Happiness First, Money Later

We live in a success and money driven culture. If you doubt the truthfulness of that cliché, I’ll refer you to competitive reality TV, your office, the lottery, and just about any marketing or money-based blog on the web. From the first day that we understand its power, we’re made to believe that money is the end-all of human happiness and achievement.

Unfortunately for young professionals with big career ambitions, the mantra of “more money means the good life” leads to more sorrow than it does to happiness.

No Regrets

The sad truth is that young professionals who aspire to monetary success (and who doesn’t?) often make comprises in all other aspects of their life in order to make the big bucks. Our society almost encourages the sacrifice of personal happiness for the sake of material success. But what is success if it can’t be shared or appreciated among loved ones? What is a life’s worth of work if you don’t take a moment to stop and enjoy it?

The Guardian recently published a compelling piece about the five biggest regrets of people about to meet their maker. The author explains that most people regret that they didn’t lead the life they wanted to lead, or they regret that they worked too hard in life at the expense of those they loved. It’s a revealing story that drives home the need for many professionals to reprioritize their lives. There’s no way that someone can lead a happy and healthy life with money as the top priority.

Personal over Material

My suggestion for such a reprioritization is a simple one: personal happiness first, and money and material gain later.

What exactly is personal happiness, you ask? I would define personal happiness as a state of contentment attained by establishing healthy and enriching relationships with those close to you. Personal happiness is about stopping to appreciate those in your life. It’s also about achieving some sense of self worth that isn’t derived from career performance or monetary gain. In other words, personal happiness is something achieved completely outside of the realm of conventional success. It stems from a rewarding friendship or a hobby that stimulates your intellectual curiosity. It’s the satisfaction of learning something new on your own simply because you want to do it. It’s the feeling that, if you don’t become a millionaire overnight, you’ll still be alright with your life.

Putting happiness first is a harder sell for young professionals hungry for the success that they’ve dreamt of all their lives. To them, time spent on sentimental, nonmaterial things is time wasted. But these fast-paced young professionals don’t understand that the wealth they strive so hard to attain—if they indeed attain it at all—won’t come until later in life, leaving them precious little time to “enjoy” it. Don’t let it happen to you.

I’m not advocating that everyone quits their high-stress jobs so that they can attain true happiness. This isn’t a complete renouncement of our largely materialistic world. No, this is merely a plea to the overworked and money-obsessed among us who spend the vast majority of their spare time crunching numbers and dreaming of six figures. Six figures might be nice, but living a full and happy life would be much nicer.

How do you prioritize your happiness?

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This guest post is contributed by Katheryn Rivas, who writes on the topics of online university.  She welcomes your comments at her email Id: katherynrivas87@gmail.com.

Photo credit: ‘Happiness’ from Big Stock Photo