Dear Jesse: Happiness Comes From Within Yourself

“Money can’t buy you happiness.” You’ll hear this when you get older followed by, “Only rich people say that.” I can see both points of view, but don’t confuse lack of money stress to happiness.  Happiness can only come from within and no amount of money or cars or outside things will bring you joy.

I read a report once about the link between enjoyment of life and the amount of money people make. Sixty thousand dollars seems to be the dividing line. The further down from sixty you go the less happy people are with their lives. After one starts making sixty thousand the responses were more positive from the participants. As a matter of fact, the relative happiness of people didn’t change much no matter how much more than $60k they made.

Sixty thousand isn’t a magical number; it just seems  $60k is the number where most people’s basic needs are met and so the stress associated with not having enough money is much less than for people making under that level. There’s a huge difference between not stressing out about money and being happy, though.

“Only rich people say that.” If you are a miserable person (someone who is unhappy all the time…don’t worry you’ll meet a bunch in your lifetime) without money you’ll also be a miserable person with money. If you are not happy with yourself, if you don’t like yourself, nothing you buy will bring any kind of lasting joy.

There are plenty of miserable rich people out there. People who never have enough of anything, who are constantly striving for more things in their portfolio to show people because they have a void in their life they are trying to fill. There is nothing out there in the big world that will fill your void if you don’t like yourself and aren’t happy.

I’m not telling you to sit around and not strive for success. By all means…get out there and be successful! Some of the greatest people I have met are people who like themselves AND have money and success. On the other hand, people who choose to live simply, who don’t have a lot of anything, are also tremendous people. Because they like themselves and don’t feel a need to impress other people or fill a void which is already filled with love and self respect.

If you find yourself, Jesse, not feeling good about life don’t bother trying to buy things to make yourself happy. And please don’t go into debt doing it! Stop your life and look around. Why are you unhappy? Talk with people; get therapy; talk with your parents. When you figure out what’s holding back your happiness…change that thing or rid your life of that thing.

You should have a basic level of happiness and add things to your life which grow your baseline. Make $100k a year? Great! Now you can save for retirement and take care of your mom and Janet. Have a best friend you love and adore? Wonderful! Go to Europe after graduation and have a ball. Meet the love of your life, have kids and grow old together? Super!

These things should add to your happiness, not MAKE you happy. Trust me, there are people who will do all these things and still be unhappy without knowing why. And there are people who have done none of these things and still enjoy every minute of their lives.

Money can’t buy you happiness, no (it can make life a lot easier, though) because true happiness comes from within each of us. Be happy, embrace yourself and live the life you want to live.

Love, Mom

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Filed under Advice to kids, Letters to Jessie

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