The Secret of Happiness: Meaning Not Money

In: BlogDate: Oct 17, 2012By: Henry Stewart

If you have ever felt envy when you scan the Rich List or read about a millionaire (and, to be honest, who hasn’t?) then a recent discussion on Quora provides a useful antidote. Answering the question “Is getting rich worth it?” several very wealthy people described lives that do not sound enviable.

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The top-rated response (who made $20 million from a tech sell out) describes a life of “sloth”, “greed”, “entitlement” and “loss of purpose”. He spends most of his day doing “mostly nothing” while getting really angry when, after paying $1,000 for a hotel room, he is not treated like royalty. Others describe losing key relationships and a sense of isolation.

Lessons from the Happiness Festival

I read this after a weekend at the Happiness festival at Dartington Hall, discussing what makes people happy. Mark Williamson and Vanessa King of Action for Happiness laid out what they see as the 10 keys to happier living.

Money is not one of those ten. Instead we are encouraged to do things to help others, one of the best ways to feel good yourself. And to find meaning and purpose in your life. (And 8 other steps…)

The Happy List

One of those present at Dartington was the David Randall, who produces the Independent on Sunday’s Happy list. Founded as a counter to the Sunday Times Rich List, it describes people “making Britain a more contented, better-adjusted, supportive, and happier place”.

It makes inspiring reading. Read about “the woman who lost her sight on her wedding day 47 years ago and has campaigned for blind people ever since; the 91-year-old who raises money for charity by wing walking; the former gang member now helping young people avoid a life of crime; the victim of domestic abuse who went on to found three refuges and a helpline; the Bristol foster parents who have given homes to 150 children.”

I reckon all of these are happier in their lives than most millionaires, certainly if what is written on Quora is in any way representative

Seek Meaning and Purpose

I’m sure it is possible to be rich and happy. Bill Gates certainly always seems pretty contented. But he has certainly found a purpose and meaning in his life, as he seeks to use his money for good. So I’d say the people at Action for Happiness are onto something and pursuing their 10 keys is a better route to happiness than looking for more money.

Or simply read the accounts of those wealthy folk on Quora. They certainly made me feel more content with my life!


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Henry Stewart, Founder and Chief Happiness Officer

Henry is founder and Chief Happiness Officer of Happy Ltd, originally set up as Happy Computers in 1987. Inspired by Ricardo Semler’s book Maverick, he has built a company which has won multiple awards for some of the best customer service in the country and being one of the UK’s best places to work.

Henry was listed in the Guru Radar of the Thinkers 50 list of the most influential management thinkers in the world. "He is one of the thinkers who we believe will shape the future of business," explained list compiler Stuart Crainer.

His first book, Relax, was published in 2009. His second book, the Happy Manifesto, was published in 2013 and was short-listed for Business Book of the Year.

You can find Henry on LinkedIn and follow @happyhenry on Twitter.

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