Money = Happiness
A thousand times and in hundreds of ways we have heard that this is not true and yet inside we all still have some latent belief to the contrary. Consider ads for casinos and the lottery; they always show people who seem insanely happy and we buy into the lure of their images.
Billionaire media mogul David Geffen said, “Anyone who thinks money can buy happiness hasn’t got money.” But,why? Why would increased levels of money not bring us higher and higher levels of happiness? More is better, right?
The problem is that wealth is external and happiness is internal. George Carlin explained, “Trying to be happy by accumulating possessions is like trying to satisfy hunger by taping sandwiches all over
your body.” A nicer car, a bigger home, a more attractive spouse are all external and happiness is a result of our internal processes.
There are other reasons why our happiness level is not increased as our wealth increases.
1. The disease of more
The World Happiness Report compiled by the United Nations’ General Assembly states,
“While higher income may raise happiness to some extent, the quest for higher income may actually reduce one’s happiness.”
Having money may make us feel happier but the striving for money leads us to feel less happy because it is a never-ending struggle. There will always be MORE for us to want.
Not long ago, I went to a success program presented here in the Sprint Center in Kansas City. Bill Cosby, who is reported to be the sixth-wealthiest African American in with assets nearly ½ billion dollars stated flatly, “There’s no such thing as enough money.”
Think about that. Bill Cosby, who is by most standards staggeringly wealthy, believes that there is no such thing as enough money. Why? Because the fear-based ego always thinks that more is better—the more we have the more we want, so we go for more, which only makes us want more, etc.
It’s as if the more we eat, the hungrier we become.
The Hindu sacred text explains the futility of trying to have ‘enough.’ “Never can desire be quenched by repeated enjoyment of desires; like butter poured on a fire with the view to quenching it, desire only gets inflamed thereby.”
Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China had it all but was not satisfied. His wealth was inestimable but he wanted to have everything in the afterlife as well. Assuming the throne at age 13, Huang began preparing for his afterlife at age 22. When he died at age 50, nearly 8,000 hand-made soldiers created from terracotta surrounded him. Each soldier was believed to be able to live in the next life and protect the emperor and so each was equipped not only with weapons but even canteens and flasks for wine. In addition to the soldiers, ranging in rank from what we would call privates to generals, there were 130 chariots, 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses.
To make sure he had wealth and companionship, much of Huang’s vast store of jewelry was buried with him as well along with terracotta concubines he believe would come to life for companionship.
This man had more wealth than most people can conceive and yet he spent his entire life trying to have more for the next life.
Whether we realize it or not, we all do this. Our “next life” is our future life and although it makes sense to make certain that we will be comfortable and, possibly, have things that are even a little nicer, to go after more, more, more just leads to greater frustration and less happiness.
Further, having a lot of wealth can trigger…
The Upper Limit Switch
One study found that people of who gain significant increases in wealth, one in ten feel less happy.
Bestselling author Gay Hendricks has observed that we each have a thermostat in our minds that regulates our lives. If things aren’t going well, we ramp up activity until they get better. However, if things go “too” well, it triggers our feelings if inadequacy and doubt and a mental switch flips causing us to screw things up.
A lot of money can pose a threat to our sense of identity and actually make us less happy.
Fear of Falling
If you’re on a short ladder, falling is a concern but not a huge one. If you’re on a ladder 25 feet up, falling is a big worry.
Right after I got my first significant book advance, I mentioned to a friend that I never worried about money until I received a lot of it. She remarked that, previously, I didn’t worry about losing money because I didn’t have much.
When you have a lot, a lot is at stake. And it’s not just the loss of the money.
The #1 fear people have is of being embarrassed. Not having money is one thing. Having it and losing it is another and can lead to scorn and ridicule and so it causes us to be protective, anxious and fearful. People with money can cling to what they have leading them to feel trapped by their own possessions. As Chuck Palahniuk wrote in Fight Club, “The things you own end up owning you.”
So, are we stuck?
So, having a great deal of money can challenge and even lower our level of happiness. Are we stuck being poor s as to be happy?
No. The World Happiness Report states, “The beneficial development of human society takes place when material and spiritual development occurs side by side to complement and reinforce each other.”
If we work to develop ourselves spiritually, we begin to see ourselves as one with all. We cease to worry what others will think of us and so we don’t fear embarrassment. Our happiness comes from our connection with ourselves and with everyone else and this removes the happiness limiting challenges most people experience with money.
This is what Jesus meant when he said, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added unto you.” We can have money first but it won’t make us happy; in fact, it may make us less happy. Having a connection to our own indwelling spirit allows us to know the value of love, compassion, connection and giving and these then bring us real happiness so that the money is the icing and not the cake