I’ll spare you the time it’ll take you to read all the details of the 75 year-long longitudinal study by Harvard researchers on what it takes to make a happy life. Hint: it isn’t money, it isn’t IQ, it isn’t good looks –it all comes down to making and maintaining what those researchers call WR’s, or warm relationships. Warm relationships are those in which each partner feels trusted, feels loyalty and feels most of all, that their partner will have their back no matter what.
So if just before you started reading this piece you were doing something other than fostering your WR, know for certain that there’s no appreciable increase in happiness between making say, fifty thousand or fifty million dollars, between having an IQ of 110 or 150, and no evidence whatsoever that fame does anything other than make famous people less happy.
So my question is really, why? Why is almost everyone striving, on a daily basis, for the very things that don’t make them happy? Why do we live our lives in search of something that hasn’t been shown –whether from the viewpoint of an academic study –or our own experiences, to give us anything more than bragging rights, (something also shown to do nothing to increase our happiness?) If I had to hazard a guess I’d say it has something to do with fear. There’s something very primal, very visceral, about the human need to squirrel away resources for an uncertain future. And Lord knows our futures are uncertain. But no matter how much “stuff” we acquire, there’s always a nagging sense that we don’t have enough. I might feel that if I had $100k in my bank account I’d feel secure, but the minute I do, that previously large sum will feel small, and then I won’t feel secure until I have two or three or four hundred thousand socked away. The number will keep spiraling upwards forever.