Can you tell the difference between the abstract and the concrete forms of happiness? In the abstract form it means that money can be used to buy material things to make one happy. The concrete form comes in many forms and is different for everyone. It can be a warm sunny day, a pleasant smile from a stranger, a kind word to or from a loved one, the smell of coffee or the sound of rain. Our economic, social and political system is structured to function and work around money and the focus is thus on the abstract.
Last week I met with some fellow finance colleagues and we were talking about the usual finance stuff our clients, their portfolio the composition of the portfolio, etc. Then I asked “Why are you guys in this business? What’s your ultimate goal?” At first I got a blank stare as if to say isn’t it obvious we want to be successful and make our clients successful. What are you asking us!
It took some probing to get them to drill down to the main reason why they were working so hard. Most of the reasons were to provide financial security for themselves and their family. This was obvious and practical. Then I asked does financial security bring happiness? Now I started getting some weird stares and after they checked my coffee to make sure it was not spiked, we headed down the proverbial rabbit hole!
Some of my colleagues realized that they never took the time to ask this question. It is the default assumption that if we have financial security, we will be happy. Most of us default to this notion. In the pursuit of making the money only a few know how to really balance being financially stable and really being happy. The trick is to be practical and strive for financial success while maintaining your health, peace of mind and a strong relationship with family and friends.
Where do you find happiness in your bank account, in drink, in chocolate with others? If you do what’s wrong with that? Well, they can all possibly disappear. There could be a financial crisis and you lose all your money, you may have drunk too much and have to go to rehab, eating too much forces you to go to weight watchers and , divorce and separation can tear people away from your life. There is an end to all these things, when this happens where do you turn to find your happiness?
Making money and being happy are not conflicting goals. If anything they are correlative. They feed off each other to produce a virtuous cycle. But before this can happen, we have to know what we want from life and ensure that we are not swayed more to one side that the other. It is not a science, but rather an art in balancing both.
I want to leave you with a question “Is happiness important to you and if it is, does it matter to you where it comes from? Do you want your happiness to be dependent on outside material things and people or would you rather it be generated from inside where it is independent of external forces?
Let’s open up the discussion.