Moneycan Buy a Happy Life, but not a meaningful Life
ViktorFrankl, a psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, once wrote that "Lifeis not made unbearable by numerous circumstances, but by the lack oflife of meaning and purpose" (Frankl 7). The majority of peoplethink that to feel happy and find life meaningful are two related andimportant goals. From his book "Man`s Search for Meaning,”Viktor Frankl talked about how he was stripped off of everything,while at the concentration camp, but managed to identify and realizethe meaning of life even in the dire of circumstances. But do meaningand happiness often go together? It appears to be unlikely since alot of things that we as humans do, are less likely to increase ourchances of our daily happiness. Barbara Ehrenreich`s "Living aWild God a Non-believer`s Search for the Truth about Everything"suggest that while a sense of meaning and happiness tends to overlap,they also tend to diverge in surprising and important ways.
Some peoplebelieve that rich and wealthy people are in a meaningful life becausethey have a lot of money. However, the paper identifies it as aflawed idea. There is also an emphasis on the contribution of havinga meaningful life, which could assist with the assessment that ameaningful life is not necessarily the availability of money andwealth. The paper will also look at the meaning of life, itsdefinition based on different perspectives, and whether a meaningfullife is marked by fame, great achievements, or accumulation ofwealth.
Happiness isdefined in a more generalized term as being a subjective well-being.This is to say that an experiential state that contains a globalpositive affective tone. The term may be broadly or narrowly focused.An individual may claim to be happy that the war is over, forexample, or that he or she has found a lost shoe. Frankl (14)conceptualized and measured happiness in two different ways: The"affect balance" and "life satisfaction." Theformer emphasizes on having more pleasant emotional states thanunpleasant ones, and thus is an essentially aggregated on how aperson feels in different situations. The latter goes beyondsituational feelings to elicit an evaluative and integrativeassessment of a person`s life as a whole.
According toEhrenreich (8), meaning can be present linguistic reality or purelysymbolic, as is the actual meaning of the word. Therefore, thequestion about one`s life meaning is based on symbolic ideas based ona biological reality. Life`s meaningfulness is presumed to be both anemotional and a cognitive assessment of whether a person`s life hasvalue and purpose. Also, people may feel that their life ismeaningful, especially when they find it to be consistent andrewarding in some ways. The feeling is the same even when they arenot able to articulate and decipher its meaning. The focus is solelyon the meaning and meaningfulness of life.
Frankl (10) notedthat operationally, people allow their level of happiness andmeaningfulness of life be defined based on whatever they decide on,rather than to impose on particular definitions. It is also assumedthat the two definitions are based on real life differences and thatindividuals` responses may be reflected on these. It should be madepossible, in particular, to experience a high level of themeaningfulness of life, and not necessarily a happy one, for example,like religious missionary, terrorists, and political activists.
As one could expect,people`s level of happiness may positively be correlated with whetherthey can see themselves leading a meaningful life. However, bothmeasures are not identical, according to Ehrenreich (15), and,therefore, is suggested that what may make people happy, may notalways dictate life`s meaningfulness and vice versa. To research onthe difference between the two, Ehrenreich (15) examined a surveywith detailed questions about money and people`s moods and feelings,their daily activities, and their close relationships with otherpeople.
Frankl (9) studyshowed that feeling happy was directly correlated with having a goodhealth and general overall feeling towards life. However, all thesewere not correlated with having a greater sense of life`smeaningfulness. Money, to be specific, he observed did bring a goodfeeling, but not necessarily an overall sense of purpose in life.
Surprisingly, it is suggested that money, which is contrary to peoplebelieves, indeed buys happiness. Hain (11) noted that having a lot ofmoney can buy what a person needs in life, in addition to what onedesires, which he noted positively correlate with raising the levelsof happiness. Again, having a lot of money makes a little differencetowards defining a meaning of life. The same disconnect that wasrecently shown in a study highlighted by Hain 10) revealed thatpeople in larger economic countries, appear to be happier, but do notsee their lives to have more meaning than others with less money.
As a matter of fact, people living in poorer countries have moremeaningful lives than their counterparts. Their lives arecharacterized by having more children, and social ties that arestronger in those countries. The perception of money, therefore, isthat it buys happiness but does not buy meaning (Dunleavey 16). Also,wealthy people have enough money to buy happiness, but stillexperience struggles that money cannot buy. They may not havefinancial struggles however, there are a lot of ways to struggle.For instance, wealthy people cannot shield themselves from loss oflove ones, heartbreaks from those they dearly love, and fromemotional suffering.
