Why don't life goals make me happy?

Non-material goals in life lead to happiness

If you've heard the saying “money doesn't make you happy”, you may have wondered if that's true. After all, much of the misery that exists in the world is the result of a lack of financial resources.

Studies suggest that there may be something to this statement and that you don't need money to be happy in your life. Bruce Headey deals with the problem of subjective wellbeing or, in short, with SWB in his article “Life Goals That Lead to Happiness”. He examines the influences of money on materialistic and non-materialistic goals in life. Headey found that people with non-materialistic goals in life report greater satisfaction in their life than people with more materialistic goals.

The setpoint theory

Many studies addressing these questions use a concept called setpoint theory as the basis of their approach.

Setpoint theory states that it is difficult, if not impossible, to change your level of happiness. She claims your ability to be happy is fixed from the start. However, this theory is increasingly being questioned and investigated.

To do this, researchers consider the effects of negative life events in a person's life. There are several factors that can affect a person's ability to experience happiness. With therapies, treatments, or lifestyle changes, it is possible to work on these past situations. Another point to think about when questioning this theory.

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Another reason this theory should be questioned is that it is believed that people are unable to significantly improve their happiness - a very negative point of view. As a final consideration, we think of the power of our thoughts and the fact that with concentrated effort they can overcome a lot. So it's worth taking a second look at whether this theory is applicable.

More satisfaction over time

A current, long-term German study examines the SWB and how "zero-sum goals" and "non-zero-sum goals" influence happiness. Zero-sum goals are goals in life that relate to status or wealth. Non-zero-sum goals mean non-materialistic life goals that involve family life or altruistic activities.




Big bubble: status and shopping don't make you happy


The long-term study began in 1984. Through this long period of time, the researchers were able to get a comprehensive picture of how the level of satisfaction of the respondents has changed over a large period of time. The changes that emerged in the long-term study were of great significance, more than any other study on the subject.

You can't buy happiness

The study concluded that people who placed more emphasis on non-zero-sum goals, such as family life, experienced greater satisfaction in their life than people who set more value on materialistic zero-sum goals. In fact, the pursuit of money and status seemed to be actively damaging happiness. A finding that is not necessarily surprising.

After all, family life is likely to suffer when the energy is put into professional and financial goals. But why is there this separation between the two goals in life at all? Why is the focus so often on material gain when it ultimately harms the person? The reason is very simple: you can't have everything.

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Why you are harmed by materialistic goals in life

So the question is, why do less or non-materialistic goals make people happier than if they focus on the material goals? A likely explanation for this is the fear of losing one's status. This means that once you have reached a higher status, it is no longer enough for you. Instead, you feel compelled to live out your possibilities, to show your life goal and in fact to achieve an even higher one.




Material goals create a spiral of higher goals, more work and stress, and fewer relationships

So if you get promoted and get a raise, you'll have to spend that money on a more expensive car. You have to move to a better neighborhood. And conversely, you have to work a lot to pay for all of this and to be able to maintain the level. You will begin to befriend people from higher income levels. Which in turn leads to you adapting your lifestyle to theirs. Regardless of whether your income is sufficient or not. And when your stress level increases, you realize that you cannot quit your well-paying job, because that would have consequences for your standard of living. Once you have achieved a noticeably higher standard of living, it is extremely difficult to let go of it again. That is the effect of the upward spiral.

On the other hand, non-material goals in life are beneficial to yourself and others. We feel deeply satisfied when we volunteer without financial compensation. From this we see the importance of helping others. And that things of importance make you happy. That generosity feels like we can make a difference. A harmonious family life undoubtedly has a positive effect on our well-being. This also means that we spend our free time in pleasant surroundings and with people with whom we feel comfortable. We choose to have family and good friends. And unlike the people we work with, we should want to enjoy spending time with family and friends.


Family time is a key to happiness

Conclusions for non-material goals in life

It is not bad to set goals per se, because that can also motivate us. But the goals should be set in a healthy and productive way. As a consequence, we can be careful that the pursuit of materialistic goals does not come at the expense of family life and non-materialistic goals. So the sensible solution is to strike a balance between your family's and your family's financial security needs and take care of your “insides”. This balance between the three needs requires ambition and motivation. The result is well worth the effort.

Deep relationships are the basis of a happy life.

Some degree of financial security is essential. Anyone who has to worry about how to pay their bills is guaranteed to be stressed out. But materialistic goals shouldn't rule life. This only sets in motion the upward spiral mentioned above. Instead, you can gain a lot by devoting a large amount of your time to family, friends (including work friends), and the community. Because with them there are important and deep connections and relationships in your life, which according to a Harvard study is the key to a happy life. The balance between material goals in life and non-materialistic goals in life is essential for the creation and maintenance of happiness in your life.

cover photo: Colorbox.com

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