Finding happiness in our lives is a state of mind we all seek, yet we often uncover that it is difficult to truly achieve this mental state. Culture has dictated that to truly be happy with must first be financially secure. This is true to a certain extent however what is the proper amount we need to be financially secure? Determining the correct amount is obviously a personal choice but understanding what brings you happiness will allow a more accurate number that is actually attainable.
However, the first obstacle we confront is establishing the moments in life that made us truly happy. Studies have shown that family, travel (experiences) and philanthropy create lasting happiness. These are quite simple to understand and accept however many of us still seek to earn more money thinking it will make us happier even though family, travel and philanthropy can occur on a decent income e.g., $45,000. The question then remains,what drives us to work longer hours in order to earn a larger paycheck?
Part of the problem I believe is our cultural need to acquire an unnecessary amount of needless items as a status symbol of success. Nothing could be further from the truth. Couples who are married have been shown to lead happier lives; those who are married for the correct reasons. However, those aspiring to work jobs that require 100 hour work weeks will never have the time to actually meet someone or they never will be able to spend quality time with their significant other, negating the purpose of marriage, solidifying the statement, married to their jobs.
On the other hand it is understandable that some people do not want to get married, but people do find lasting happiness through their memories in which they have traveled, gone into the world and experienced it firsthand. Once again American culture has dictated that taking a significant amount of time off and away from your career is a sign of unreliability, non-career driven. Though the people I have met while traveling have been doing so for three to twelve months and were the happiest, most interesting people I have ever met. Confirming the idea that travel is more than ten days spent away from the office, but a way of life in which we continue to explore not only the world but ourselves in the process.
Furthermore, in our busy lives most people do not want to spend their free time doing volunteer work. Moreover, philanthropic work is usually reserved for the super-wealthy but volunteering at a local organization during your spare time is technically philanthropic work and equally as rewarding. Giving back under your own freewill fulfills your life with meaning that cannot be found in the office. Spending more time in the office has never brought anyone a greater sense of satisfaction. Devoting a few hours a month to a cause in which you believe in will provide your life with a non-monetary purpose, which cannot be quantified.
Overall, family, travel and philanthropy can be done together. Working holidays (outside of your company) is an idea that is foreign to most Americans. Yet, many developing nations have organizations seeking volunteers to devote as much time as they are willing to give. Flying to Uganda with your spouse for a month working with children who were once soldiers will create lasting memories, a true sense of happiness and realign your moral compass. Nevertheless, most of will continue to work long hours in our office jobs in search of the all mighty dollar but the question remains, why do we continue down this path knowing happiness is found elsewhere?