The important point here is that ''happiness'' is too vague and baggy a notion to be truly helpful. It is like an old pair of knickers that has lost its elastic and become over-capacious and shapeless.
Instead of talking about happiness, one should talk about satisfaction, achievement, interest, engagement, enjoyment, growth and the constant opening of fresh possibilities.
Very often the activities that yield these things are challenging, even effortful. A person in the midst of doing something objectively worthwhile might not describe himself as happy - usually he will be too absorbed to notice - and only later will realise that what it is to be happy is to be absorbed in something worthwhile.
If mere happiness were the point, we could easily achieve it for everyone by suitably medicating the water supply. But it has often been well said that the surest way to unhappiness is to seek happiness directly. Instead, happiness comes as a sideline of other endeavours that in themselves bring satisfaction and a sense of achievement.
It is like the dot of light in a dark room that one cannot see when looking directly at it, but notices out of the corner of one's eye on looking away.
The other confusion concerns wealth. If a person has a million pounds in the bank and never touches a penny of it, or a huge mansion and never occupies it, it is the same as if he had neither the money nor the house. What this shows is that wealth is not so much what one has, but what one does with it.
A man who has a thousand pounds and spends it on a wonderful trip to the Galapagos Islands is a rich man indeed: the experiences, the things learnt, the differences wrought in him by both, are true wealth.
If you would like to know how rich a person is, you need to ask not how much money he has, but how much he has spent.
This idea is associated with the wise teaching that the philosophers and poets of antiquity never tired of repeating: that a rich person is he who has enough.
If his needs are modest and his habits frugal, then so long as his resources provide enough to meet both, he is rich.
But the man is poor who, despite owning millions, restlessly yearns for more because he feels he cannot have enough, and in particular who lacks the things money cannot buy - ah yes, for these unpurchasable treasures can never be left out of the picture: friendship, love, a sound digestion and a reliable, natural ability to sleep at nights, are indispensable to the possibility of happiness, if not directly supplying it.
In thinking about happiness and wealth, one should avoid using the words ''happiness' and ''wealth'', and think instead of more accurate and more substantial words that denote what one truly thinks these things are.
To mention satisfaction and achievement is to suggest activity of some kind - doing and making, helping, learning, changing - which might seem obvious to most, but is chosen by surprisingly few.
Ruskin tellingly remarked ''a man wrapped up in himself makes a very small parcel'', and this, alas, characterises too many people. The limited surface area of such parcels does not attract much of the golden dust of satisfaction.
The true equation between happiness and wealth is this: that happiness is wealth. Unlike wealth in the form of money and possessions, such happiness can never be quantified, only felt; and if one has it, it does not matter if the level of it always stays the same.
- A C Grayling is professor of philosophy at Birkbeck College, University of London
“Money doesn’t make you happy,” time back my grandma insisted, while she was whipping carrots and tomatoes out of the kitchen cupboard, one fine morning. “Money doesn’t make you laugh when you are lonely, or make you full of contentment on a New Year. But wherever you are, you have to work for your living,” she added.
So, do you think that a lottery win would make you happy forever? No, a big payout won’t make that much of a difference. Winning the lottery isn’t a ticket to true happiness, however enticing it might be to imagine never working again and being able to afford anything you want.
It seems that as long as you cannot afford to avoid the basic miseries of life, having loads of spare cash doesn’t make you very much happier.
Our happiness depends on how we feel relative to our peers.
Lottery win may make you feel richer than your neighbours. You may move to a new mansion in a new locality, which may make you feel happy. But, sooner, you will realize that all your new friends are living in bigger mansions.
Happiness isn’t a quality like height, weight or income that can be easily measured. It is a complex, nebulous state that is fed by transient simple pleasures, as well as the more sustained rewards of activities.
Actually, happiness is having satisfaction and meaning in your life. It’s the propensity to feel positive emotions, and holding a sense of purpose. Happiness is not having a lot of privilege or money. It’s not a constant pleasure. It’s a broader thing: Our ability to connect with others, to have meaningful relationships, to have a better community. People who say they’re happy have strong connections and communications with other people – that is a sort of recipe for happiness. Money increases happiness until about a certain level of earning, and after that our emotional well-being doesn’t increase with income.
Close circle of friends and family is most important for happiness. The material possessions like iPhones, computers, being wealthy and owning a sports car will not provide the same level of contentment.
So, to sum up, true happiness lies in rewarding relationships, and not in material wealth and money.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author's own.
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