disneyland is no denmark

I have a terrible habit of reading books three-quarters of the way through and then putting them down and starting another book.  This morning I was having some coffee and I had still not finished the last couple of chapters of, “A Thousand Miles in a Million Years,” by Donald Miller.  It is an outstanding book and I’d encourage anyone to read it. I finally finished the last couple of chapters this morning.  I thought I would share something that I read in one of the last chapters.

The happiest people on earth are in Denmark.  This is strange because I thought the happiest place on earth was a few square miles of Anaheim, California.   There was a study done by a university in Denmark to find out why.  The reason why these folks are so much happier than anyone else in the world is because of their modest expectations.  These people are under no illusions that an iPhone will revolutionize their lives.  They live in the reality that it’s just another pretty phone.  They don’t stockpile body spray hoping beautiful women will rush them.  They know a watch or a car or wealth will not bring them everlasting joy.  They have healthy expectations of the world around them.  If anything their expectations of life are low, so when things go well they are happy.

This isn’t a purposeful attitude.  The government even confirms that this attitude comes from hundreds of years of being defeated:

“Very bluntly speaking, it can be claimed that the present configuration of Denmark is the result of 400 years of forced relinquishments of land, surrenders and lost battles.”

The Danes have a real sense of humility that comes from their history.  It is the difference between thinking, “I don’t deserve it,” and “I am entitled to it.”  Their history brings a realization that the only way to live through such a defeat is through humility.

We often fall victim to the elusiveness of the American dream.  It is not that we have a sense of entitlement in America, more that the, “dream” always includes more than you’ve got.  When we travel down the road of wanting more, pride and high expectations will follow.

I like that the Danes are modest, they are realistic in what they expect, and their history demands humility.   If you are reading this and your only national history has the word “superpower” attached, you may ask yourself, “am I happy?”  Because statistically, you’re not.

So maybe you’re not happy.  What are your expectations?  Do you have a sense of humility?  Or maybe happiness isn’t a formula that can be figured out.


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  • Joanna

    After spending many hours at “The Happiest Place on Earth” I disagree. There are always crying children, frustrated parents and all around tired people. I think the problem does lie in expectations. When people go to Disneyland, they expect so much. An idealic day with great memories and they want to get their money’s worth. As soon as one thing doesn’t match their expectation…the day is ruined. So once the Superbowl, a Grammy or any other accolade is won we should all start saying “I’m going to Denmark”

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