Jordan Belfort said in the Wolf of Wall Street, “Let me tell you something. There’s no nobility in poverty. I’ve been a poor man, and I’ve been a rich man. And I choose rich every time.” Many people think like this. People think that happiness is created by what you have. For instance, who wouldn’t be happy with more money, a new car, a big house, or a better looking body? Even my roommate agreed because when he was asked what would make him happy he responded with, “money, a lot of money.” Money does not create happiness and neither does anything else we own. It is a myth that happiness is created by external circumstances that happen around us (Lilenfeld, Lynn, Ruscio, & Beyerstein, 2010).
Happiness is not primarily influenced by external circumstances at all but instead happiness is largely a matter of genetics and choice (Lyubomirksy, 2010). Lyubomirsky (2010) identifies variations in happiness as fifty percent genetic, forty percent choice, and only ten percent external circumstances. Philip Brickman and Donald Campbell state that each person has a genetic set point of happiness and that our mood fluctuates based on our interpretation of external circumstances (Lilienfeld et al., 2010). They compare happiness to a treadmill that is on a set speed. It speeds up and slows down in response to external circumstances for a short period of time but will eventually return to that set speed. In addition to genetics, choice is a big influence on our happiness. For example, two different people might interpret losing thousands of dollars in the stock market differently. One may choose to think that the world is over and they have no chance of recovering or being happy again and the other may choose to think that losing all that money is no big deal.
Best put by Martha Washington, “a person enjoys pleasures because he or she is happy, not vice versa.” So don’t get overexcited and think that you have to have money or the nicest things to be happy, and don’t think if something bad happens it is the end of the world. Life is a treadmill, just run with it.
Lilienfeld, S. O., Lynn, S. J., Ruscio, J., & Beyerstein, B. L. (2010). 50 great myths of popular psychology: Shattering widespread misconceptions about human behavior. Chichester, United Kingdom: Wiley-Blackwell
Lyubomirsky, S. (2010). Sonja Lyubomirsky: What determines happiness? Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_URP3-V1sY4