Upfront, I’m a bit of a cynic and pessimist. That being said, I always struggle with the advice given by self-help books and TV shows, even though I readily consume all of it. (I love a Sunday morning watching the Oprah Winfrey Network. By the way, I love Oprah. However, is it just me or do all of her “favorite things” seem really expensive?) No matter the self-help guru, the advice is always the same — “just be yourself”, “follow your passion” or “take risks.” And, in doing so, “happiness” is sure to follow.
My issue is that the advice is always coming from someone who’s already successful and wealthy. These shows and books never highlight someone who’s struggling or not well-off financially. Hindsight is always 20/20, right? It begs the question, “Which came first the chicken or the egg?” (The media creates this illusion that being happy or successful is achievable with the right attitude, only to make many of us feel like we’re flawed.) It’s difficult to “take risks”, when you have lots of bills to pay. It’s easy to sit high atop a perch and espouse such wisdom because you don’t have to worry about money. Most successful people don’t answer to anyone, so “being yourself” comes much easier. Yes, I believe success has much to do with hard work and drive, but timing, talent and luck also play significant roles. (Not to mention, who you know often helps immensely. We all know people woefully unqualified for their job, but keep it because of who they know, right?) It’s hard to “follow your passion”, when you have financial responsibilities bearing down on you. It’s hard to “be yourself”, when your financial well-being hinges on answering to others, namely authority figures.
Let’s admit it, we all put on a “work face.” Otherwise, most of us would be unemployed, if we shared how we really felt or thought. There’s just simply no way you can share your true beliefs or expose your quirks in the workplace — not without great sacrifice or repercussion. To “be yourself”, one must make themselves vulnerable and not many of us have the luxury or freedom to do so. (Right now, I’m lucky to work with Laura and Claire. They know I’m a bitter bargain hunter with a silver tongue!)
My point is that money doesn’t buy happiness. However, it does buy freedom of choice. And, with the freedom to do what you want, when you want, you can find lots of inner peace, joy and extra time. I would love to take a vacation without regard to the price tag and lots of them. I would love to have a chef, masseuse, driver and personal trainer, each at my beck and call. (Yes, I know my examples are extreme, but I just finished watching an episode of “Master Class” on OWN. Darn you, Oprah!)
I would love to not worry about and prepare for the next big financial emergency in my life and focus on those activities of which I’m most passionate. (Time really does fly, when you’re in your zone and truly enjoying yourself.) Basically, I would love to answer to no one, other than my daily whims. (Who wouldn’t?) And, if I were to dream big, I would love to start a line of sarcastic greeting cards. (You know, the kind you can only send to someone who really gets you and knows your sense of humor really, really well. I like the company name “Cantankerous Cards” or “Fake Sentiments.” You can’t take them. They’re mine! I’m calling my copyright lawyer right now.)
I hope one day to find enlightenment, but, for now, I’m just worried about paying my bills and keeping my head above water. (Luckily, I’ve been a saver, since college. I feel for anyone who’s not able to do so. It does provide a small window of comfort and peace.) And, yet, I still read every book and watch every TV show that declares it knows the secret to being a happier and more fulfilled person. Maybe, I will win the lottery one day and better understand the experience of having lots of money at my disposal. Who knows? My theory could be wrong! (I just know that, if I ever came into big bucks, I would still clip coupons and look for the best bargains. It’s in my blood!)
My friends and I always have great debates about the meaning of happiness and success. Do you agree or disagree? Can money buy happiness? What would you do for a “living”, if money were not an issue?
I look forward to our next chat. And, remember, there’s always a deal — you just need to look for it. :-)
I agree with you. Working hard to pay the bills. Can’t even afford to buy a house because it is so inflated around here. So we are trying to enjoy the little things like building a fountain in my backyard (a friend gave me rocks to do so), setting up the deck for cocktail time this summer, purchased a canoe hoping to enjoy the local area ponds. Basically enjoying Colorado, fresh air is free.
Being content can buy happiness.
How ironic- I was just wondering about this myself. I think you’re probably right, to a large extent. However, I also know of many wealthy people who are unhappy or bitter. So wealth is not a guarantee.
Health is also a huge part of the equation. And attitude. I know of many people who are so sick and yet manage to have a peaceful spirit.
I know that, assuming decent health, I would definitely be more relaxed with more money. It’s takes the stress of worrying about paying my taxes, or my healthcare bills, or being able to visit family, away.
I know the frustration of having very little money and not the greatest health. I still find ways to be happy mostly because it is a choice. I would LOVE to have more money because there are just so many more things we could do – and with lots of friends, but I know that, as Ava said, there are plenty of people with money and much sadness. We can choose every day to find the positive around us, especially with the people God has put in our lives, and live with the best attitude we can. Money helps (there is even a scripture in the Bible that says “money is the answer” – I’m using it out of context), but what we need most is thankfulness for all we have right now. Another scripture says “This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” With this mindset we can always find something to be happy about.