be nurtured.” That’s something that I have to shake my
head and realize, “Oh, wait, there’s a real actual concrete world outside of my
own head with real people who I need to be interacting with more.”
One of the things I loved in the book, in her discussion of comparison, she has a
creative quote from God. “I didn’t ask you to be her. I asked you to be you.” I
thought that was such a great reminder that we have these different happiness
styles, and I get to be me, and you get to be you, and everybody else gets to be
who God created them to be. I think we are all happier and happiest when we’re
all working out of our strengths, and we can start to rely on each other to fill in
some of the gaps rather than trying to be all things for all people.
That really goes into that perfectionist piece of trying to fit in and trying to be part
of the crowd. I’ve been reading Brene Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection. So
She talks about how one of our main needs is for belonging. We think we have to
fit in to belong, but we never find that sense of belonging if we’re trying to fit in.
We only find belonging when we are our truest self. That has been a big “Aha” for
me. And it really does go into these happiness styles, that we were never made to
be cookie-cutter women. We were always made to be our unique selves. When
we appreciate that in ourselves and in others, that’s when true belonging
My daughter and I were talking a couple weeks ago. She was talking about how
she’s learning to quit comparing herself, and she’s only 25, so of course I’m like,
“Yes, you’re learning it earlier than I did.” But she said, “I’m done comparing
myself with people I don’t even want to be.”
I thought, “That’s brilliant,” because so many of the people I’ve compared myself
to and tried to be more like, I didn’t really want to be them. I just for some reason
wanted to be part of the group they were in or whatever. Then the few times I
managed to succeed by being somebody I wasn’t, then, A, I had to maintain a
façade. I had to maintain this person that wasn’t me, which is exhausting, and,
two, it turned out, I really didn’t want to be there anyway.
Yes. Yes, girl. Yay for your daughter, learning the lessons early.
Absolutely. As I was reviewing The Happiness Dare, it occurred to me, happiness
I would love to think that happiness just comes naturally, and that’s maybe the
only kind that counts. It should be spontaneous, so you either feel it or you don’t
feel it. You’re either blessed with it, or you’re not blessed with it. What were you
thinking in terms of the neuroplasticity, which of course you get bonus points for
using such an amazing word.
Okay. This should appeal to the thinker part of you, but my background is
education, so brain science geeks me out. Jennifer put a lot of brain science
information in the book that to me was fascinating. One of the things that she
said is that we are actually wired for negative thinking, and it was probably just
one of those survival things when a lion could eat you, that you’re on the lookout
for the next bad thing. But how it takes work to change that natural wiring to
think negatively, to begin to think positively, to stalk happiness. I love how she
says that. Stalking itself is work, and that requires grit. Neuroplasticity is this idea
that we can change the way that our brain functions. I’m so encouraged by that,
that our brains are changeable. They’re still malleable. They’re plastic.
I love it, and more than just because it’s a polysyllabic word. In addition to talking
about stalking, she talked about lingering in happiness. I had something happen
last week that I think connects to it. I was in Target buying notebooks. Staples
happened to have them at the price I wanted to pay. That’s a long sad story that I
won’t linger on, because it’s negative. I go to Target and they have them for a
slightly higher price, but I needed them that day, so I go through check-out, and I
notice that my total is a lot less than I thought it would be. I realized I got them
for half price. They must have been on sale.
Exactly. I literally could feel the adrenaline and the positive hormones and
chemicals starting to flow, and then my brain did this automatic shut-down thing,
because it sent the message, “But that doesn’t always happen. You don’t always
get a discount.” I stood there in the check-out line at Target, and I’m having this
argument with myself, and I mentally put my hands on my hips, and I’m like, “You
know, you’re right. It doesn’t always happen this way, but this time it did.”
