You may not need money to be happy, but it sure does make being happier easier -- or does it? Every time that I hear that age-old saying: “Money doesn’t buy you happiness,” I think: sure, it doesn’t. But it does buy you the things that do make you happy. However, these days I’m beginning to rethink where exactly it is that I stand on the topic. The older I get, the more I begin to miss the simplicity that life used to hold when I was younger.
At the same time, the older I get, the hungrier I become for success and the more I focus on making money rather than taking the time to be appreciative of what I already have. Every person that is driven will find himself pushing harder than he should at some point in his life. It happens to us all because we tend to associate longer work hours and more focus with progress. We find that pushing ourselves to the extreme allows us to experience more — to get more out of life. There is, however, a balance that one can reach at the median, a point where you no longer push yourself past your maximum, but at the same time produce greater results.
Balance and peace of mind are what’s most important. A human being is capable of incredible feats. We had a man jump out of space, a woman that just swam from Cuba to Florida, and those that you’ll never hear of by name that have pushed themselves to the brink of collapse to get ahead in their fields. Where there is a will, there is a way — but is it worth it?
I am a big advocate of following your dreams and pushing yourself to grow and to get ahead in the game of life, but if this is the only life we get, then shouldn’t we do our best to enjoy it? I sometimes stop and wonder whether always working that extra hour, always making that extra effort, always doing a little more is worth it in the end. If we are always searching to accomplish that next goal, when will we get a chance to stop and to enjoy what we’ve managed to accomplish?
Who’s happier: the man who spent every day of his life pushing ahead, making a fortune and making a name for himself or the man who never made 6-figures a year, but instead spent his days lounging out on the beach enjoying nature and frozen cocktails? Who did more with her life: the woman who stood out amongst the crowds, who created a career for herself against all odds, who struggled every step of the way to make a difference in the world or the woman who made those closest to her feel loved, appreciated, and wanted? Are we to always look for more, bigger, greater? Or is doing good on a small scale just as honorable? Are we obligated to make the lives of those around us happier if in turn it doesn’t allow us to enjoy our own.
The problem with the world is the same as it always has been: a few people are trying to take on the problems of the entire global population. There are those who have decided to dedicate their lives to a cause — a cause that they feel passionate about — and then there are those that remain completely selfish. If we would all just bring a bit of balance to our purpose in life, factoring in both the needs of the whole along with a pinch of selfishness, we would all be a lot happier and find ourselves living much more enjoyable lives. If we all remove ourselves from extremes, then we won’t find anyone living in extremes.
Life is not as simple as most people would like to make it; there’s too much complexity for any single theory to encompass it solely. There is no one right way to live. There is no one right way to think or to act. There is no one right anything — just as there is no wrong anything. Anything and everything can be useful or correct under certain circumstances.
When we decide to narrow our perspectives in order to distribute our energy more efficiently, the result is that we don’t allow ourselves to experience all of reality; we choose a reality and convince ourselves that it’s the right reality — the only actual reality of things. The simplest of theories may statistically be more likely of being the ‘correct’ theory — at least when applied to less complex mathematics or that which can be expressed in such a manner. However, when we begin to discuss life itself and reality, there are simply too many factors, too many variables, and too many alternatives for any single theory on life or reality ever to be considered as “The” theory.
Nevertheless, those that are most driven find a cause or a reason for living. It is most often a single reason, allowing one to focus with less effort and to “see the picture clearly,” which I find to be rather amusing because, by definition, focusing requires ignoring and dubbing as irrelevant all that is not in focus. The most common focus is that which enables financial stability and/or comes with a heightened feeling of empowerment.
It is such a prominent purpose in life that the competition is immense; everyone would like to be rich and powerful — it’s a part of human nature, our need to overpower and outdo in order to survive and to flourish. The more competition, the more difficult it will be to come out on top. If you jump into a crowd of 5 people all trying to grab at the dollar on the ground you may still have a chance at grabbing that dollar. When the crowd is 5 billion…it’s a different story.
Of course there are those that dedicate their lives to getting into the center of the crowd in order to get the best chance of grabbing that bill for themselves. They struggle to get ahead of others, climbing over and under them. There’s always somebody that grabs that dollar, but what’s the purpose of it all? Why do we give such great importance — importance above almost all else — to that green piece of paper? It’s really a combination of things. We decide that it is our purpose in life to go after the money — if so many people are after it, then there must be a good reason for it (or the blind leading the blind). We have beliefs of what that dollar can bring, the changes that it will allow us to make — the options and experiences that will become possible.
But who says that we need to skip ahead and enjoy those experiences that are so costly? Why not first take the time to enjoy the simpler things in life, the things that don’t cost you 10-30 years of your life? As a society, we have become blinded by capitalism and have grown to believe that in order to be happy, we need to take and to consume. The more, the better; the faster, the better. We want efficiency and abundance.
We want the most of all that is good and none of what is bad. But what is the good without the bad? How can you enjoy anything if you can’t give meaning to simplicity? What happens when you do make that money and can do whatever it is that you’d like, do you believe you’ll be happy? No, of course not. Chances are that you will no longer know how to enjoy yourself because you have spent your life focusing and blinding yourself to those things that bring the most joy to peoples’ lives: friends, family, walks in nature, lounging in the sun, reading books, having meaningful conversations, doing absolutely nothing and yet being completely at peace.
I don’t wish to deter people from following their dreams and giving it their all to become successful and living the life they wish to live — but consider the fact that the life you may be wishing for yourself is not a life that you will actually enjoy. Humans have a tendency (proven by science) of overestimating the happiness they will receive from certain experiences or living situations. The truth is that you don’t need a million dollars to feel like a millionaire because feeling like a millionaire is no different than how you could feel right now if you would so choose. Don’t confuse being a millionaire for being content, happy and at peace; those things don’t come with a price tag.
Top photo courtesy: Wolf Of Wall Street