In pursuit of happiness
According to the stats, it's a harder call than you might think.
The thinking for years has been that as we progress through the ranks and up the ladder, our needs are met and happiness ensues. At some point during our ascent, the inevitable kicks in and we'll attain some kind of 'Nearvana'. The trouble with that narrative is just that, it's a story and if you wanted to find the book you’d probably have to look under fiction.
A word about wellness
According to a recent study into Wellness by the Office for National Statistics, as you'd expect, those on the lower wage brackets are pretty much miserable. Conversely though, as you climb up the ladder the reverse seems to happen.
In short, there doesn't appear to be a correlation between high net worth and happiness. Indeed, it appears that the true happy place is somewhere in the middle.
The survey results are mirrored in research from across the pond. The most recent American Time Use Survey, or ATUS for short, tells us that there's virtually no difference in contentment between the $25k and $100k brackets and above that, the contentment levels seem to decline again. Indeed, it would seem that the highest earners had arguably the lowest levels of purpose.
This makes sense when you look at the kind of lifestyle required to attain those seven-figure values. Overworked and time poor, it can be difficult to pull out of the kind of routine required to sustain such a high salary. Long commutes, long days, city life and tough calls can weigh heavily on the broadest shoulders and the more we earn the more we seem to want.
According to some recent data, the average week for a 'city' worker in a big financial centre like Frankfurt, London, Hong Kong or New York is 100 hours. Is it any wonder then that high earners report little satisfaction in their working lives?
Challenging the narrative
Perhaps the secret to happiness literally lies closer to home. If we are able to settle for an easier life and the basics, then there may be a good chance we'll live longer... and still manage to prosper.
The same thing can be said for most of the narratives many of us are fed from a young age. Study hard, settle down, pop out some kids, advance your career and make as much money as you can. The whole thing's a three-line whip and we're so busy towing the party line that we never stop to question the fundamental logic behind any of it. If we know that money isn't necessarily going to make us happy, is there any reason to believe the other standard goals are any better for us?
It's a bigger subject than today's blog has space to explore, but one well worth considering. I for one know a bunch of people who are as happy without kids as many of my other friends are with them... And here's a real stroke of controversy... without kids to leave a house to, is there as much of a pressing need to own one? The Germans are happy to rent and they seem to be doing OK.
So, if there's one takeaway from this piece today, it's that for all our narratives, guidebooks and signposts... we still don't honestly know any one best road to contentment and, therefore, we should all perhaps be a little less judgemental towards those who've spurned whatever path we have individually chosen.