Tag Archives: well-being

We’re still in this together

Image via Trisweb, Creative Commons License. Last April, This is Your Mind on Grad School, by Sebastien Lounis and Denia Djokic, garnered more views—by two orders of magnitude–than anything we’ve ever covered. The piece broke not only our record for page views, but also, temporarily, our website. Through interviews and survey data, Lounis and Djokic

Why “Never Give Up” is a Bad Motto


“Never give up” has become one of the most popular pieces of advice in Western culture. It’s not popular with me, though. I do agree that persistence in the face of obstacles is necessary, important, and admirable. Many worthwhile goals require serious commitment and perseverance in order to achieve them. The problem with this advice is that at some point in our lives, we all have goals that are unattainable, and this is where “never give up” falls short. When faced with an unattainable goal, giving up and trying something else might be a better course of action than continuing to try again and again. We have a precious, limited amount of time, energy, and other resources, and there may be times when these are better directed at a new goal.

In psychology, we refer to “giving up” as disengagement and to “trying something else” as reengagement. When a goal is unattainable, some of us have stronger tendencies than others to disengage and then reengage. It’s easy to think of people who have a tendency to give up as being weak or depressed. However, research shows that is not the case! When goals are unattainable, the tendencies to disengage and then reengage are actually associated with higher subjective well-being. Let’s take a look.

Scientifically proven: You can’t buy happiness

Well-being has been one of the most important concerns for humans since we evolved big enough brains to contemplate more than mere survival. Researchers measure well-being as feeling satisfied with your life and experiencing more positive than negative affect, but colloquially, most of us just refer to it as happiness. We spend much of our time pursuing what we think will make us happy. We surround ourselves with friends, find hobbies like stamp collecting, and seek out pleasures like good food.

One of the most controversial debates in the well-being literature is about money. While it seems obvious that money can buy us many of the things that make life more enjoyable, most of us (myself included) shudder to think that a material object can have such a strong influence on our well-being. So, how important is wealth to happiness?

In an effort to understand how economic hardships could affect well-being, Gallup Polls—one of the largest polling agencies in the country—collected one million responses assessing Americans happiness, well-being, and how much individuals felt they were thriving, struggling, or suffering. They looked at the period from 2008 until 2010, with a particular focus on the effect of the 2009 economic recession.