In a 2010 study, Princeton University economists Daniel Kahneman and co-author Angus Deaton discovered that as people’s income rose to $75,000 a year, as did their happiness levels. After this income amount is reached, they found that happiness levels off.
While these findings may give us a quantifiable answer to the age-old question, “can money buy happiness,” can a mathematical equation truly sum up all of the human experiences that lead to individual happiness?
It is inevitable that you will question whether you are truly happy with your life at some point in your career. For example, you may wonder if you chose the right major for you career path. Or you may wonder why you chose this banking job in the first place. Or you might ask if this money is worth selling your soul to an international corporation for.
It’s true that if you have the money you can buy a nice apartment, or splurge on that designer handbag you have been eyeing for months, but these are luxuries that fill a temporary void rather than making us feel like we are living a fulfilling life.
What brings us happiness is not a physical object that we can flaunt as a symbol of our personal success. Our well-being is defined by so much more than material goods. Let’s be honest, when was the last time you heard someone say, “I am a happier person now that I have this new cashmere sweater!”
The answer is never. It’s true that when you have more money you have the power to make more choices, but doing something fabulous alone will never give you the satisfaction of being surrounded by your loved ones.
Whether you are just entering the work force, or you are already part of it and considering changing career paths, you have to remember that the key to happiness is staying true to yourself, and let your goals flow from there.
If your days at your corporate desk job are filled with boredom and screaming bosses, and you spend your free time dreaming of opening your own contemporary art gallery in Portland, strategize a plan to make it happen.
If you are working 70 hours a week for a top investment banking firm, but are suffering from sleep deprivation and just want to travel to South America for a year rather than paying New York City rent, book your flights.
Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”
You cannot truly be happy if you yearn to want to work for a non-profit, but continue working at a job crunching numbers all day.
Happiness is found within us, and if we surround ourselves with those that we love, and pursue a career that will bring us satisfaction, we don’t need $75,000 to prove our personal worth.
Jenny is a senior at Wake Forest University from Cohasset, Mass. Jenny is an English major, and loves to write, whether it is a Shakespeare paper or an article for her school newspaper. She is hoping to enter the bustling world of public relations after graduating in May 2014. When she isn’t writing, you can find her at the local barre studio or trying but failing to quietly sing an Italian aria.