It’s often said money can’t buy happiness; yet, the passion with which wealth is pursued today would lead most to believe that it’s the only way to achieve happiness. In fact, most people are not satisfied with their current financial status, and believe that being richer will also make them happier. People constantly strive to become wealthier, and put in extra work hours, compete with co-workers for promotions and raises, and hope for a surprise windfall. Research, however, suggests that people who are materialistic and actively pursue more wealth are actually less happy and more likely to be depressed than those who are satisfied with their possessions and financial status.
For years, economists and social scientists alike have tried to understand the relationship with wealth and well-being. Some studies, especially those that compare happiness levels among nations, suggest that increased wealth may lead to more happiness and well-being rises with people’s income. However, other research, discussed on the American Psychological Association website, shows that it is not wealth, but the autonomy or freedom that is often accompanied by it that leads wealthier people to experience higher well-being. So, even though wealth by itself does not guarantee increased well-being, people actively pursue it believing it will make them feel happier.
The question then arises how much wealth is enough, and how can one truly achieve well-being? Below, we feature an excerpt from Sadhguru’s live talks where he answers this question and addresses the relation between wealth and well-being:
“What we need in the world is not just “wealth creation.” We need to create wellbeing. Wealth is just one of the tools towards human wellbeing, not the whole of it. Wealth means making the outside pleasant for ourselves. But right now, people are going at it like it is a religion. In pursuit of wealth creation, we are destroying the very planet on which we live. Whether you make a safety pin or build a computer or a car or some great machine, whatever you do, you are digging it out of the planet. Somewhere, we must decide how much to dig and how much the planet can take.
If we are not sensible about this, in our ideas of wealth creation we may completely destroy the planet – which we are already doing in many ways.
We must understand what our idea of wealth is. Is it just about more buildings, more machines, more cars, more of everything? More and more is death. In the most affluent societies in the world, for example in the United States of America, a significant percentage of the population is on anti-depressants on a regular basis. If you just withdraw one particular medication from the market, almost half the nation will go crazy. That is not wellbeing. Generally, an American citizen has everything that anyone would dream of. There is wealth but no wellbeing. What are you going to do with this wealth?
If I go to the West and ask them, “Why don’t you meditate?” the common statement everywhere is “But we have to pay bills.” I said, “If your whole life is about paying bills, why generate those damn bills? You can curtail yourself and live more comfortably. To pay all those bills you are just working endlessly. What is the point?”
“No the whole society is doing it.” It doesn’t matter. They are driven by somebody else. If you have any sense, you must drive yourself to the extent that you are comfortable. There maybe someone who can do a thousand things in a day without suffering or being stressed. Maybe you can do only three things in a day. It is okay. You needn’t try to do what someone else does. This is the biggest problem. We are trying to do things like someone else.
When it comes to outside situations, no two human beings have come with the same level of capability. Your neighbor may have a 100-bedroom house. Maybe he likes to live in a hotel! For yourself, you must decide how much. Trying to do things like someone else is the wrong way to approach life. We need to decide how much of what we should do in our lives – how much outside activity, inner wellbeing and social wellbeing would keep our life in a balanced way without ruining us and the atmosphere around us.
Having a good home, eating good food, wearing good clothes, are a means to living well; they are not the goals of our life. The quality of your life is decided by how peaceful and joyful you are.”
Now that you understand that wealth is not a panacea that will bring you well-being, what steps will you take to improve the quality of your life? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below!