The Happiness Connection  

It's not about the money

If you want to live a happy life, is it more important to have:

  • a) Freedom of choice?
  • b) Money?

If your brain is screaming, “The answer is b," then it’s time to look at some research carried out at the Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand.

Doctors Ronald Fischer and Diana Boer studied data taken from over 420,000 people from 63 countries spanning 40 years. They were interested in discovering whether wealth, or individualism (the opportunity to make your own decisions) was a greater predictor of happiness?

Was the link between happiness and money stronger, or weaker than the link between happiness and freedom of choice?

The doctors observed a very consistent and robust finding that individualism was a better predictor of happiness than money was.

In other words, people who were given the opportunity to make choices and decisions for themselves consistently ranked their level of happiness higher than those people who didn’t feel they had freedom of choice.

Having, or not having money, did not necessarily reflect how happy a person was.

The research also showed that for subjects who believed money was important to their happiness, that belief disappeared when it was compared to having freedom of choice in their lives.

It seems that although money may be something you desire, you don’t want it at the expense of free will.

Whenever I write about research that is looking at the link between money and happiness, I feel it is important to clarify an important exception.

Research repeatedly shows that we need enough money to meet our basic needs– to take it “off the table”, so to speak, but once you reach that point, having more wealth doesn’t make you significantly happier.

Having the ability to make choices in your life will increase your sense of well-being — as long as you don’t have too much of it.

Not having autonomy or control over your life can cause unhappiness, but so can having too much of it. Being micro-managed, or being left without any guidance are both detrimental to your sense happiness.

Too much or too little personal influence will have equally negative effects.

Tips to increase your level of choice, and decision making:

  • If you have certain tasks that have been assigned to you, decide for yourself the order you will do them 
  • Make decisions that you are happy with, rather than ones based on guilt and obligation
  • Try a new skill or activity you have always wanted to try
  • Set yourself a personal goal, and work toward attaining it
  • Remember that you have the power to say no

Tips to decrease your level of choice and decision making:

  • Ask for guidance if you aren’t sure what you are doing
  • Ask for opinions and advice before you make your decision
  • Find partners, and team members to collaborate with
  • Find opportunities to let someone else make a decision, and take responsibility for it

You have a comfort zone when it comes to control and personal influence; the size of that zone isn’t the same for everyone, but living in that autonomy comfort zone will definitely increase your feelings of happiness.

Living outside it — being micro-managed or just set free to figure it out — are both detrimental to your sense of well-being.

With a little practice, you can find that freedom of choice comfort zone, and use it to your happiness advantage.

More The Happiness Connection articles

About the Author

Reen Rose is an experienced, informative, and engaging speaker, author, and educator. She has worked for over three decades in the world of education, teaching children and adults in Canada and England.

Research shows that happy people are better leaders, more successful, and healthier than their unhappy counterparts, and yet so many people still believe that happiness is a result of their circumstances.

Happiness is a choice. Reen’s presentations and workshops are designed to help you become robustly happy. This is her term for happiness that can withstand challenge and change.

Reen blends research-based expertise, storytelling, humour, and practical strategies to both inform and inspire. She is a Myers Briggs certified practitioner, a Microsoft Office certified trainer and a qualified and experienced teacher.

Email Reen at [email protected]

Check out her websites at www.ReenRose.com, or www.ModellingHappiness.com

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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