myth 1 - money

Myth #1: Having more money will make me happy

Let’s look at Brandon to explore this view. Brandon remembers getting his first job after graduation. It was a job at an established accounting firm, and he was excited at finally being able to earn his own money. While the salary was pretty reasonable for a graduate, he thinks to himself that he would be so much happier when he doubles this amount. Fast forward a few years later, his salary doubles and yet he still wasn’t satisfied. Another few years later, the salary grew but now he was comparing his salary with his peers. He felt miserable knowing that there were others earning more money than him. Did it mean that they were smarter? That they were better? That he wasn’t good enough?

Clouds of insecurity circled his mind as he tried to find out how he could earn more money. He then begins to measure his self-worth against the salary he was earning. Nothing else seemed to matter at that point. It didn’t matter if he had many wonderful accomplishments, a loving family, or a great set of friends, all that mattered was the amount of his monthly salary.

He starts questioning himself, why did he want more money? The answers seemed obvious, he wanted more money because it meant more respect, pleasure, the ability to buy material items, to have financial security and to have the dream life. Money would also define his social status and worth in society.

However, the turning point occurred when he suffered a burnout after working long hours and over weekends. He became cranky and easily irritable because he was forcing himself to work beyond rational working hours. He became physically and mentally exhausted, constantly falling sick and having irregular sleeping patterns. Unsurprisingly, his productivity levels dropped, and it became a counter-productive exercise. By putting in those extra hours, was the extra money justified? Looking back, the answer might have been a no. This is a common scenario for today’s working adults.

Some may think that he needed to sacrifice his youth in order to prepare for his future. After all, if he did not work hard when he is young, then when will he ever find the time to do it? Everyone agrees that hard-work and sacrifices are necessary ingredients to succeed.

On the other hand, some may suggest that he should have started his own business, or he needed to find other sources of passive income to ensure that he was not trading his time for money. Work smarter, not harder they say.

Regardless of whatever alternatives he may have available on earning more money, it all boils down to when does the chase ever end? From the day he started working to where he is right now, it seemed no sum was ever enough to make him happy.

While there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting more money, perhaps we need to understand that having more of it does not necessarily equate to more happiness.

There are tough questions that we need to ask ourselves. Are we putting our happiness on hold until we arrive at the perfect financial destination? Are we delaying our happiness because we feel we do not deserve it yet? What really happens when we finally achieve the pot of gold? Are we going to continue questioning our self-worth until we earn a specified sum of money?

According to a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers interviewed lottery winners and compared them with non-winners and with people who were paraplegics. Each of this group was given questions to measure their level of happiness. Based on this study, lottery winners experienced a spike of happiness when they won. However, they returned to the same state of happiness that they had prior to them winning in a matter of months. This meant that lottery winners were not much happier as compared to non-winners. The happiness of paraplegics were slightly less but were not significantly worse. What this study showcased is that most of us have a “fixed” level of happiness which remains unaltered even after experiencing a dramatic life-changing event.

If you have always been an unhappy, anxious and pessimistic person, having more money may cause you more problems because you will now be afraid of unwanted attention from friends and relatives who harass you. You will also harbour fear that you will lose the money by making bad investments and trusting the wrong people. Now it seems that you have a new set of problems! You will also not be happy immediately because you may decide to change the goalpost to earn a higher sum of money instead.

There has also been research in psychology and economics that while people’s happiness and life satisfaction increases in parallel with their income, it only continues up to a certain comfort level.

Sometimes our pursuit for money comes at a price of our overall well-being and time. The more time you spend investing in chasing money, the less time you have for yourself and loved ones. Therefore, it is certainly not the most enjoyable path to happiness.

If being rich is the ultimate holy grail of happiness, then why do we still have miserable, rich people? Why do rich people still have worries and fears?

So what is the bottom line here? The bottom line is that while having more money may allow you to have financial security and improve your lifestyle, it does not necessarily equate to more happiness. We should not allow ourselves to think that we can only be happy when we are richer.
Therefore, we should not sacrifice the enjoyment of our present moment for the future. This means we should not neglect other important aspects of our lives such as our health and spending time with our partners, children and loved ones by falling into the deception that money rules above everything else. Too often, we hear stories of people suffering from stress, fatigue, depression and even nervous breakdowns because of the punishing work regime they imposed on themselves.

