There’s a story told that about a financial planner who was on holidays in Mexico. He was walking along the beach when he came to a fisherman sitting on a wharf, his feet hanging off the edge as he played guitar.
“Is that your boat?” the planner asked the fisherman.
“It is,” he replied.
They talked about the fishing in the area and the financial planner learned that the man had one boat and was a skilled fisherman, having learned from the generations before him.
“What do you like to do with your time when you aren’t fishing?” the planner asked the fisherman.
“I like to sit here and play my guitar. I play soccer with my children over there on the beach. I enjoy having a beer with my good friends and spending time with my wife,” the fisherman replied.
“You seem quite successful with one boat, imagine if you had 10 boats like that,” said the planner. “You would have money to take vacations and travel the world, money to build a bigger house. I could invest the money you make for you in a retirement fund. Your kids wouldn’t need to take care of you when you’re older and you would have more time to play guitar here on the wharf while your employees were out fishing. I can show you how to plan for that if you like.”
The fisherman thought for a moment and his eyes widened in amazement.
“Let me get this straight,” he said. “You want me to go into debt to buy 10 more boats, so that I can manage 30 employees who might not show up for work, so that I can make more money, give it to you to invest and do exactly what I’m doing now, play my guitar on the wharf?”
The monetization of happiness is a disease that affects our culture.
It’s not propagated by financial planners (I do know some very ethical ones who have no part in that) but by our society in general. It’s perpetrated by banks through our access to easy credit. Marketers play a role through the perpetuation of desires, and our families are involved as we encourage the next generation to climb the ladder to affluence.
This perception of happiness linked to money is not limited to business. Recently I participated in a fundraiser for a non-profit where it seemed that happiness was being monetized. The organization was tying donations to happiness, implying that the more money you donated, the happier you would feel and the more sadness and perhaps guilt you could alleviate.
I’m not saying that money is bad. We need money for our basic necessities, we need money for investment for businesses to create jobs, we need marketing to sell what we make, and we need people to help us use our money wisely and share with others.
However, we’re at a point in society where we’ve created the illusion that more money equals more happiness.
We know in our hearts that this is false, yet we all fall for it time and again.
So how do we move away from this notion that more money means we will be happier?
Recently I heard of a law firm that was recruiting lawyers by offering them less money but more time off.
As a business coach, I often have to catch myself and ensure that I’m looking out for all the best interests of my clients and not setting them up on a treadmill chasing dollars. As individuals, we need to consider if spending more time pursuing more cash will really make us happier.
Think about the people you know who have made the biggest difference in the world or your life. Were they rich?
Yes, more money might allow us to take more holidays on a beach, have nicer vehicles, fancier clothes and keep up with the Jones. But will that money mean we sleep better at night, spend more time enjoying our friends and family, or contribute more to society? Will it make us happier?
Having travelled the world (yes, with money I saved), most of the happiest faces I saw and best memories I have were with people like the fisherman who understood that happiness was not dependant on having more money.
When we begin to believe that happiness can be monetized, we lose sight of our true purpose in life and become disillusioned in our misery.
Troy Media columnist David Fuller, MBA, is a certified professional business coach and author who helps business leaders ensure that their companies are successful. David is author of the book Profit Yourself Healthy. Email firstname.lastname@example.org