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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?

Comments (18)

  • SlikRick's picture

    I think there is a lot to say about being financially secure. I aim to travel, do philanthropic work, seek new adventures in life, etc. However, given my risk-averse personality, I can't see myself doing these activities until I'm financially secure. By working hard in your 20's, you set yourself up for a much more enjoyable 30's. Compare this to friends who work standard wage jobs in their 20's, get married/have children in their late 20's, and have to work twice as hard in their 30's to keep up their lifestyle. For me, there is an end-goal in mind: Make enough money so that if I were to get pulled over by a cop and written up for a $400 ticket, that it wouldn't impact my mood or day. That I could call it a mistake and be done with it. On 45K a year, you'll definitely have to reassess your spending that month. I make a decent living, but getting pulled over still makes me rethink if I should rack up a bar tab or try that nice restaurant the following weekend. Until then, I'm getting back to this PowerPoint deck.

  • koopatroopa's picture

    Happiness is probably the higher goal, people want to make more money to be happier, not the other way around. But financial security prevents you from being miserable (can handle things if something unexpected comes up without stressing too much.

  • lbreitst's picture

    I'm sure many monkeys like myself find themselves trapped in this paradox. We push ourselves as hard as we can to make money and achieve happiness, coincidentally sacrificing happiness and developing the inability to be happy with what we have in the process.

    I think this is because our brains are wired to do so and I think they are wired this way because of how strong our culture and our evolutionary ways press this upon us. We grow up in a world that stresses materialism and the "pursuit of happiness" rather than the Buddhist culture of finding happiness in an absence of materialism. The whole culture of Wall Street is based upon the myth of working your ass off and doing anything to live the big life of models and bottles which is supposedly when happiness is finally reached. I find myself trapped in the pursuit of doing whatever it takes to "succeed" at the cost of happiness, yet even though I realize how wrong this is it is hard to break the impression our culture has made on us.

    Also, I think there is some evolutionary aspect to it where by nature the fittest push themselves the hardest. Being happy and content with mediocrity does not help one's survival, so I think we're somewhat instinctively wired to constantly look to better our situation. If mankind was wired to be ok with the status quo, cavemen would have had problems upgrading their living conditions, hunting techniques, and technology.

  • islandbanker's picture

    jntheriot504:
    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.

    This is a generalization that does not hold. I have met these types and many of them seemed to be leading a questionable existence, were moderately happy, and didn't appear too interesting. Traveling for the sake of traveling does not make one inherently happy or interesting.

  • IamObama's picture

    What if winning and being the absolute best at what you do makes you happy? What if winning is the fix you need. What if you work so hard not for money, but for that high you get off of being the absolute fucking best out there. Why do you think sports athletes work so hard? What is the true motivational factor for the best players out there (think Jordan, Mo Rivera, Tiger Woods)? Is it the money? No...of course the money is important, but they aren't driven by money, they are driven by being the absolute fucking best, and which is why they work so hard. Not everyone just works hard to make more money....

  • Tommy Too-toned's picture

    Relationships are probably the biggest determinant of happiness. People pursue jobs and money to surround themselves with people with similar interests. The reason you found the travellers interesting is because they had similar values to you. If you don't want to be a banker or lawyer or doctor, there are going to be people out there who make judgements about you, and they may very well be false. You'll just have to take it in stride and find people who are able to see past it. Americans have certainly glamourized professions like law and banking and it's easier to earn the approval of others if you take that path. It's all relative though. If you go to some places in Europe, South America etc it's not like the cute girl u meet is gonna care if you work for Goldman instead of RBC.

    Life is a joke in North America if you think about what you have to deal with. You'll probably swing by Starbucks today, grab a burger, maybe a gourmet taco, go home to a comfortable bed, watch some TV. It's not like you're gonna die making 45K...it's just that other people might not give you respect and you'll have to deal with that.

    I dunno job wise though. If you have what it takes to be a banker or something similar, you'll feel like a zombie working most F500 jobs. Guess the challenge will be to find a job that's reasonably challenging without insane hours.

  • moneymogul's picture

    Happiness is fleeting. Happiness is a choice. I don't believe that it's in our nature to constantly seek out happiness, but to get pleasure out of making successful strides towards an overall goal.

    I want money not to buy a bunch of stuff, but because I am a competitive male and it's one of the things I've chosen to place value on in life; considering that our lives have no real purpose, we have to create our own.

    “Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren't used to an environment where excellence is expected.” - Jobs

  • karypto's picture

    By all means work hard in your 20s to settle down with a woman in your 30s.

  • jntheriot504's picture

    After reading through the comments it appears the overall consensus is that people, males particularly, work in finance for the competitive nature of the job as it forces them to be the best person they can be. Now, since money is a quantifiable measurement it does allow a way to score who is performing better at their jobs; fueling the competition. Given that competition and striving to be the best appears the main motivator, why we do not find different avenues to fuel our competitive nature instead of working a hundred hours a week?

