Money, Happiness, Work and Life

Money, Happiness, Work and Life

 I came across this interesting article on the Guardian website:

It is based on a number of surveys and views of psychologists about whether or not having more money makes people happier. The research was based on data from ONC (Office for National Statistics) in the UK and showed that ‘there is a clear link between household wealth and happiness, life satisfaction and personal sense of worth’. However, the article then goes on to quote billionaire John Caudwell, founder of Phones4U who put his happiness level at just one or two out of ten but contrasts this with a statement made by the actor Bo Derek who one claimed: “Whoever said money cant buy happiness simply didn't know where to go shopping.”

 Clearly different people have different interpretations and experiences, which isn’t really surprising. The question I was interested in is what can I do for myself to make my life as happy as possible? I recently read Paul Dolan’s book ‘Happiness by Design’ and was struck by some of his analysis and in particular the investigation into Pleasurable activities and Purposeful activities. By way of précis he believes that we can design our lives to maximize our wellbeing. Here are my thoughts:

 The concept of Work life balance is a fallacy.

Not because it isn’t important to consider both but because I think it is more about ‘Life’ – some of which includes paid activity and some of which we choose to do unpaid. Dolan’s description of happiness recognizes that doing some purposeful activities can bring us happiness as much as purely pleasurable activities. He describes the simple pleasures of a beer with his mates as ‘happy’ but also describes sweating to help a friend move house, whilst not exactly pleasurable, made him happy. The mix of pleasure vs purpose varies from one person to another but at the end of the day, we have one life and to enjoy it we have to find happiness in all that we do, whether at work or at play, whether we are doing purposeful or pleasurable activities.

 You do have the power to change your life for the better.

I like the expression ‘you get what you tolerate’. We have a tendency to blame others for our lack of success, failure on the job, missed promotion, burned dinner etc. but one thing we do have control over is ourselves, how we behave, how we respond and whether we choose to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to something or someone. Realizing that we have this power and choosing to exercise it can be liberating. In order to move from abstract to concrete here are some specific suggestions. This is my list of questions, which I try to consider at the end of every day, you may want to create your own list:


  • What went well, why and how do I do more of this?
  • What went less well, why and how do I deal with it differently in future?
  • How did I respond to these ‘good’ or ‘bad’ outcomes and how did that affect me? (Stuff out of my control happens but how I respond to it is in my control – was my behaviour appropriate?)
  • What did I procrastinate over today and should I attend to it tomorrow or can I safely ignore it?
  • What do I want tomorrow to be like and how can I contribute to making it a ‘good’ day?


I ask these questions within a framework of: What is my purpose?

Not a trite question in any sense. Being clear about what we want our lives to look like, what our values are, what principles we live by and where we belong are key to having a sense of direction. How many people sit down and explicitly describe this? Few of us know we want to be the proverbial train driver when we grow up but what we can do is define what sort of things we are good at, what sort of environments we work well in and build on this knowledge to actively direct our lives. Often friends, family or colleagues can provide objective insight – why not ask for it?

Okay, I could go on to list a hundred factors and there will be a hundred more but the point is, do you know what matters to you, how to live with integrity and direction and what you need to do to make things better rather than accept the status quo? Everyone is different but there are some common themes, which apply to us all and these tend to include direction, focus, freedom and autonomy. They have to include doing things that we value, with people who support us and share some of our values. We usually need some variety in our lives. We also need some certainty. Each of us sits at our own point on a spectrum of these and many more preferences and finding, recognizing then actively working with what matters to us moves us forward.

Back to the survey on happiness then, is it any surprise that more money doesn’t necessarily equate to more happiness? So if you want to be happier how do you go about finding your direction then steering an appropriate course. My suggestion is play to your strengths – if you are a reader then there is plenty of guidance in print so do some analysis and test what works for you. If you are more of a listener or you learn better by doing look for courses or coaches or seek a mentor. If you just need to get on and do yourself then enroll the help of friends, family and colleagues and make a bold statement about what you are going to do. Then do it, reflect, learn and adapt again. Remember, you get what you tolerate so the question is what will you tolerate in terms of happiness in your life?

Thanks for reading