“You cannot worship two gods at once. Loving one god, you’ll end up hating the other. Adoration of one feeds contempt for the other. You cannot worship God and money both.” – (Matthew 6:24 The Message)
A study of the correlates of happiness
across society reveals several important facts.
First and foremost is that wealth is a poor predictor of true happiness.
Though not entirely useless as a predictor, it is limited.
$20 an hour or so will afford one about all of the joy you can get from wealth. But the difference between earning nothing and earning $7 an hour is enormous – that could be the difference between having shelter and food and being homeless and hungry. The economic axiom shows that after basic needs are met, there is not much difference in personal benefit (marginal utility) to increased wealth. In other words, the difference between a person who makes $7 and a person who makes $20 is much bigger than the difference between the person who makes $40 and the person who makes $400. Social, religious and economic gurus are quick to say that money cannot buy happiness. Such trite shortsightedness betrays a failure to understand what it is like to be down and out with an empty stomach. It’s amazing how big a difference money makes to people who have none. Simply put, once basic needs are met, further wealth does not necessarily create further happiness. Thus, the relationship between money and happiness is complex and not linear. If it were, billionaires would be a thousand times more happy than millionaires, who would be a hundred times more happy than blue-collar workers. That clearly isn’t the case. On the other hand, healthy relationships within communities are a far more powerful predictor of happiness than more money. Happy people have a healthy “tribal” mentality that translates into healthy social networks with good relationships with the people in those networks.
What I find extremely telling is that while money is both weak and complex as it correlates to happiness, and tribal, social relationships are strong and simple correlators, most Americans trade off their time pursuing happiness through the former.
Why is this? I believe it’s due to the influence of society upon individuals to satisfy its demands over the individual need. Individuals want to be happy, society wants us to consume, so they subconsciously promote a false sense of joy and happiness based upon material possession and pleasure. (see The Ant and the Elephant: Leadership For the Self by Vince Poscente)
So, while most Americans do not feel personally responsible for fueling America’s economic engine they do feel personally responsible for increasing their own well-being. This dichotomy presents a real dilemma, which commercialized society solves by cunningly duping the public into believing that increased consumption and personal, instant gratification bring happiness.
Here’s the sad conclusion to all of this:
Through the medium of “Elephant” focused advertising and propaganda, we are subconsciously indoctrinated that what is good for the economy is good for us. At every turn, we are confronted with the message that yesterdays goods are insufficient for the day. We find the voices of instant and large gratification screaming at us through TV, Radio, billboards, newspapers, magazines plunked down in front of us at the doctor, dentist, airport and car wash. It blares out at us in the privacy of our cars and has now found its way, with our full cooperation, brazenly imprinted across our clothing…
Through it all, we have bought the bill of goods that happiness is just within our grasp…If only we can upgrade that last good thing to the next best thing, and so the cycle perpetuates. We are so entrenched in the lie that instead of feeling cheated and exposing the plot, we find ourselves blaming our lack of style, fashion or upgrade for our hapless state. So the cure for us is to run out and get just one more small upgrade to my Iphone, car, TV, refrigerator, or wife, and then I will be happy. “ Americans live in the shadow of a great lie, and by the time we figure out that it is a lie we are closing in on death and have become irrelevant consumers, and a new generation of young and relevant consumers takes our place in the great chain of shopping.” (Daniel Gilbert, professor of psychology at Harvard University and Director of Harvard’s Hedonic Psychology Laboratory)
Sadly, there is no quick fix to this. It has taken us as a society decades of steady hammering at the anvil of decline to bring us to this place. However, there is a fix. It will take a change of individual thinking that will oppose the law of inertia and turn the tide 180 degrees.
We will need to raise a tribe of leaders from the ground up who will recognize the steady erosion of our basic freedoms and be prepared to fight a different battle, the battle of personal responsibility. The solution is not to change the government, or change the economic system. These solutions merely remove individual responsibility and assume that man will become just and good, that he will know exactly what to do with his money, that he will no longer covet his neighbor’s possessions, that he will no longer steal, that he will give up bribing women and public officials, that he will not be corrupted by his own material good fortune, that he will sympathize with the needy, that he will neither hoard his money nor waste it, that he will no longer dream of “upward mobility,” that he will not use his accumulated wealth to gain power in society, that he will not use his money to humiliate others.
To take personal, individual responsibility will mean that these leaders will undertake the fundamental steps required for any nation to effectively turn the tide.
1. Recognize their own personal responsibility and need for personal repentance.
2. Connect with a community of Tribal thinkers who are connected by the common cause of faith and freedom.
3. Be open and teachable through the Great Conversations of responsible thinkers of our day (eg, Leadershift – Orrin Woodward and Oliver DeMille, Resolved – Orrin Woodward, )
4. Seek out mentorship with those who have proven their understanding of the deeper issues and who have demonstrated their credibility and competence to be effective change agents.
5. Become involved on a civic level and through effective leadership influence their concentric circles towards true liberty and justice.
6. Pursue and promote the entrepreneurial spirit.
“If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or your arms. Crouch down and lick the hands that feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.” -Samuel Adams