Surely, you have, like me, thought about how nice t would be to win the lottery. How about hitting jackpot and getting a few millions to spend. Just one million would actually be good enough for me. How many of us haven’t fantasized of what we could do with the money? Our eyes glaze over as we think out loud: Pay off the mortgage on the house. Or even getting a new house. At least a house extension. Get a cabin in the mountain, or how about a beach house in Spain? Get a new car, perhaps two. Go on an exclusive holiday somewhere exotic. Renew the whole wardrobe for the whole family. Put money in the kids’ education fund. And, just to be fair, and to appear like justice counts: Give a lump sum to charity.
With a few millions in my bank account my life’s worries would be over. I could lay back on my newly landscaped terrace and love life.
My daughter, who is 17, spoke words of wisdom the other day. We were driving home and she was in a contemplative mood. She has more money to spend than she has ever had now. She is working shifts at the local pizza baker. She has money to buy clothes and make up. And that is mostly what 17-year olds need. And of course, some lattes with friends.
I feel sad, she said. And I wondered why. I feel sad, because I don’t feel the same joy when I get stuff as I used to. I just have started taking things for granted. I used to be so excited when I got gifts, and so thankful for anything new. Now I just look at it and think: yeah, nice. And then I feel no joy. With 17-year old wisdom she said: I can now, with confidence, say that money doesn’t buy happiness.
Oh, how I wish the rest of the world would see what she has already seen. Oh, how I wish that I could see it sometimes as I look at the outfits I want, but can’t afford, as I hear about vacations so dreamy and expensive and know that they are too far off for me. How I wish that I would be better at looking at life through my daughter’s eyes and ask myself: Am I sure that those things actually will make me happy? Perhaps for a moment they will, but will the joy last?
I am reading a book right now that I think will be very interesting. (It already is, at page three). It is called Flow and is written by a man whose name is so hard that I am sure he is the only one who can spell it right: Mihaly Csikszentmhalyi.
In the introduction he says: Happiness is not something that happens. It is not the result of good fortune or random chance. It is not something that money can buy or power command. It does not depend on outside events, but rather on how we interpret them. Happiness, in fact, is a condition that must be prepared for, cultivated, and defended privately by each person.
In a few more words, he said what Elise, my daughter also said. Money, stuff, or good fortune is not what make us happy. Happiness is something we make ourselves, independent of our circumstances.
Worth thinking about today. Isn’t it?