How many times do we ask people, “How are you feeling?” Is that a good question? Should we be asking this question on a regular basis? The answer may surprise you.

Of course, we want to be attuned to emotional needs. But when we keep asking how a child feels moment to moment in a day, we signal the child that his or her happiness is the main goal. In other words, your happiness is what I care about most. But is happiness the ultimate goal in life? Maybe the focus on happiness is not always helpful nor realistic.

Researchers have found that the more we pursue happiness as a life goal, the more disappointed we become. People are not happy all the time. And the need for constant positivity is associated with low psychological functioning. So, when we increase attention to negative emotions, the more emotional distress we can create. This is especially true with children who struggle. Why? Emotions are not reliable and can be manipulated and changed. They are not the best gauge to figure out life and how to respond to different situations, especially challenging ones. In other words, we can’t be driven by our emotions to be successful in life.

Feelings come and go. Learning to react based on feelings can be counterproductive. And the more we reinforce, “You poor thing” and victimhood, the worse people feel. People are not happy all the time, but they still do their job, go to school and get their work done. This is called resiliency.

Rather than focus on feelings, focus on doing. Do a task and get it done. Consider this: A basketball coach talks to his team at halftime. He doesn’t ask, “How are you feeling about this game?” The coach focuses the team on what it will take to win the game. He is solving problems and devising strategy to win the game. Later, the team can reflect on feelings.

I am not suggesting you become insensitive to peoples’ feelings. I am saying that an over-focus on feelings can get in the way of learning and dealing with difficult things. A child who is traumatized and can’t do the math lesson needs help processing the trauma, so feelings are important. But a child without trauma doesn’t need a constant focus on how she feels. She needs to develop other skills and learn to emotionally regulate. Too many people today are run by their feelings.

Here is an example to illustrate how an over focus on feelings is not helpful. The biblical story of the burning bush is where Moses was commissioned by God to lead the Hebrews into the Promised Land. He feels fearful, inadequate and is stubbornly reluctant to assume the task. Yet, God is calling Moses to his purpose despite his feelings of insecurity. Moses worries that the people won’t listen to him much less follow him. During this miraculous encounter with God, Moses focuses on his fears and insecurities. However, Moses must step up and do the job and not be derailed by his feelings. That already happened once when he was the Prince of Egypt, and his anger got the best of him. Like Moses, sometimes we must do things that are scary and not allow our emotions to rule us.

So, the message here is not to spend time ruminating on negative thoughts and emotions. Don’t make feeling happy your constant goal. It isn’t productive and why so many people who pursue happiness are disappointed. Only a perfect God can bring true happiness. Acknowledge your feelings, be aware of them, but don’t let them rule you. Be about doing what God has called you to do.