Researchers have discovered how to be happier, and it’s not what you think.
People with the freedom to change careers, start a business or live their dreams are happier than people who feel stuck, researchers discovered.
Money relates to happiness only as far as it influences a person’s freedom to make choices, the researchers found.
In other words, money is indirectly tied to happiness through the lens of your ‘freedom to choose.’
“While wealth can provide you with more choices, it’s really having the ability to realize your dreams that leads to greater happiness,” study coauthor Ronald Fischer told AARP Magazine.
Fischer belonged to a team of researchers at the University of Wellington in New Zealand that surveyed 420,000 people across 63 countries about money, freedom, and choices.
Here’s the kicker: the people with freedom to choose report higher levels of happiness, even if they never act on that freedom.
The actual act of changing careers, starting a large family, moving to a new city, launching a business or traveling the world is irrelevant. What matters is having the freedom to do so. (I call this the freedom to ‘afford anything’ you choose.)
Money can provide you with more choices, but only if you keep your bills low.
It’s not the balance in a person’s bank account that makes them happy; it’s the ‘spread’ between their bank balance and their bills. If there’s a wide spread, people have more flexibility, more options. If there’s a narrow spread, people perceive themselves as stuck, and their happiness levels plummet.
If you get a raise but you embrace a bigger mortgage or a new car payment, your ‘spread’ never changes and you aren’t any happier.
If you get a raise but your spending habits stay the same, your ‘spread’ increases and – with it – so does your freedom and happiness.
The bottom line? Happiness relates to your ability to self-govern your own life, even if your day-to-day actions stay the same.
Want to learn more? — A professor in Colorado discovers that spending money on experiences, not objects, is the secret to happiness.
Photo courtesy Georgi Keith.