July 28, 2012

Wealth and Happiness


Have you ever bought something you had been wanting for years, yet once you bought it, you were not any happier? And well, perhaps you were happy. But how many days did your happiness last? 1 day? 3 days? 1 week? Do you agree with me that happiness is not determined by wealth, by how much money you have, or how many houses and cars and mobile phones you have? Raise your hand if you agree.

I have never agreed that money is the most important thing in the world. I remember that day when I spoke to my in-law about my future job. He worked in a famous company in Indonesia – and he got paid really well – while I was just a graduate student looking for her dream job. I wanted to be a sport journalist. I had been dreaming of being a journalist since I knew what a dream job was. And when I told my in-law about it, he said, “Being a journalist won’t give you lots of money.” I, on the other hand, said, “I don’t look for money. I look for a job that I know will bring me joy when I’m doing it.” Surprisingly, my in-law laughed and replied, “When you’re at my age, you’ll know that money is everything.”

I didn’t agree with him – and still don’t. Yes, I admit that money is important. We can’t buy food to eat if we don’t have money. However, money is not the most important thing in the world. What about love? What about generosity? What about happiness? I saw people on the street, whom I believed didn’t have more money than I did, and they were happy! Seriously, they smiled and they didn’t seem to worry about what to eat tomorrow.

When I first knew that I would teach for a summer camp, I was happy. I finally got my first teaching job in Spain. Yet, when I had to stay for 2 weeks in Ronda, far from where my husband was, that job seemed meaningless to me. For the first time in my life, I realized that money doesn’t give you happiness. And yes, I was happy because I had a job – a 10-hour of happiness, but on the other hand, I was devastated because I was away from my husband. I realized that being with him meant so much to me. It was something money couldn’t buy; togetherness. That’s when I made a conclusion: wealth doesn’t determine your happiness.

We tend to think that wealth brings us happiness. Why? Because when we have the money we need, we can buy things we want – houses, cars, DVD players, shoes, clothes, bags, etc. – and we think, and believe, that those things make us happy. We believe that in order to be happy, we need to have things we want. And yes, those things bring you happiness. You will be happy, but it won’t last forever! As soon as you want another thing, a bigger and probably more expensive one, your happiness will vanish and you believe you won’t be happy until you manage to buy or have that thing.

I am not going to say that I am always in a state of happiness all the time – I am not a saint. However, I do know the secret of happiness – my secret of happiness: to appreciate what you have already had and to be grateful for each of them. Happiness is, after all, a matter of choices.

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