I am reading an excellent book called Resilience by Eric Greitens. Greitens is a former Navy SEAL and navy officer and the book is a series of letters written to a friend who is struggling with life after military service.
It is an excellent read which you should make time on a meandering Saturday to peruse, and one of the concepts he reflects on is happiness.
Chiefly, he posits that there are three types of happiness:
- Happiness of Pleasure
- Happiness of Gratitude
- Happiness of Excellence
The happiness of pleasure is largely sensory. It’s a good meal, a luxurious massage, or a feather-soft bed. The happiness of gratitude is noticing what you do have and experiencing humble awe at how meaningful it is. It’s about friends who help you through a hard time, wondering how you got to marry this amazing person next to you, or how you got from stringy, nerdy teenager to the ripped guy standing on top of a mountain. The happiness of excellence is about striving for mastery. It is about meaningful work that you do pretty damn well, and proud of it.
You will notice that only one of them can be bought.
Your happiness in life is an alchemy of the three of these elements. And like primary colors, you can’t use more of one to make up for a deficiency in another.
“Lots and lots of red will never make blue. Pleasures will never make you whole,” Greiten says.
I couldn’t agree more.
“Lots and lots of red will never make blue. Pleasures will never make you whole.” – Eric Greiten
Perhaps this is why Daniel Kahneman and economist Angus Deaton have discovered that income above $75,000 does little to improve one’s happiness.
In a study of survey data from 450,000 Americans, the researchers compared correlated reported income and reported happiness levels, showing a flattening beyond that $75,000 mark.
More red won’t give you blue. If you’re angling for more happiness in life, maybe it’s time to look beyond money for the solution. You may find, as I have, that you have been trying to fill a hole in another area with monetary purchases. Purchases are fun because they give you a temporary shot of anticipation and a focus for your anxious mind. They are the perfect distraction from a well-lived life.
Addressing your actual needs, by contrast, will make you stop craving the latest v10 doohickey and thus decrease your spending while making you overall happier.
When you stop trying to fill a hole in your life with fancy objects, you will make room to fill it with something better. And that will leave your stash free to grow faster and buy the things you can’t get from gorgeous handbags and fancy meals: freedom and security.