Updated: May 15, 2022
Growing up, our family didn’t have a lot of money but we had enough to eat well, have a roof over our heads and go on family holidays.
I grew up believing this was everything in life, and if I worked hard and made more money, then I would have a better roof over my head, eat whatever I wanted, and go on really nice holidays, which would bring me even more happiness. So my life was focused on working hard, playing hard, eating well and enjoying as much material things as I can, while I could. For the most part of my early life I was happy.
As I got into my 20s and 30s life started to get harder, work got more demanding, personal problems became harder and more complicated, and I had a lot more to lose if things went wrong.
This all added up slowly as burden and stress, which I didn’t realise was that I was carrying around with me every day. I just took the stress as being a “normal” part of life.
As I progressed in my career, I earnt a lot more money, was able to spend a lot more on buying nice things, eating well and going on nice holidays.
According to what I grew up believing, given I earnt ten times what I did when I started, I should be ten times more happy.
When I bought the nice thing and was on the holiday, I felt momentary happiness, but that didn’t last. What was more, buying that handbag that was 100x more expensive than the cheap one I carried around when I started work didn’t make me any happier. If anything, if I bought that cheap handbag today, I’d feel no happiness at all.
This made me realise, that no amount of money or nice holidays can actually buy me happiness. It also reminded me that I can't measure my happiness through the money I have. Nor can I calculate my success by the number of holiday destinations I have. visited.
If anything, having to work hard to maintain that standard and not lose what I had, added to my stress rather than bring me happiness. I was actually happier when I had less, needed less, and had less to lose.
I think many people already know, in theory, that money can’t buy happiness and can’t be used as a measure for happiness.
Some probably think their circumstance is different and have their own reasons for why they need to earn more.
If this is true, then when will it ever be enough? Why are each one of us not happier than the next person who has less money than us? What’s at the end of that next promotion and next pay rise that we work hard for, often at the expense of our own health and sanity?
This reminds me of a quote by the Dalai Lama XIV:
When asked what surprised him most about humanity, he said
“Man… because he sacrifices his health in order to make money.
Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health.
And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future;
he lives as if he is never going to die,
and then he dies having never really lived”.
How are you living?