Don’t Rely on Numbers to Determine Your Happiness

sage of happiness

I just read an article at BBC “Why Money Can’t Buy You Happiness

BBC points to a study by Christopher Hsee of the Chicago School of Business:

[P]articipants were offered the option of working at a 6-minute task for a gallon of vanilla ice cream reward, or a 7-minute task for a gallon of pistachio ice cream. Under normal conditions, less than 30% of people chose the 7-minute task, mainly because they liked pistachio ice cream more than vanilla. For happiness scholars, this isn’t hard to interpret –those who preferred pistachio ice cream had enough motivation to choose the longer task. But the experiment had a vital extra comparison. Another group of participants were offered the same choice, but with an intervening points system: the choice was between working for 6 minutes to earn 60 points, or 7 minutes to earn 100 points. With 50-99 points, participants were told they could receive a gallon of vanilla ice cream. For 100 points they could receive a gallon of pistachio ice cream. Although the actions and the effects are the same, introducing the points system dramatically affected the choices people made. Now, the majority chose the longer task and earn the 100 points, which they could spend on the pistachio reward—even though the same proportion (about 70%) still said they preferred vanilla.

The participants in the study were focusing on getting the most points although it does not maximize their happiness.

How often do we make the same mistake?

  • We want the highest number of salary possible although it comes from the job that we hate
  • We want the latest and most expensive gadget although using it frustrates us
  • We eat at an expensive restaurant, order the most exquisite cuisine that we do not like at all

We often think that the higher the number, the happier we become…well, it does not work that way. So what should we do?

So next time you are buying a lottery ticket because of the amount it is paying out, or choosing wine by looking at the price, or comparing jobs by looking at the salaries, you might do well to remember to think hard about how much the bet, wine, or job will really promote your happiness, rather than simply relying on the numbers to do the comparison. Money doesn’t buy you happiness, and part of the reason for that might be that money itself distracts us from what we really enjoy.

If you have the money, use it wisely to promote your happiness.

More often, the things that make us happy do not involve money all all, like:

  • spending time with your friends at home,
  • listening to your music collection, watching DVDs, reading books
  • enjoying the quietness and solitude at home
  • watching endless waves breaking at the beach (I really miss Cottesloe beach, WA)

Choose your own happiness! Do not let the numbers dictate you!

Learn and Grow!

Inge Santoso, B Com, CFP®

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