The Value Of Happiness

This essay was written for a certain application with the prompt “Write about a conventional wisdom that you have come to doubt.”

Since the beginning of mankind’s pursuit of knowledge, it has been proven time and again that the information that we may deem as factual is vulnerable to inaccuracies. From the initial hypothesis of the earth being flat to Pluto no longer being considered as a planet in our solar system, we must not be naive to think that all conventional wisdom is set in stone. In fact, even some cliches we grow up so familiar with are sometimes proven wrong, such as the age-old advice, “Money does not buy happiness”. While the life lesson behind it is admirable; to look beyond superficial qualities, it cannot be denied that “money makes the world go round”.

Even though a world of superficiality may never lead you to true happiness, in such a capitalistic world we live in, money sure can fulfil your basic needs. While money may not buy you complete happiness, neither does poverty. In order to lead a comfortable life, many will argue that education is the key to opening doors and opportunities. However, it must be acknowledged that education does not come free, whether it is in the form of the large tuition fees at the end of every college semester, or the expensive extracurricular classes, from after-school tuition to piano lessons in order for the child to get a firm upper hand from her peers. In fact, the basic necessities for survival, such as water, food, or even a roof over our heads require money, even if it is from a charitable organisation or from the government’s annual budget plan.

Yet, there is some truth to this age-old phrase. After fulfilling your needs of survival, there is only so much money can bring to your life. Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs highlights our intrinsic desires for self-care and shared love and no amount of money can simply serve that to you on a silver platter. Therefore, upon stumbling on a Time article, I highly agree with  Dan Gilbert, Harvard University psychology professor when he explains how money may provide you with joy, but only if you spend it right. According to him, in order to secure happiness with money, you need to “buy moments, not stuff”. Research concurs, by stating that 57% of respondents of a study experienced greater happiness when spending on experiential purchases instead of material possessions. This comes as no surprise to me. Take a look at the term “bucket list”. It is reserved for goals and experiential aspirations for those coming face to face with their mortality. Here, we see how living life to the fullest to many refers to doing things not having things. That is why it is way more common to see “travel the world” instead of “buy new shoes” on anyone’s bucket list.

Hence, although the sentiment behind the conventional wisdom “money can’t buy you happiness” highlights the importance of prioritising your values over material possessions, one cannot deny that in order to lead a life without fretting over the bills and next month’s rent, money plays a key role. When used wisely, money can lead to happiness, but only if you keep your sights on what is most important;  health, relationships, growth, contribution and community. It is important, however, to know that money is the currency that provides you with certain needs, so that we may acknowledge that there are many others who do not have the privilege and therefore would find a certain happiness when having enough to spend.

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