Or so said Francis Bacon, English Philosopher and Statesman and the father of empiricism…
But for many men, money, or the accumulation of it, can define who we are – the foundation on which we build our identity.
Much of this comes from how men are taught to frame success.
To work hard at school to give us the best possible chance to get a good education and a good job.
To dedicate ourselves to work. To compete with others and earn promotions to get more money.
To accumulate more things in our lives to radiate the status of our success to others.
To keep on earning to pay off the debt we’ve accumulated throughout life and to make sure we’ve got enough for retirement.
Yet it would be wrong to denigrate too much of this. We live in a society founded essentially on the transfer of our labour for money.
Our desire for things are driven by the all-persuasive power of companies encouraging us to buy more, to consume more – all in a never ending quest to have more than the next man.
The fundamental issue with the importance that we put on money is the over-indexing of it when weighted against the things in life that really provide meaningful happiness. Namely, family, self-fulfilment, relationships with others. The meaningful impact we can have on the lives of the people that we care about.
However, the realisation of this fact is not as easy as I’m making it sound here.
A lifetime of conditioning about the importance of material wealth and its pursuit is a difficult monkey to get off your back. Especially so if you’ve had personal exposure to the crippling effects of poverty.
It starts with a basic question that we can all ask ourselves.
Is what I am doing to generate income really (and be truthful now) making me happy?
Do I really love getting up every day to do what I am doing? Would I do it if I was able to live without the need to make money in the first place?
These can be confronting and difficult questions to ask ourselves as I would guess the vast majority of people on Earth are doing something for a living that they don’t truthfully enjoy or makes the most of their potential.
But by asking the questions we can uncover a source of unhappiness for many, many men.
What I do to earn a living is making me unhappy.
If you can identify with this statement then you’re not that far away from being able to make a change.
A change that often requires a step into the unknown. The confrontation of fear and uncertainly coupled with potentially less money that continuing to put up with the grind of the job that you hate.
There are a few useful ways however that can make this easier.
First and foremost is the realisation that the accumulation of things is not the source of happiness.
It may initially feel good to drive a more expensive car, or to buy the brand that associated with success, but these are illusions that perpetuate consumption and have no end.
There will always be someone with something bigger and better than yours.
Research has shown that people that make their happiness contingent on the accumulation of things tend to be less happy and more dissatisfied with life.
So don’t over-index on things. Ask yourself and I buying this because it fills a practical need that I have or am I doing it to impress others or make myself feel better?
Next is to focus on improving the relationships that you have with other people.
Many men are social animals. We need the interaction that we have with people to thrive. We give value and receive it on our ability to really invest in people. To care about what they care about. To show sympathy and empathy to others in the face of the challenges that we all face in life.
Another technique is to place a premium on the experiences in life that create happiness. Just as gross domestic product is a false indicator of the happiness of a nation, the size of your wallet does not directly correlate to how happy you are.
A man who invests time in doing the things in life that creates real moments of meaning is investing in his own happiness.
Take the time to enjoy every moment with your partner and your children.
Enjoy sharing a beer with those whose time you really enjoy.
Invest in friendships and opportunities to meet new people.
These things provide the opportunity of experiences that create meaning and value and ultimately make us happier.
And finally ask yourself what the thing is that you love doing the most? What do you do that you really enjoy and excel at?
From this question you’ll not only love what you do, but are on the way to making the money your servant and not your master.
Just as Francis Bacon would have it.
Previously Published on Man Made Happiness