The younger you are, the more likely you are to believe that more money is the key to happiness. This is why, in my experience, many confident 20-year-old college boy wants to go into investment banking. And it’s why we work like machines or hamsters in a wheel in our 30s and 40s.
Readers of my blog do know that I like to check in with those age-experienced to “fast-forward” my learning on what is really important in life. Because there certainly is a gap between what we think our goals are when we’re young and what we wish our goals were when we’re older.
Well, those with the most life experience think that this money focus is just crazy.
It isn’t that money is unimportant to elderly. They just wished they spent their lives rather in jobs they enjoyed and found purposeful than in presumably high-paying ones.
Truth is, it is not about more money. It is all about what you do with your money.
And people who say you can’t buy happiness just don’t know where to shop and – especially – what to shop for.
When it comes to spending that money, most of us just follow our intuitions. But those intuitions are often wrong.
Experiences – It’s a buy
The best things in life aren’t things.
Understanding why experiences provide more happiness than material goods can help us to choose the most satisfying kinds of experiences that ideally meet the following criteria:
- The experience brings you together with other people, fostering a sense of social connection.
- The experience makes a memorable story that you’ll enjoy retelling for years to come because of its emotional values.
- The experience is tightly linked to your sense of who you are or want to be.
- The experience provides a unique opportunity, eluding easy comparison with other available options.
Caution: Generally we overestimate how happy good things will make us feel and how unhappy bad things will make us feel. In fact, we’re often not even aware of how we’re actually feeling in the present moment.
This is just yet another argument for not pursuing happiness for its own sake.
Happiness is not a pursuit, it’s a practice. We don’t become happy by focusing on happiness, by pursuing it. We can choose to focus instead on what is true, what is good, what is right, what has meaning for you – and happiness follows.
I guess, happiness requires some wisdom about big things, but childishness with the small things (prioritizing the little things that make us happy and stopping wasting money on the little things that don’t). Wisdom about our own ‘why’ first instead of spending energy on the ‘hows’ dictated by society.
Are we really able to control what we do with all that happiness if we actually achieve it?
“Quantity is being confused with abundance and wealth with happiness.” – Tom Waits