Happiness and Money don’t go together!
I can imagine the first reaction of many of you reading this is “of course not!” or “How could she think money can buy happiness?” or maybe even “What a question; there are so many reasons why money can’t buy happiness.” I recently engaged in a discussion on the same subject myself, and can very well understand why this statement contradicts the “normal” way of thinking which is that money cannot buy happiness.
Last week while listening to yet another very interesting TED Talk I came across a talk by Michael Norton ( a business administration professor at the Harvard Business School) on this subject. He added a new perspective to my set way of thinking about money and happiness and I thought you might also find his take on why money can buy happiness interesting.
A different perspective
In his talk, entitled “HOW TO BUY HAPPINESS” Michael Norton discusses how money can make us happy if we spend it rightly. I agree with this but am aware that it does not mean that if you are unhappy this is only because you have been spending your money in the wrong way. That would be too simple. I think first we would need to clarify what is meant by the word “rightly”.
Professor Norton refers to studies carried out by his faculty to back up what he was saying. According to him the studies showed that people across the board were happier when they spent money on others rather than on themselves. In order to qualify the study they got information from different sources and in different countries, using target groups from students to company workers and sports teams. The experiments were carried out in Canada, Uganda, Belgium and the USA, as well as using results from a Gallop Poll.
Spending on others
Generally the fact that those people spending money on others were happier irrelevant of the amount they spent, supports the argument that it is not how much you spend but the way in which you spend it which matters.If we research the number of people who have had large amounts of money (Professor Norton uses lottery winners in his example) and then lost it all because they spent it unwisely, there certainly seems to be proof for this.
On the other hand, one could also say that these individuals had no “prosperity consciousness“. Although the money came to them easily, it left them again just as easily because they had not changed their attitude to money. They were still living in a mindset of lack and scarcity rather than abundance and prosperity. Here is an interesting article to illustrate this. And this one supports what Michael Norton is referring to. This second group laid the foundations for their future “happiness” to develop in a fruitful and positive way.
A significant difference
You will have noticed that the title of Professor Norton’s talk is “How To Buy Happiness” and not Money can buy happiness – similar but not the same in meaning. While it might be true to say that spending money on others can make you happIER, it is not actually the money which makes one happy or not. It is what we DO with the money which causes us to experience this emotion. So yes, money CAN make us happy depending on what we do with it, but it can not buy us happiness. Like everything else, money is a form of energy, it is neutral; it is only our attitude to it which allows it to bring happiness or sadness.
What do you focus on?
We can have all the money we need and want. However, in the midst of this we often focus on what we think we do not have, ie on lack. In this way we can neither enjoy our abundance (money), nor will it stay with us. We have to give to receive. As we saw in the examples above it is usually those who give (generously) of what they have that receive in return.
In concluding, Professor Norton makes a good case of demonstrating why money CAN buy happiness or why money DOES buy happiness. It is not just about having money. The point is that HOW you spend your money is apparently more important than how much you spend. Your definition of words such as buy or happiness will of course determine whether or not you agree with these statements.
Why CAN’T money buy happiness?
My take is that happiness is an emotion and it is not the emotion one is buying. Rather the people in these examples are doing something which enables them to experience this emotion. They are spending but they are not just spending. It is the spending on someone else which is apparently “bringing” them the feeling of happiness.
With this in mind here are three links you might find interesting. These are ways in which you could make a contribution. And, (while fully aware that I am being provocative here) “buy” some happiness today.
After having read this, what do you think; does money really buy happiness? Can money buy you happiness? I would be really interested to hear YOUR take on this one. And if you liked this article, please sign up to be the first to receive the latest ones.