The emotional suffering may be as a result of filing for divorces,children struggling socially and academically, and fighting withfriends. It is also important to note that the perception of moneyover the meaningfulness of life is ill-founded (Hain 56). Even whenmoney cannot necessarily buy life`s meaning, it does improve life,and thus giving it a meaning and purpose.
Money can buy aHappy Life
The relationshipbetween money and happiness has been studied by scientists fordecades, and their conclusion on the same is clear: Money can buyhappiness, even though not entirely (Frankl 20). The correlationbetween the two, Ehrenreich (30) noted is positive but modest, whichis a fact after all money allow a person does what he or she pleaseswhen they spend it. However, people with a lot of money may fail torealize how to utilize their money well to be happier. Peopleperceive that things that bring more happiness are not necessarilyfor sale, which according to Ehrenreich (30), are often lovely,popular, and wrong.
Money allowspeople to live healthier and longer, to buffer them against harm andworry, experience unforgettable leisure time with family and friendsand use to control the nature of their day-to-day activities – all ofwhich are a characteristic of a happy life. Wealthy individuals donot just have the best toys, but they also have better medical careand nutrition, meaningful labor and a lot of free time – all ofwhich are ingredients of a happy life. According to a lot of people,they believe that wealthy people are not much happier than those withless. If money is known to buy happiness, then why doesn`t it?
It is becausepeople do not spend it the right way. A lot of wealthy people are notaware of the basic scientific facts about a happy life – on whattriggers it and what sustains it. Therefore, these people fail to usetheir hard earned money to achieve it. According to Savage &Terry (68), money present a huge opportunity for being happy, butthese people often squander on things they think will make themhappy.
When people planfollowing their predictions about future events based on hedonicconsequences, these people are said to have made effective forecasts.A sizeable literature reveals that these "affective forecasts"are often not true (Savage & Terry 76). Mistakes in affectiveforecasting could be traced to two main sources. For instance, a lotof people fail to anticipate the likelihood with which they are goingto adapt to both the positive and future negative events, fail tounderstand fully some of the factors that slow or speed up thatadaptation, and their insufficient sensitivity on the fact thatmental-based simulations are short of important details.
The second one isbased on the context that exerts stable effects on the affectiveforecasts and the affective experiences. However, these wealthypeople fail to realize that the two contexts are not identical. Thatis to say, the context in which it is based on handling theiraffective forecasts is not necessarily the context they will havetheir experiences (Frankl 24). The two sources of errors above leadto the people to believe and not predict that they will make themhappier than they, how they will be happy, and how long that level ofhappiness will last.
People fail toachieve to be happy since they choose to buy things whose impact isshort-lived instead of using their money to buy experience. Buyingexperience brings about happiness (Frankl 25). Experiences are goodbut are way better to things whose perception is to bring happiness.For example, after a wealthy person devotes more time selecting thebest hardwood to use on their floors, the same people came to realizethat the once beloved hardwood floor has quickly turned out to benothing more than just another unnoticed floor lying beneath theirfloor.
The difference isbased on their memory. To have spent another chunk of money on anAfrican safari, for instance, provide a certain level of experience,which continue to provide joy, delight, and happiness to having seena baby Cheetah during the safari for the first time. In anexperimental context, Dunleavey (29) tested this idea by randomlyassigning participants to spend a certain amount of money on eitherexperiential or material purchases, while tracking their happinessover a period of two weeks.
Over time, theseparticipants exhibited a slower adaptation to the experientialpurchases compared to material thins. The reason for this is thatpeople tend to adapt fast that those things that do not change. Asmuch as cherry floors do have the same shape, size, and color at theend of the experiment, the experiential purchases had differentfeelings of delight in each session during the period. Again, peoplefind more happiness from experiences than things because theyremember and anticipate the former more than they do on the latter.
Therefore, moneybuys long-term happiness through buying experience rather thanthings. A survey conducted by Ehrenreich (49) also show that morethan 80% of people do have "mental revisiting" to theirexperiential feelings more often than material things. It should,therefore, be noted that things elicit happiness whenever we usethem, but not that much when we think about them. Experiences developa happy life in both cases.
Socially, moneybuys happiness. Human beings are the most social creatures on earth.Ehrenreich (33) believe that human beings` "hyper-sociality"causes the brain to increase in size. Given how profoundly and deeplysocial we are, it is no surprise that the quality of socialrelationships presents a strong determinant of people`s happiness. Itis, therefore, important to note that almost anything a person does,improves the connection with other people, and thus tend to improvehappiness, and that involve spending money. Hain (37) asked a samplerepresentation of individuals to rate their happiness level andreport on the amount of money on (1) gift for self, (2) bills andexpenses, (3) gift for other people, and (4) donating to charity.
