University of California, Berkeley

Want To Be Happy? Seek Respect, Not Money

According to research conducted by the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, overall happiness is more related to how much you are respected and expected by those around you than the status that comes from how much money you have in your bank account .

After considering all the evidence that higher socioeconomic status (higher income, wealth, or education) does not increase happiness and realizing that many theories suggest it should, the psychologists at Cal Berkeley decided to study the matter further.

They wanted to find out if higher socioeconomic status does not improve well-being or happiness, what does.

So they conducted a series of four studies.

And they discovered that the relationship between socialeconomic status and well-being could be explained, at least in part, by the sense of power and social acceptance people felt in their personal relationships.

"If someone's standing in their local ladder went up or down, so did their happiness …" said Cameron Anderson, the study's author. Anderson goes on to explain, "One of the reasons why money does not buy happiness is that people quickly adapt to the new level of income or wealth. Lottery winners, for example, are initially happy but then return to their original level of happiness quickly. "

Anderson surmises that kind of adaptation may not occur with local status, stating that "being respected, having influence, and being social integrated just never gets old."

Since I began studying happiness research a year ago, I have discovered study after study pointing to the fact that money does not buy happiness.

Yes, some studies indicate that up to a certain level (research says $ 75,000 a year) money does make our lives better. There's certainly the security factor of knowing that your basic needs are taken care of and that you can support yourself or your family. But beyond that, it's pretty clear it's not the money, or even all the things it can buy, that makes us happy.

Yet, that's the way our world is set up, is not it?

We're conditioned to believe more is better. We're surrounded daily by marketing messages on television, radio, the Internet, and even from self-help gurus, that the goal is to own nice stuff, make more money, build bigger, more successful and profitable businesses. And it's implied that these are the things that will make us happy.

I'm sure the research scientists will continue to study this subject.

As long as we resist the conclusions of all the research done to date, and continue to buy into the idea that more is better-and is the path to a happy life-researchers will continue to try to prove, or disprove, that theory.

I suggest you conduct your own research.

Consider your life today and your level of happiness, well-being, and peace. Look around. How much money do you have in the bank? How much are you making per year? How much stuff do you own? Now, compare today's benchmark with a point in the past when you had less. And ask yourself, am I happier today than I was then?

Yes, it's nice to have money in the bank.

To be able to say you have a successful business that makes six or seven figures a year. To own a nice home (or homes), a nice car, and have nice stuff.

However, if you're like me and the vast majority of people I have interviewed, you've discovered that's not what really makes you happy. In fact, the majority of people I've talked to have less now than five years ago, yet are happier now.

It's also not what Bronnie Ware, author of Regrets of the Dying found in her work with hospice patients. At the end of their lives, it was not the stuff and the success they wished they had more of. Rather, they wished they had the courage to be more true to themselves, not work so hard, expressed their true feelings more often, stayed in touch with friends, and let themselves be happier.

I hope we all do not have to get to the end of our lives to finally accept this truth.

Follow us