Money doesn’t buy happiness. You must accept this fact as a man!
But at the same time, you also can’t deny that much of our lives are oriented around money. To an alien on its first trip to Earth, it wouldn’t be so unreasonable to report to its kin that we are obsessed with money.
Money is friends. Money is status. Money is women, time, freedom, and all the things that make life as a man worthwhile undertaking.
When we are young, we get our first job to earn enough to get a car to hang out with our friends and have something to take a girl to prom. A couple of years later, we sign away four to ten years of our early adulthood to college to earn enough money to make our newly independent lives comfortable and signal to a woman that we are a worthy partner.
We get the job, the women, the house, the car…we get everything we want. And what happens? Are we happy? Well, are you happy?
Of course not. There are a multitude of desires yet to be fulfilled!
There are bigger, better, and shinier cars! Other people have things we want, so we hop back in our hamster wheel and start running again.
It took me a few decades of life and another decade as a men’s coach to discover that the whole system is messed up. The human brain can’t handle the scope of possibility of the modern world; we are expansionists by nature and there is just TOO MUCH to have.
What we think we want and what we actually want are vastly different things.
The modern rat race is founded on the illusion of happiness in wealth. Today, I will do more than just debunk it: I will provide an alternative.
The Illusion of Happiness in Wealth
From our first breath, we are imitators. We see our mother smile, and we smile. We see her eat; we do the same. We see her walk and know we will do the same one day.
Imitation is all we know when we are young, and this is for good reason because, without it, we would never learn to function within society. Our problem is that we don’t know when to STOP imitation and START thinking on our own.
We are told what to do with our lives, and ever the imitators, we do it without asking why. Why do I have to go to college? Why do I have to buy that house? Why do I have to take that loan?
By the time we ask these questions, we are neck deep in student loans, house and car payments, and a job we dread every single morning. Our relationships are crumbling, our self-esteem is deteriorating, and our childhood dream of being “important” is turning into a nightmare.
All because we are pursuing the wrong thing: we are chasing after money. We listened to the world and ended up on the path they wanted us on, not our own.
The illusion of happiness in wealth is founded on five misunderstandings.
1. Money brings comfort, not happiness
The first illusion of the wealth-happiness dynamic is that the relationship between the two is linear: the more you’ve got in the bank, the bigger your smile is.
By this way of thinking, you would assume that someone like Donald Trump is the happiest person in the world. That, however, is just not the case. You doubtless know more than a few people whose happiness is greater than Trump’s.
Why? Because happiness only increases noticeably with money to a certain point…and, more surprising perhaps, that point is much lower than you would expect.
A study at Princeton in 2010 showed that money contributes to happiness up until our basic needs are met, but after that, it doesn’t add much to our happiness.
The data showed that happiness steadily increased with money up until someone was making a whopping $75k per year. Beyond that, the increase was negligible.
So while the absence of money does make people miserable, an excess of it doesn’t do the reverse and make people happy.
No one denies how powerful money is. It fills stomachs, cures sickness, and ultimately, saves lives. Money decreases stress, but after the stress is gone, it doesn’t also bring happiness.
2. The hedonic treadmill: you will never be capable of being happier than you are now
In psychology, there is a theory called the hedonic treadmill.
The hedonic treadmill is the idea that your happiness, though it may rise and fall as a result of positive or negative experiences in your everyday life, will in the end return to where it was before these experiences.
This base level happiness, or ground zero, doesn’t change.
Picture your base happiness as a straight line and your temporary happiness is another line that snakes back and forth across your base happiness line. When you get a car, your temporary happiness line goes above your overall for a bit, and when you lose your dog, it dips below. But ultimately, it always returns to ground zero.
A study on lottery winners and accident victims illustrates the hedonic treadmill profoundly.
When someone wins the lottery (say one million dollars) their happiness skyrockets for a bit before settling down at ground zero. Similarly, when someone faced sudden life paralysis, their happiness plummeted for a while before settling once again around their base level of happiness.
That said, there are ways to adapt and improve yourself that can transcend the hedonic treadmill and lead to heightened well-being that goes beyond happiness and dopamine release (see below).
3. Money lacks intrinsic value
“I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.” -Jim Carrey
Money doesn’t have actual value.
Now before you write me off as another influencer guru about to bash you over the head with a bunch of money cliches and explain that money is just paper and it’s us that give it value, ask yourself two questions:
- What makes you happy in the world?
- What would you do with unlimited wealth?
Read those questions again and ponder your answers. Make sure that the answers you have in your mind are the truth.
If you’re like most guys, these questions have very different answers. Why? Because what money gets you has very little to do with what brings you joy in life. Family brings us joy. Laughter brings us joy. Beers over football bring us joy.
A miserable man on a yacht is still a miserable man.
Money is nothing more than one material thing to get you another material thing–it doesn’t have value in and of itself and, to a certain extent, it can’t get you anything that will change your life.
4. The comparison trap
Let’s face it: we all compare. Whether it’s cars, houses, jobs, or girlfriends, every guy compares others’ lives to their own.
It’s our way of determining how we’re doing in life. Comparison, to a degree, is normal and healthy. Sometimes comparison is the fuel that pushes us to change and grow. Too many ‘man, that guy is really awesome’s or ‘I wish I had what he has’s and you end up changing your life for the better.
Healthy comparison is nothing more than inspiration.
That said, over-comparison is a huge problem, especially when you’re chasing money.
Over-comparison doesn’t leave any room for contentment because trust me, there will always be someone with more and better than you.
If you earned twice what you do now, do you really think you’d be content? No, the likelihood is you would just start comparing yourself to someone who makes even more. The truth is, thinking that more money will lead to more happiness is nothing short of foolishness.
