The most publicized version of this misconception is in the context of money and happiness. Most of us have heard stories in the media of fabulously wealthy individuals who are nevertheless very miserable and who are in need of antidepressants just to cope. The most natural conclusion to draw from this would be that money does not necessarily lead to happiness. However, my sense is that many of us refuse to draw that conclusion and instead of revising our belief about money and happiness, we prefer to believe that more money will lead to happiness and that the reason that person is miserable is because there is something seriously wrong with them. In others words, that person is unhappy because he is crazy and abnormal. Any normal person with that amount of money would of course be happy. This allows us to maintain our psychological status quo, thus enabling us to continue striving for more money in hope that it will someday yield happiness. As tempting as that interpretation might be, it doesn’t hold water. Research shows that above a certain level, there is almost no correlation between money and happiness. In other words, as long as there is enough money for food, shelter and other basic necessities, adding more income does not necessarily add more happiness.
At first sight, this may sound like discouraging news: if money doesn’t create more happiness, then what’s point? However, in reality, this realization sets things straight and creates a much healthier relationship to money. Money is a wonderful tool that allows us to buy things we want and sell our talents or products to others. It is a vehicle for the exchange of energy in the form of goods and services, nothing more and nothing less. And when we truly understand this, we know that there is nothing inherently wrong with generating more money, but we are also not entranced by the belief that if we work twice as hard and sacrifice a few friendships, then we will make some more money, which will make us finally happy.