Is the only thing standing between you and the good life more money? If you believe this, youre not alone. Most of us assume money and happiness are connected. They are, but just not as much as you may think.
When it comes to household income, the magic number is $75,000, say Princeton economist Angus Deaton and Nobel laureate psychologist Daniel Kahneman. As people earn more money, it has a direct, positive effect on their happiness until they reach an income of $75,000 or $18.75 per hour assuming 2,000 hours of work per year for a two-income family.
Beyond $75,000, earning more can become a futile pursuit on the hedonistic treadmill, illustrated by a quote by the Dalai Lama. When asked what surprised him most, the Dalai Lama 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.
So if more money is not the only answer to living a better life, what is rest of the story?
That story is the one you choose to write for yourself one that doesnt require a check or credit-card payment. The path to the good life is under your control right now, no matter your income.
Tal Ben-Shahar, a Harvard University professor and author of Happier, says most of us can increase our happiness by engaging in life in these ways:
Do what you enjoy. Get out your schedule and reserve time to do activities that are fun and fulfilling. Making time for yourself doesnt have to overburden your schedule, but it will increase your happiness.
Express gratitude. Expressing gratitude takes your focus off of what you deem to be negative and puts it on the positive. Suddenly, you have a new mindset and a new appreciation of life.
Set and work toward meaningful goals. Positive emotions arise when we work toward meaningful goals and as we continue to learn, take on new challenges and live with purpose. This type of happiness is called eudaimonic well-being, which is more robust and satisfying than hedonistic happiness.
Use your strengths. From the field of positive psychology there is ample evidence that people who use their strengths are happier. Not sure what your strengths are? Check out www.strengthsfinder.com or the book Strengths Finder 2.0.
Simplify your life. These days it is easy to find yourself overwhelmed by possessions, commitments and obligations. If you are, its time to stop. Make a list of the changes you need to make, then take action.
Your income is just one small part of your personal happiness formula. The rest is up to you. Go for it.
firstname.lastname@example.org Durango resident and personal finance coach Matt Kelly owns Momentum: Personal Finance. Its website is www.PersonalFinanceCoaching.com.