I thought, “I’m just going to focus on the fact that this time it did.” I realize so
often, and Brene Brown calls it, “Foreboding joy,” so often something good
happens, and I cut it off at that pass. I knock the knees out from under it. I don’t
fully experience it, let alone linger in it. I’m like, “Oh, well, it’s happening, but just
wait. More bad things are coming.” It’s like, “Well, yeah, of course.” Like you said,
negativity is our default, but this time a good thing happened. This time it did.
Then I got home and I thought, “So often I complain to my husband and my son
about all the things that go wrong,” and so I came home and I thought, “I’m going
to tell them about the good thing that happened.” It’s not as riveting a story as all
the things that went wrong, because we’re so used to, socially, it’s part of our
conversation, complaining to each other.
That’s true, yeah.
We’re like, “Oh, I hate it when that happens.” What do people say when a good
thing happened? “Oh, nice.” We don’t know what to say next. We don’t really …
“You got notebooks on sale at Target.”
Exactly. I come home and I tell them. Then I checked the receipt. I got them for
80% off. I was like, “This is really, really cool.” I went back and I told them again. I
said, “You know, I told you the good story. It’s gotten even better.”
I thought, what we dwell on, and we know this scripturally, we know that what
we dwell on is what changes us. “What I hear I take to heart,” whether I hear it
out loud through what I’m saying to other people, or whether I hear it inside my
head, it’s what’s going to make a difference.
Absolutely. Absolutely. One of the things I’ve been processing is this whole idea
that I always say that I’m very glass-half-full for you, but tend to be glass-half
empty for myself. Just thinking about what is that about. For me, I believe it’s a lot
about being self-protective. If I assume the worst, then I won’t be disappointed. If
something good happens, well, that’s icing on the cake. But that is no way to live.
Reading Jennifer’s book has just really made me think about changing that
perspective, because when we focus on the negative, we take it to heart, like you
said. Or my friend Holly says, “Whatever you focus on grows.” There is brain
science before that. You actually get a rut in your brain, so when you say, “I’m in a
rut,” we are in a literal rut when we think negatively over and over again.
Here’s how I’m living it out this week. I have a meeting coming up that I’m just
nervous about. My normal thing is to get fearful and to think the worst and,
“Well, this will probably happen,” so that I protect myself from the devastation if
it doesn’t turn out the way I would hope it would turn out. Instead, God is really
working on me. I got a great sermon yesterday at church. My pastor, I told him,
“The other people might have thought that that sermon was from Jesus for them,
but it wasn’t. It was for me. I know it. I know it.”
It was the sermon. Then also, my friend Carol, what she taught us in our Sunday
school class. I came home and I decided what I was going to do is write down all
the positive outcomes that I believe will be true. I wrote them down, and the
longer I wrote, the more encouraged I was. I just decided, “This is what I’m going
to focus on.” If I wake up, because my meeting is tomorrow, in the middle of the
night worrying about the negative, I’m going to pick up that list and read the
positive, that I’m going to retrain my brain to think about the positives, because I
do believe there’s going to be a positive outcome. She talks a lot about happiness
and joy and the difference between the two but that they’re not evil twins. I loved
I thought, “I can choose to think the worst so I won’t be disappointed, but how
awful in between, or I can choose to think the happier thoughts and be happy in
between and deal with disappointment if it happens.”
That made perfect sense because our brains really don’t know the difference
between fact and fiction, and so when you’re starting to rehearse the negatives
about all the things that could go wrong, especially if you’re imagining a person
saying something to you — I’ll just speak it for myself. When I do this, when I
imagine it going wrong or the worst case scenario and a person says this to me
and then I would feel such and such, the event hasn’t even happened yet, and I’m
already feeling the such and such.
Then I’m going into a full-blown reaction about it. There’s times I’m in my
bathroom doing my hair, and I’m actually starting to tear up, I’m so upset over
something that hasn’t actually happened, over something somebody might say.
Now, they haven’t said it, but they might say it, and then … This is the really scary
part … I start developing beliefs about that person because of what in my head
they said, but they haven’t actually said it.