The first two weresummed up as a creation of "personal spending" compositeand the last two were summed up to represent "prosocialspending" composite. Even though personal spending does notnecessarily relate to happiness, it was not that people who focus onprosocial spending were happier. It was evident that money buyshappiness based on prosocial spending as opposed to personalspending. Also, individuals that spend their money on other peopleclose to them are noted to be happier than those spend on themselves.Savage & Terry (56) observed that the benefits of spending moneyon others are cross-cultural. There is a significant level ofhappiness when individuals reflect on the time and amount of moneythey spent on others.
The emotionalrewards following prosocial spending are mostly detectable inneutrality. Choosing to give out money either forced or otherwise,results in the activation of a person`s brain area, which typicallyis associated with triggering rewards add happiness. Why is prosocialspending producing such consistent and strong benefits for a person`swell-being? Savage & Terry (67) argued that a strong socialrelationship is universally crucial for happiness. Also, prosocialspending presents a powerful effect on social relationships.
Research study shows that a gift received in an intimate relationshiphas an impact on the feelings of the receiver, and the relationshipis likely to continue for a long time. Spending money on a romanticpartner or friend also offers an opportunity for positivity onself-representation, which for a while has shown to be beneficial forcreating a preferable mood. To give money to a charity as wellfacilitates a positive self-representation (Frankl 59). It evenfacilitate social relationship development since it considers thatmajority of charitable donations are carried out by individualsdirectly related to the beneficiaries.
Money buys happiness through adaptation. According to Dunleavey (46),Adaptation is a little like death, and we fight it, fear it, andsometimes we foresaw it. Just like death, there could some benefitsto acknowledging its inevitability. If individuals adapt to thedelights that comes with money and what it can buy, that it could bebetter to take part in frequency, double lattes, small pleasures,high-count pair of socks, and uptown pedicures, rather than splashingmoney on large purchases, for example, dream vacations, sports cars,and VIP tickets.
This is also not to say that it is wrong to spend money on largepurchases. However, as long as money has a limit, people are betteroff devoting and focusing on the finite amount of money to be able tobuy frequency of lovely things, other than frequency on delightingthings. Across varied domains, Hail (39) noted that indeed happinessis strongly based on the frequency other than the intensity ofindividuals` positive affective experiential perspectives.
For instance, nobodyfinds it surprising that individuals engaging in sexual activitiesare happier than those individuals who don`t. On the other hand,other people do not find it to be surprising than a specific numberof sexual relationship partners in a specific period comes down toone sexual partner. One question likely to be asked is whyindividuals with one partner being happier than those with multiplepartners? It is because multiple partners are less frequentlythrilled, but regular partners enjoy it regularly.
Small but frequent pleasures from what money can surpass theinfrequent larger ones because there is a high likelihood that peopleare less likely to stick to the former. Dunleavey (44) observed thatthe more easily individuals can understand and an event, the fasterthey will adapt to it. Also, anything that elicits pleasurablesituation is more difficult to explanation and understanding thatdelays adaptation. These variables include surprise, novelty,uncertainty, and variability. The happiness offered by frequency inhaving small pleasures helps to make sense with modesty with thecorrelation between happiness and money.
Money and itsSatisfaction of Basic Needs and Wants
By its definition, basic needs are known to be natural, and thereforethrough satisfaction theory, needs should be related mainly tohappiness. Ehrenreich (50) observed that among the humans,satisfaction elicits happiness, and positive feelings are completelylinked with individual successes at their projects. Money contributesto having satisfaction as far as basic needs are concerned. Withoutbasic needs means life is a struggle, and is negatively correlatedwith having happiness, but when approached with important positiverelationship guarantees meaningfulness.
Money may guarantee good health, which is a basic and universaldesire for everyone. Money may also not guarantee good health, butwith good health there is happiness. The way people consider theirpositive contributes to their level of happiness, but still, isirrelevant to having meaningfulness. Also, Hain (88) argues thatpeople with good and bad health can live a meaningful life, butbecause healthy people have money, are therefore happier than thesick ones.
According to Ehrenreich (51), good and bad feelings come frompeople`s satisfaction versus thwarting of feelings and desires. Themore often individuals feel good, the happier they feel, and whenthey feel bad, the less happy they become. Neither of the two relatesto meaning. Such a scenario is also supported by the understanding ofhappiness to be an effect balance, which is feeling well most of thetime. According to a survey conducted by Ehrenreich (51), money isbased on a cultural and not natural product. However, wealthy peopleuse the money to attain satisfaction to many of their natural andbasic desires. The survey showed that being able to acquire thingsone needs, had an important positive relationship to achievinghappiness, but was totally irrelevant to life`s meaning.
