I was driving to a meeting yesterday and I happen to be listening to a local AM station. I usually listen to my favorite playlist on my phone, but I can replay all the songs in my head, so I thought I’d mix it up a bit.
The scheduled show at that time was Bauerle and Bellavia. They were having a lively discussion about money and how much we need to make us happy. You can find a recording of the show here, but I found it interesting that it complimented my fortune for this week.
There are certain necessities in life, like food, clothing, and shelter. We all need these to survive, but these basic necessities vary depending on what each individual deems satisfactory. There is an episode of Disney’s Phineas and Ferb, where the family is deserted on a tropical island. The boys, of course, create and extravagant Swiss Family Robinson-style tree house. Their sister Candace complains that they overdid it and wanted to know why they couldn’t have been a simple lean-to for surviving the night. Phineas looks it over and says, “There’s surviving and then there’s living.”
We can all survive on a 2000-2500 calorie diet with the proper nutrients. But let’s face it if I had to choose between eating some fortified grain meal and a juicy steak, I would choose the steak. We need to make the same decisions when it comes to what we wear and where we live. The important thing is to balance what we need to survive with how we want to live. Some of us choose a meager life and others choose opulence.
Now, we have to ask ourselves, does this opulence make us happy? Does money make us happy? What about a lot of money?
During the show, the hosts mentioned Canadian author Neil Pasricha and his best-selling book, The Happiness Equation: Want nothing + Do anything = Have everything (2016). According to Mr. Pasricha, the “Happiness Equation” is the formula for a happy life. He breaks down the formula into nine secrets for happiness, three for each part. The premise is that we have three goals:
“To want nothing. That’s contentment.
To do anything. That’s freedom.
To have everything. That’s happiness.”
The idea of not wanting can be difficult for us to wrap our heads around. This is especially true since society dictates we should want, no, need, everything that is advertised. We’ve all seen the commercials with smiling faces next to the products of choice. Cars, vacation spots, and even underwear are peddled by happy looking people.
I remember all the toys my kids had when they were little. Family and friends would buy them toys for Christmas and their birthdays. I wasn’t any better. I would find an interesting toy and thought they might like it. Their toy box overflowed with multicolored trucks, dishes, and dress-up clothes. Most of them were rarely played with more than a couple of times. They soon lost interest in them and went looking for something new.
It’s easy to believe that if that new toy can make the people on TV happy then it should make us happy too. The problem with owning all the latest and greatest is that those things really own us. We become dependent on things to keep us content. No matter how many material possessions we have, we will never truly be happy. It’s not like we can take them with us when our lives are over.
If we recognize the things that we don’t need and not fall into wanting them, we can, and will, find contentment. Through not having, we can have something better than happiness. We can have joy.