Oh, my goodness.
They’re not even …
I do that all the time, Cheri …
It’s not real. None of it is real. I call this, “Living hypothetical lives.” What you’re
describing is so important, because, look, if we’re going to live hypothetical lives,
if none of it’s going to actually happen one way or the other, we might as well,
why not, go ahead and practice the positive? Why not practice it turning out
really strongly, in a really healthy way, not Pollyanna? You’re not saying that
you’re going to suddenly be given a million dollars at this meeting. It would be
nice. Remember we’re friends if that happens.
You’re talking about some real strong, healthy outcomes.
I love what you just said, that word “Outcomes” because some friends and I have
been processing hope, and we talked about the difference between hope if you’re
a Christian and hope if you’re not a Christian. If you are not a Christian, then your
hope is always in outcomes, but as Christians we’re supposed to live differently
than that, the key word being “supposed to.” Our hope is supposed to be in
Christ, not in outcomes. I realized how much my hope has been in outcomes
recently. God’s really been pointing his divine finger at that and saying, “Hey, let’s
change this up.” But if our hope is in Christ, happiness comes from hope in Christ
rather than the focus on the outcomes. It’s a big switch in thinking.
Back to the whole idea of it being grit is, it’s hard work. I’m finding it’s hard work. I
have to be intentional about it, because it doesn’t happen naturally for me. And it
takes perseverance, because I’m just telling you I’ve done it for a couple days, but
it certainly isn’t changing literally overnight. It’s going to take a long time to form
a new habit.
Yeah. Other people support the old habit. I can tell a hilarious complaint story. I
can have people rolling in the aisle with my “ain’t it awful” stories, but if I come
home and say, “Well, here’s what I’m working really hard at doing in changing my
attitude positively,” and everybody’s going to look at me and go, “Okay, well, you
have fun over there with that, little Miss Goody Two Shoes.”
Back to what you were saying, I really like what you were saying about hope. I
think you’ve seen my Hurt and Hope Cycle before. I’ll put those up as downloads
for this week. The way I’ve looked at it is that expectations versus hope —
expectations are always about the outcome I need from other people, whereas
hope is anticipating what God is going to do. What I heard you say is, it’s where
the focus is. Is the focus on the outcome with the people, or is the focus on what
God is going to do? The thing about hope that scripture tells us is that hope never
Oh, right. So good.
We will throw that up there.
So good. All of that ties into the happiness part, because we’ve already dissected
expectations and the terrible things that they do to our friendships and marriages
and relationships with our kids, all of that. Yeah. Expectations do not lead to
I think we’re going on five years ago now, I ran a one-month blog series that I’m
now calling, Break Free from Baditude. It was the complaint-free challenge. It was
Break Free from Baditude with God’s Word in Gratitude. That was when I really
first started keeping a gratitude journal. It has made such a difference to every
day be trying to find at least 10 to 20 things that I can be grateful for.
Then when I go through and I read the back pages of my gratitude journal, there’s
certain things that just keep repeating and coming back again. I realized these are
the things that make me happy, so when I’m having a difficult day or I’m having a
hard time, I can go back and intentionally do those things or focus on those things
again in my life rather than waiting for something or somebody to magically show
up and make me happy.
So good. Even talking about going back and rereading your gratitude journal is
that idea of lingering, which is what just captured my heart in the book, that
you’re going back and being intentional about lingering over the blessings of life.
We hope you’ve enjoyed Episode Number 13 of Grit ‘n Grace, Good Girls Breaking
Bad Rules. Next week Amy and I will be talking with Sheila Wray Gregoire about
nine thoughts that can change your marriage. For today, grow your grit, embrace
God’s grace, and when you run across a bad rule, by all means, break it.
- What was an “ah-HA!” moment you got from today’s episode?
- What’s a specific topic you’d like us to tackle in a future episode?