Relationshipbetween Happiness and Meaningfulness
The two arepositively inter-correlated. The survey conducted by Frankl (67)shows correlations on two surveys, thus in this sample, there is thesimilarity and related attitudes with being happy and a person`smeaningfulness of life. From the survey, it was noted that happinessand meaning in life thus feed of but are in possession of somesubstantial tool. Both are contributed by some things while othersare quite specific and differentiating.
The links betweenhaving a good and bad feeling are based on a simple artifact. Theartifact emphasizes that all the good feelings represent happiness.It could have been the case if the whole thing was just a matter ofdefinition. To contrast, boredom is unpleasant, which also suggest alack of involvement on the meaningfulness of life, and boredomnegatively relates to having both happiness and meaning to life.Also, does economic fluctuation affect happiness? The surveyconducted showed that it lowered the level of happiness but does notaffect meaningfulness. Dunleavey (32) noted that in principle, torecognize a person`s level of happiness is dependent on the state ofthe economy that operates in bad or good directions, but people tendto associate with recognition of bad things.
A person maywonder whether all the money items can easily evoke happiness morethan meaningfulness. But against this view, "reflection moneybalances" could completely be irrelevant to the level ofhappiness, but could be significant with meaningfulness. To balancefinances does not necessarily entail the satisfaction of basic needsin any other way. It should, therefore, be noted that it is not asimple link that finances are tied with happiness, but instead, itappears that to spend money to achieve desired things is thecontribution of happiness.
When placetogether, it is thus evident that these results reflect the generalview that satisfaction of one`s needs, being in a better position toobtain whatever one needs, and on that basis to feel good often otherthan bad, are central to achieving happiness. Money, according toHain (98), has little to do with having a meaningful life. As needsand wants arise naturally, the patterns fit a broader view thatlevels of happiness are rooted in nature and instilled by naturethrough motivational patterns. People are always happy when they getwhat they want, but to achieve meaningful life is found somewhereelse.
TemporalIntegration, Past, Present, and the Future
Happiness is aboutthe current state of person`s situation, while meaning is aboutconnecting events over time, and therefore, integrating the past,present, and the future. Frankl (61) observed that meaning connectsevents and experiences across time, while happiness lies at themoment and thus is largely independent of other situations. A surveyconducted revealed that people reported to have imagined the future,the more they find their lives meaningful, but less happy they were.Hain (109) noted that with money to spend on the present, whilethinking beyond the present moment, into the future or the past, itwas a sign of having a relatively meaningful, but less happy life.
Money dictates thepresent level of happiness depending on how one uses it for as it isexplained above. As a matter of fact, people without enough money totake considerable amount of time to think about their presentsituation, which is very weak about their happiness. The reason forthis is when people are undergoing difficulties and serious problemsthey may find themselves thinking about their present struggles. Torecognize a connection between the present, past, and the future mayappear helpful for having success to a meaningful life, which includecareer and education.
Money cannot buyMeaningful Life
To know themeaning of life is hard to define for it differs from one man to theother, from hour to hour, and from day-to-day. Of importance,therefore, does not know the general meaning of life, but rather toknow the specific meaning of an individual life at a particularmoment. According to Ehrenreich (58), one should not look for theabstract meaning of life because every individual has his or herspecific mission and vocation in life to accomplish a concreteassignment that result in fulfillment.
In every situationencountered in life present a challenge to man and a problem tosolve, the question of whether life`s meaning is dictated by money.Money does buy happiness but does not buy meaningful life. Therefore,a man should ultimately not use the money to buy a meaningful life,but rather must recognize that he or she is responsible should findit.
Frankl`s "Man`sSearch for Meaning," talked about experiences while in thecamps. He concluded that the sole difference between the living andthe dead came down to one thing: Life`s meaning. It is an insightthat he experienced early in life. When he was in school, Frankl (69)wrote that the teacher had declared that "life is nothing elseapart from a combustion process, an oxidation process." He askedthat is that was so, then what is the meaning of life? As to whathappens in the camps, those people who found meaning in their lifeeven in the worst of circumstances were found to be more resilientand adapted to suffering than those who never did.
