I recently watched a very cool documentary on Netflix called “Happy” ( Movie info at IMDB.com ). It examines a branch of psychology that has developed in the past 20 years called Positive Psychology – what makes people happy. Whereas other branches of psychology focus on how to treat psychological problems, Positive Psychology takes a more proactive approach. It focuses on finding out what makes people and communities happier. Here is the main point from the movie (and Positive Psychology):
Focusing on external goals such as Career Success, Wealth, and Social Status tends to have a negative impact on happiness. Focusing on internal goals such as Personal Growth, Relationships, and Helping People tends to have a positive impact on happiness. People tend to have the same happiness levels throughout their lives, unless they experience a major and permanent traumatic event.
When I did a little research on something called the “hedonic treadmill” (mentioned in the movie), I found that increasing your annual income beyond a certain point does not significantly impact your happiness. Basically, the problem with striving for more wealth is that the more money you make, the more you want, so you’re never happy. So once your basic needs are met, it’s better to focus on doing something that makes you happy, rather than doing something that makes you more money.