That's a pretty sweeping statement up there isn't it?

Most of the online advertising I see as a coach is along the lines of "how to earn 7 figures NOW!".

Big earnings means a happier life right? Apparently not once you're past a certain point for need in terms of food and shelter.

I'm calling BS on most of the advertising I see that would have you believe that your next big spend purchase is the one that will make you happy forever.

As if that will be the cure to all my life's ills and somehow magically transform us to everlasting happiness.

But this kind of consumerist thinking ignores most of the research by eminent psychologists and institutions looking at what makes us REALLY happy.

And by happy, I mean lasting fulfilment in life and not just the momentary happiness we get from eating ice cream or buying something new.

You see, that pleasure we derive from buying a luxury item or eating the cookies wears off pretty fast and soon we are left looking for the next fix..and the next...and the next.

And yes I've heard all the quips about it being more comfortable to cry in a Mercedes than on a bike - but this misses the point that you're still crying!

So What's The Alternative?

The father of Positive Psychology, and Zellerbach Family Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania's Department of Psychology, Marin Seligman promotes a different formula for lasting happiness that has little to do with money.

In his book Authentic Happiness, Seligman, summarises his findings on lasting happiness and fulfilment in life from coming from these 5 external sources and gives a correlation score, (more on internal sources later) for the effect of each:

  1. 1
    Live in a wealthy democracy - not a poor dictatorship (strong effect on happiness)
  2. 2
    Get married (robust effect, but not directly causal).  There goes all the joke about your trouble and strife eh! 🙂
  3. 3
    Avoid negativity in people, situations, and emotion (moderate effect)
  4. 4
    Have a strong social network (robust effect but again perhaps not causal)
  5. 5
    Get religion - or connection to a cause greater than one's own happiness (moderate effect)

Here are a few things he has found that will NOT HELP you be happier:

  1. 1
    Making more money - "more materialistic people are less happy"
  2. 2
    Getting as much education as possible - no effect
This seems to totally go against all that we've been taught as we grew up right!!

We were told to get an education and a career that would let us earn as much as possible and that we would then have all the choices and happiness we need.

Turns out the ones who followed that mantra are the most miserable of all.

Seligman's research shows that medical doctors and lawyers, the very people who would seem to be living the dream and followed the "study hard-earn more philosophy" are among the most dissatisfied people in the USA.

He goes into extensive detail about how the chase for "more" rarely leads to increased life satisfaction.

He even quotes a study of 22 lottery winners that showed no lasting increase in overall happiness and life satisfaction 3 years after winning.

How to be PERMAnently Happy

According to Seligman and his colleagues' research, there are 5 key elements to lasting happiness and what he terms "the good life" that have nothing to do with money (once past the basics of food and shelter) :

  1. 1
    Positive Emotion: positivity, feeling lucky, showing gratitude
  2. 2
    Engagement; in our work and life around us (check out the idea of Flow here)
  3. 3
    Relationships; having a good strong network of people to help you through life in a mutually beneficial way
  4. 4
    Meaning; knowing that your life has a purpose beyond your own personal needs
  5. 5
    Achievement: having a sense of striving and reaching your goals and ideals for their own sake rather than just monetary reward.

Key Takeaways

Some of the key messages I took from studying Seligman's work and talks are summarized below:

  • Don't go chasing money for its own sake - yes it's a great enabler of choice to have some but know why you want it - and not just to impress the Joneses!
  • Look for a way to use your key personal strengths (a major contributing factor in the good life is that you know these and where you can apply them in work, life, and relationships. You also get to apply these when you're in Flow.
  • Actively look for the bright side in life. Be grateful for what you have more than pining for what you don't have yet! People who are more positively minded do better in almost every realm of life.
  • Know & live your purpose; in work and your personal life. Know what you're about and what you're here to do and help others with. Set some goals to strive for and be mindful of when you've achieved the small victories.

Why You May Struggling With This Idea Right Now...

I'm willing to bet that at least half of the readers of this article will be dismissing it out of hand.

We've been so indoctrinated into the consumerist ethos of more, bigger, and better by nearly every message we've ever read, heard, or seen (even subconsciously), that it's hard to listen to an alternate point of view.

And that is a hard thing to get past.

Heaven knows I still struggle with it.

I still want the best for my family and me. I still want my house in a safe area with good schooling.

But I won't sacrifice my sanity for it.

I tried that in earlier life; chasing the bigger salary. Encountering more and more stress and a*ssholes to work with and for as they chased the dream of the big buck right beside me.

I now know that that's not what makes me happy.

Keeping up with the Joneses was for me a recipe for stress, long hours, and poor close relationships.

Thankfully my wife was on the same page and was happy for me to walk away from the high salary and package rather than live miserably with it. (There's that marital support that Seligman mentions.)

There's still a good living to be made doing what I do; using my personal strengths to build rapport coach other people all over the world.

And yes we still buy some nice things - but we try to talk about what's important and what the real cost of going after something else might be.  Would we have to sacrifice real family time for it?  Are we just giving the kids something to get us peace and quiet?

For us it's about weighing it up and deciding if it's REALLY WHAT WE WANT and IF IT'S WORTH IT.

Final Questions To Help You:

Here are a few questions and ideas to get you started to align with the ideas from Seligman's work and perhaps break free from some of the conditioned thinking we'e all been subjected to:

  • Do you know your Purpose?; Why you are doing what you do - the ultimate aim for your life?
  • Are you chasing "more" for the sake of it, or to keep up with the Joneses? Take a good hard look at your earnings and spend on luxury items. Be honest with yourself - is it worth the hours, days, weeks, months, and years of life you sacrificed for it?
  • Name the 5 people you can count on in an emergency. If you can't, then perhaps its time to start cultivating that relationship network.
  • What are your key strengths and are you applying them in life? You can take the key strengths test here:
  • How often do you experience FLOW at work? That's that sensation of time passing without you noticing while you're immersed in the work itself.
  • What are you grateful for? List these on a daily basis - even just 3 things and start building that positive and opportunistic mindset.

As always I'd love to know what you've thought of this article and any action you plan to take as a result of reading it. Please do comment below.

As always if you need some help in getting to live your best life your way please consider booking a FREE Clarity Breakthrough session with me.

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