    Personally, to fuel my competitive side I started to sign up for local running races. The first race I completed was a half marathon, in which 25,000 of people completed. Afterwards, I was not satisfied with the 13.1 miles or my time, but being that I did not care so much about my time I decided I need to go further, which lead me to ultra-marathons. During the time I finished my half marathon I completed in few Olympic distance triathlons. Now in my mind I thought I was in good shape, yet when you complete a 55km race on a single track trail through the mountains, you learn a lot more about yourself than you care to admit. I have completed a few other 50km trail races and I am now training for the 50 miler and 100km distances. Even though the races are timed, the competitiveness is primarily with yourself. Sure you can also brag to your co-workers that you are running dumb distances while Oprah has out run them, but that just makes you a douche bag no-one cares to be around.

    My point; is there not a way we can fuel that competitive drive we all have, without sitting at our desks for hours. I'm not advocating everyone start running ultra-marathons because the majority of people find that equally as ludicrous as working 100 hours per week. I pose this question: If you did not have to work a single day in your life, what would you do that would force you to be the best person you can be while fueling your need for competition?

    “I am always saying "Glad to've met you" to somebody I'm not at all glad I met. If you want to stay alive, you have to say that stuff, though.”
    ― J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

  • leveredarb's picture

    there's an element of causation vs correlation, the guys that make $45k a year and chill are likely happier because more chilled, happy people that don't give a fuck go to those jobs. Id be fucking miserable living that sort of life personally lol.

    to the poster above, or more general, can anyone explain the allure of marathons to me? Bankers for some reason love that shit as well. I did some running but its just such an incredible boring activity, there is zero skill involved, all just endurance, sounds fkin horrible to me. Guess that's why bankers love marathon running, zero skill in banking all just endurance lol...

  • In reply to leveredarb
    jntheriot504's picture

    leveredarb:
    I did some running but its just such an incredible boring activity, there is zero skill involved, all just endurance, sounds fkin horrible to me. Guess that's why bankers love marathon running, zero skill in banking all just endurance lol...

    Yes, most people can go run 5km without any real skill, the same can said about the average person investing in the stock market making 5% gains. Once you move beyond the neighborhood jogger or the CNBC investor is when skill becomes necessary in succeeding. Being in the mountains for 7-12 hours running is about a lot more than endurance, I would say it only makes up 40-60% depending on distance and difficulty. Falling over on the side of the trail at mile 22 because all the muscles in your legs have cramped up without anyone in sight and still knowing your have 10 miles to run forces you to know yourself better than anything else I have done. That is the allure; being out there, disciplining yourself and having the knowledge once you finish anything is possible.

    “I am always saying "Glad to've met you" to somebody I'm not at all glad I met. If you want to stay alive, you have to say that stuff, though.”
    ― J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

  • Oxy-Gen's picture

    True,certain happiness is in helping others, particularly those who are not accustomed to being good done to them.In reaching out to the lower echelons of society and at least trying to make a change in their life; Soaking in nature wherever you go,reveling in music,books and on top of all that living a secluded life with 'the' loved ones.

    Give, if not already, 1% of your income towards something you would honestly love to do, but cannot do now. Any cause you support. Do this and feel the immensity and purity of true happiness,which is real when shared.

  • Gangsta Killah Blood's picture

    I think a banker's pursuit of maximum wealth comes from a variety of factors. Money obviously equals security, and this is paramount in Anglo Saxon countries where we thrown into the rat race at an early age. There was a post here recently on adversity -- this is similar to the competition aspect; a sizable portion of bankers come from competitive or underdog type backgrounds (athletes, military, poverty etc.). I don't know many people that become bankers to be "happy". In fact, living your life for the sole purpose of fulfilling one emotion seems pretty empty to me. Therefore, for whatever reason (if I was brainwashed from an early age or whatever), to me success>happiness. Also, I see you have some Buddhist monks in your picture, I recommend you read some of the works by Thich Nhat Hanh; he says to live life is to live in the present.

  • In reply to Gangsta Killah Blood
    jntheriot504's picture

    Gangsta Killah Blood:
    Also, I see you have some Buddhist monks in your picture, I recommend you read some of the works by Thich Nhat Hanh; he says to live life is to live in the present.

    I find it difficult to comprehend the paraphrasing of Thich Nhat Hanh stating to live life in the present. Life in finance is far from living in the present. Buddist philosophy simply states:

    Kalupahana':
    It may not be far from the truth to say that this attitude of renunciation is behind every moral virtue. Not only those who leave everyday life and embrace the life of a monk, but everyone is expected to practice renunciation to the extent to which he is able. Without such sacrifices, there cannot be perfect harmony in society. Thus, even the simplest of virtues, such as generosity, liberality, caring for one's parents, family, fellow beings and others cannot be practiced without an element of renunciation or sacrifice. This is the 'sacrifice' the Buddha emphasized.

    “I am always saying "Glad to've met you" to somebody I'm not at all glad I met. If you want to stay alive, you have to say that stuff, though.”
    ― J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

  • In reply to jntheriot504
    Gangsta Killah Blood's picture

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  • CalTex Analyst's picture

    "Utter commitment to the task at hand."

  • In reply to Gangsta Killah Blood
    jntheriot504's picture

    “I am always saying "Glad to've met you" to somebody I'm not at all glad I met. If you want to stay alive, you have to say that stuff, though.”
    ― J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

  • In reply to CalTex Analyst
    jntheriot504's picture

    “I am always saying "Glad to've met you" to somebody I'm not at all glad I met. If you want to stay alive, you have to say that stuff, though.”
    ― J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye