Is having more money an important goal in your life? Do you think that more money will bring more happiness? True, it’s cliché to say that money doesn’t buy you happiness. However, a wealth of recent studies seem to back up that assertion. More importantly, it’s clear that there’s something even more valuable than money when it comes to really enjoying your life.
We’ve all heard stories of lottery winners who are no happier after winning than before. In one surprising study they were happy on a par with accident victims who had been paralyzed. Other studies have shown that above a level of family income required to provide for needs, gains in income don’t equate to gains in happiness.
In fact, it seems that people routinely miscalculate what will make them happy. Events such as vacations, holidays, moving to California, having kids, and getting a raise are just as likely to leave you with the same amount of happiness or even less.
One study discovered a possible link between household clutter and depression. It found that higher levels of wealth can lead to a lower ability to savor life experiences. Could it be that “having more stuff” can become clutter that leads to more and more headaches and hassles and less and less time and energy put into enjoying the experiences that give us the most pleasure?
So, what is more important than money when it comes to happiness?
The key to happiness seems to be how we engage in the experiences we are having. The moments we end up cherishing most are the ones that stand out as vivid, meaningful, savored, shared, and remembered. What if those attributes became the measuring stick we used in deciding what to put our time and energy into?
Would we still work 60-80 hours per week just for the money or for that promotion? Would we still engage in work that drained our vitality and left us longing for the weekend? Would we plan our days like one big “To Do List” rushing from one event to the next? Would we still enroll our kids in so many activities that they are just as stressed out as we are? Would we really think it was worth it to move this fast and be this busy?
What if happiness really does depend on savoring the moment and engaging in moments worth savoring? What if being able to do that meant refining our senses and our sensibilities to better appreciate what is happening now? What if our lives are happier the more we are able to be present, engaged, mindful, and grateful?
The truth is that money is neutral—neither good or bad. It’s a means of exchange, pure and simple. It’s the way we accomplish our economic exchanges that matter more for our happiness.
So, is your work meaningful to you? Does it contribute something good to others and the world? Do you do it in a way that creates vivid, meaningful, savored, shared moments worth remembering?
What if those qualities guided how you related to all the precious moments of your life? How might that affect the choices you make?