Sadly, it has also become common to see broken families because money was the main priority. Parents invest their time at work instead of spending quality time with their children at home. We lose crucial bonding time with our partners and children because we mistakenly believe that the extra money will make up for the times we weren’t there for them when they needed us most. Everything comes at a cost and if we make money the only objective that matters, we will regret it and by then, it might be too late to reverse the damages.

How to make yourself happy?

We came into this world with nothing and we will also leave this world with nothing

Firstly, we must be aware of the plain truth that we came into this world with nothing and we will also leave this world with nothing. Just take a moment to reflect about this statement. If this is an irrefutable truth, how does this apply to our lives?

This simply means that money is not the solution to everything. It is only a means or a tool to help us reach our life goals.

This doesn’t mean we should stop our pursuit for more money; we just need to understand that money should not consume every aspect of our lives.

More importantly, we need to acknowledge that our happiness is not dependent on the amount we earn. So while you can still challenge yourself to double or even quadruple your salary, you can still be happy now even if your salary is not as much as your peers’.

Your self-worth is not determined by how others perceive you or by looking at your bank account. The main thing that matters is the legacy and memories that you leave behind. In short, it is how you have added value to another person’s life.

A person’s respect for another is not valued by the money he earns but by their character and integrity. Would you rather admire a person who is rich and miserly or someone who earns an average income and is generous? It is scientifically proven that the act of giving is rewarding and is linked to greater life satisfaction.

Do not make it your life’s mission to solely earn millions of dollars. Ask yourself what your real life purpose is and how you can derive more meaning from it.

There are several questions that you could ask yourself that would produce greater clarity and context. These questions include, how have you made a difference to another person’s life? How did you care for another person? How did you love? How did you spend most of your time? Nobody has ever said on their dying bed that they wished they had spent more hours at work and earned more money. They always wished they had spent more hours with their loved ones instead.

Do not compare your life journey with your peers

Additionally, do not compare your life journey with your peers. While your friend may excel in a certain career with a high salary, perhaps you have a different talent or gift that can’t be quantified by money which will leave a positive contribution to society. According to psychoanalyst Karen Horney, there is pressure to conform to societal norms. She called it the tyranny of the ‘should’, which sets up a conflict between the authentic wishes of a ‘real self’ and the demands of an ‘ideal self’.

Another psychoanalyst, Erich Fromm added that much of the anxiety and hopelessness we feel comes from dissatisfaction with life arising from seeking comfort and pleasure from the outside, rather than from within. So how do we overcome this? By rediscovering our own unique abilities and ideas to connect authentically with other people and the world.

In essence, a genuine sense of satisfaction can be achieved by doing something that does not focus only on earning more money.

There is a quote by C.S. Lewis, a British novelist and poet which says, “Don’t let your happiness depend on something you may lose.” In other words, do not let your happiness be dependent by the dollars and cents that you have. For example, if for some unforeseen reason you lose your money, your happiness will be affected. What matters is your state of mind that will determine your happiness. As an anonymous quote goes, “If you can’t be happy poor, you can’t be happy rich.”

Learn to enjoy the simple things in life

Learn to enjoy the simple things in life that is easily available to you and live in the present moment. Savour the daily joys that we often take for granted such as your family relationships and the ability to use our five senses to experience the world.

At the end of the day, it does not mean you need to choose happiness over money or the other way round. It is possible to have both at the same time. While you may continue to climb the corporate ladder and derive satisfaction from earning more money, just ensure that you are not compromising on your personal values and time.

Do not jeopardize and trade your overall well-being for money which is only a means and not an end. If you only make your choices in life based on money, you will never be completely satisfied or happy.

Money does not need to be the dominant force that defines you as a person and how you should be spending your time. Being ‘rich’ is not only dependent on money; you can be ‘rich’ if you have quality relationships and a higher sense of purpose. Money may make the world go round but it is not the guaranteed formula to happiness. There is no point in having lots of money if your emotional and spiritual bank account is empty. Always remember that happiness and not money, is the ultimate currency in life.