Other than whatmoney can buy, Frankl`s "Man`s Search for Meaning," focuseson other things written about the camp. The author talked about twosuicidal inmates at the camp that were hopeless in life with nothingto look forward. The book does not focus on what money contributes tothe meaning of life, but it is based on a question of making themrealize that life in itself expects from them in the future. At somepoint, it was about one man looking forward to a young child that wasat that point living abroad. For the other man, a scientist, it wasabout a series of books that needed to be completed.
The meaning oflife is not bought with money, but with things that people lookforward to in life even when certain circumstances does not allow(Frankl 78). The inmates in Frankl`s "Man`s Search for Meaning,"appeared to be hopeless with nothing else to look forward. However,with a child living abroad and a series of books to be completed,they are the two things that the hopeless inmates ought to lookforward to which provide meaning to life.
The meaningfullife is not bought by money but by things that a person or peoplelove doing. Research shows that having meaning and purpose in lifeincreases the overall satisfaction and well-being in life, enhancesresiliency, improves physical and mental health, enhancesself-esteem, and reduces levels of depression. Also, the pursuit ofonly life`s happiness is ironic since it leaves people less happy.According to the research conducted by Frankl (116), it is "thepursuit of happiness that thwarts the actual happiness."
When it comes toliving a meaningful life, Ehrenreich (59) cautions about goingagainst a mere pursuit of happiness. In a new study conducted bypsychological scientists, 300 Americans were asked what they thoughtabout their lives, whether they were living a meaningful one or theywere just happy. Their self-reported attitudes were examined towardshappiness, meaning, and other variables. These variables includedtheir stress levels, having children, and their spending patterns.Over a month of research, it was found out that a happy life and ameaningful life does overlap in some ways but are totally different.To lead a happy life, according to the study is associated with moneywhile to lead a meaningful life is more of being passionate about onedoes and being a giver.
The meaning ofLiving a Meaningful Life
Savage & Terry(84) noted that happiness without a meaning is characterized by arelatively self-absorbed, shallow or selfish life, whereby things aresmooth, needs and desires are satisfied easily, and avoidance ofdifficulties. Money plays a small part or not at all. People that arehappy think that life in itself is easy, especially when they are ingood health, and can buy the things they desire. While having lessmoney decreases the level of happiness one may think to have, it doesnot have a greater impact on the overall meaning.
Human beings aredifferent from the rest of animals because it is not the pursuit ofhappiness, but what characterizes their lives` meaning. Participantsfrom Frankl’s (119) study reported having had self-satisfaction andmeaning by giving and making a sacrifice for other people. Savage &Terry (90) defined the meaning of life as "using individuals`talents and strengths to serve something larger than self." Tohave a meaningful life is associated with activities such as using tobuy presents and taking care of other people.
It should also benoted that people with high levels of meaningful lives continuouslyseek out reasons to live even when they are well aware that it couldcome at the expense of own happiness. Dunleavey (56) argues that suchpeople have invested a lot in other people`s welfare to a point thatthey start experiencing higher levels of anxiety and stress.Meaningful life does not transcend down on self, but also on thepresent moment. While happiness reflects on the emotion felt at thatmoment and quickly fades away, positive feelings of pleasure areshort-lasting.
Meaning isenduring. It is a connection to the past, present, and the future,even when there is no money to spend. Happiness is a representationof the current moment but does not transcend from the past into thefuture. That is to say, people who are obsessed with the present arehappier, but those who spend a considerable amount of time thinkingabout the future and learning from the past suffers and struggles,and thus are less happy. The latter feels more self-satisfaction andmeaning on their lives, and is not a question of money.
The wisdom derivedfrom Frankl`s "Man`s Search for Meaning," means that tohave money dictates the level of happiness that one experiences, butdoes not necessarily translates to having to mean in one`s life. Itmeans having self-satisfaction with life translates to living ameaningful life. To be in a position of helping others comes withenough sense of delight and good feeling. Money, therefore, plays arole in a person`s level of happiness depending on how the money isspent. Also, the paper argued that money can buy happiness, butcannot buy meaningful life. The argument draws a lot of examples andreferences in support of it.
Dunleavey, M P. Money Can Buy Happiness: How to Spend to Get theLife You Want. New York: Broadway Books, 2007. Print.
Ehrenreich, Barbara. Living with a Wild God: A Nonbeliever`sSearch for the Truth About Everything. , 2014. Print.
Frankl, Viktor E.Man`s Search for Meaning. Boston: Beacon Press, 2006. Print.
Hain, Randy.Something More: The Professional`s Pursuit of a Meaningful Life., 2013. Print.
Savage, Dan, and Terry Miller. It Gets Better: Coming Out,Overcoming Bullying, and Creating a Life Worth Living. New York:Dutton, 2011. Print.