I had the opportunity recently to attend a social gathering in which it was apparent that the guests were financially well off. Yet, something was lacking. Genuine laughter was rare – the atmosphere was left wanting. One only had to observe and listen to most of their stories to understand that generally these folks had not found the magic elixir of happiness. They seemed rather guarded, aloof – not particularly comfortable in their own skin. Why – we might wonder would these folks not be outgoing, radiating happiness given their financial comforts. They seemed to want for nothing except authentic happiness … and money could not buy it for them. Here they were – well healed financially – but their faces and body language told another story.
Often we think, ‘If I only had …. I would be happy,’ or ‘If I could just get ahead of the constant barrage of bills I would be more secure.’ The real question is – would we?
Granted when we are struggling to make ends meet we can get overwhelmed and dream of a life where money is no object. We may even become resentful when we see that others appear to have it a bit easier. Yet the reality of it all is that happiness is NOT correlated with wealth!
The Dalai Lama has said the real purpose of life is to be happy and we achieve that by developing love, compassion and gratitude for self and others. It is not attained by getting more stuff. Think of a young child who continually says, ‘I want …I want …I want…’ We want to make them happy but sooner or later realize that their list of wants is never satisfied and as their demands increase their happiness actually decreases! Not only does this happen in children it happens in adults as well. The lesson for us is that we can’t buy happiness for ourself or others because it is a much bigger issue than simply what money can buy.
Determining what causes happiness has become a major topic of research. Many researchers such as neuroscientist, Keely Muscatell, at UCLA has found that wealth ‘quiets the nerves in the brain associated with empathy and triggers a chemical reaction that causes individuals to be less likely to care about anyone but themselves or to experience the sentiments needed to be a decent citizen … or even a happy one.’
Considering this research and what the Dalai Lama teaches it seems that money, in and of itself, can be a stumbling block to achieving greater happiness. That is unless you are Dan Price, founder and CEO of Gravity Payments, a Seattle- based credit card payment processing firm. Now here is a success story!
Patricia Cohen in the New York Times wrote about this amazing person. Mr. Price was inspired by an article on the psychology of income and happiness and decided to do something about it. Rather than continuing in the ranks of most CEO’s and amassing millions of dollars in personal income he has chosen to reduce his annual salary to $70,000 and redirect both the salary difference and 80% of Gravity’s annual profits to his employees. Over the next three years ‘even the lowest -paid employee will begin earning $70,000 per year. This is going to make a difference to everyone around me’ said one of the employees.
Love, compassion, gratitude …The Dalai Lama would be proud of you Mr. Price and so are so many, many others. You give us hope. Thank you for being such a remarkable human being!
Have a great few days!