5. Money distracts from important things
Beyond being simply misunderstood, chasing money can actually lead to unhappiness when it starts to distract from things that bring happiness.
It’s the classic picture of a man getting home from the office with his kids already sound asleep, his wife dozing on the couch, and dinner cold on the table.
Money’s danger is not primarily in and of itself, but what it distracts us from and keeps us away from.
What good is a million dollars if your family is falling apart, your body is deteriorating, and your mental health is eroding? Once your family is fed and your basic needs are met, money isn’t going to be what puts a smile on your face.
5 Things Other than Money That Actually Increase Happiness
So you’re after happiness, and more money isn’t going to do it. What now?
You’re not alone. Millions of men worldwide have been trying to figure out the true secret to happiness for as long as we have been around.
What they’ve found is, well, that happiness doesn’t exist…let me clarify that…happiness doesn’t exist as an achievable goal. As discussed above, a life void of stress or discomfort will be more content, but hoping to attain joy by having more things is fruitless.
Happiness is created by fulfillment, and fulfillment by doing things that matter to you.
Rather than chase money and try to buy happiness, invest your energy into the following five:
1. Meaningful relationships
The surest way to attain happiness is to focus on building and maintaining your relationships. This is where satisfaction in life comes from, not another zero in your bank account or car in your garage.
Understanding that monetary success has little to do with life fulfillment will set you apart from the mediocrity of the world and allow you to go after what really matters.
If you look at the lives of many of the richest men on Earth, you’ll notice a trend. Many, though not all of them, live lavish lives with incredibly fractured relationships. Donald Trump: three marriages. Elon Musk: three marriages. Bill Gates: divorced.
While I’m not discounting these men’s achievements or claiming they aren’t fulfilled, one thing is clear: they had to sacrifice invaluable things to get to where they are now.
“Success without fulfillment is the ultimate failure. –Tony Robbins
No amount of money will ever make up for the pain of broken relationships.
2. Passion and purpose
“What you should be pursuing is who you could be. And associated with that, you should be attempting to formulate some conception of the highest good that you can conceive of.” -Dr. Jordan Peterson
A man’s chief concern, after tending to the relationships that give him a foundation, should be to find a direction that gives him purpose.
We live in an epidemic of purposelessness where people are so preoccupied with stuffing themselves with sugar, video games, and porn that they never actually ask whether or not they are content.
According to Harry’s Masculinity report, an in-depth study of 5,000 men aged 19-95…
“The strongest predictor of a positive mindset in men–by far–is satisfying employment. Hard work is the cornerstone of a contented man that all else is built upon.”
As a man, you MUST have silent time each day to reflect on your life, your goals, and whether or not your current actions reflect your ultimate purpose. Stop trying to make yourself comfortable and make yourself purposeful.
It is ONLY by pursuing something with purpose that we find fulfillment and contentment.
Contentment is a by-product of purpose and personal growth.
In many ways, life is a game of luck.
We don’t decide what family, country, or economic status we are born into. We don’t have a say in our father’s alcoholism or our mother’s neglect. To the pessimist, life is a game of chance–one big, messy, game of chance.
To the optimist, however, life is a game of opportunity where one should base their success not on how well they do compared to others, but how well they do with what they’ve been given.
Health is one thing that is largely up to you. In a world where so much seems left to chance, this is not a blessing that you should take lightly.
By taking care of your physical and mental needs, more specifically…
- the amount and quality of your sleep
- the amount and quality of the food you consume
- adequate water consumption
- regular exercise
- limited time on your screen
- frequent time in nature
…you will give yourself a foundation to experience contentment frequently and at a more fundamental level.
4. Experiences over possessions
Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell has been studying the relationship between money and happiness for two decades.
In one of his famous studies, he asked participants to rank their happiness after large material and experiential expenditures (a car VS an expensive vacation). While their initial ratings were found to be similar, over time, their satisfaction with the material possession decreased while their satisfaction with the experience increased.
Simply put, the memories of experiences with people you love will always be more valuable than anything you can hold in your hands or drive around really fast.
Money can’t change the way you feel about yourself, but people can.
The futile quest for happiness through wealth has led men to all manner of conclusions.
One conclusion that has been largely neglected is that while going after money for money’s sake will leave you hollow, pursuing money with the goal of giving it away is actually an extremely viable route to happiness.
Giving creates one of the most powerful dopamine releases you can experience.
So powerful that studies show that gift-givers get more long-term happiness from the giving than receivers do from receiving.
So rather than saving up for a new car for yourself, consider giving that car to someone who needs it more than you do. You’ll actually get more out of it.
Men, by nature, need something to pursue. We are beings of action and purpose–driven by desires to be better, get more, and fulfill ourselves.
The problem is, we are after the wrong thing. We have put all of our purpose and intention–all of that fire that makes us men–in the wrong direction. We have gone after money.
Sooner or later, all men learn that money isn’t the answer to happiness. It’s not money people want, and yet that is all we pursue because we believe it is what we want.
Money can decrease discomfort and bring temporary joy, but ultimately, a man’s well-being is not built by attaining more money. True happiness and fulfillment come first and foremost, from healthy relationships. Then, passion and purpose, physical health, and the prioritization of experience over possessions.
So if you’re tired of your alarm clock waking you up to a miserable job and deteriorating relationships, I suggest you change your priorities and start finding a way to fulfill yourself rather than fill your wallet.
If you feel alone in this quest for contentment, I have something for you. After over a decade in the coaching industry and a trial-and-error approach to my own life, I have put together a team of the best men’s coaches to help men just like you make the most of their lives.
In this program, you will not only be equipped with the knowledge and drive to attack your life like never before but will have at your back a band of brothers to pick you up and dust you off when you fall.
If you’re tired of living a hollow life and ready to learn what it means to live a life of INTENTION and ACTION, this is for you. Your move!