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Truth vs Lies: Success, Happiness and Money

The good news is that happiness and success are not age or gender dependent. Male or female, you are never too old or too young to achieve them both in your life (personal or professional). The same principal holds true for money. The world is full of happy people, successful people, money moguls- young and old. We hear the words: money, happiness, success and assume they must all be tied together like bows on a pretty package sitting under the Christmas tree. The truth behind the complicated interaction of these three variables involves how we define happiness, measure success and value money. 

The link between money and happiness has been the topic of ongoing global academic debate for years. Time and again, research shows that money has little to do with overall happiness. 

Happy moments tied to money are exhilarating in the short term. The happiness paradox, as it is known, exposes a truth: that as peoples incomes rise, so do their aspirations. More wealth creates more want. When incomes fluctuate or fall, the aspirations often times do not. Happy moments morph into unhappy moments. While on the surface it appears that people with higher incomes are happier than those struggling day to day to get by, surprisingly when you dig deeper and get beyond what it appears to be vs what it really is, this does not always hold true. Additional research has found that when measuring overall happiness, what matters more than earning a big dollar income is how the money is spent. The good feeling derived from spending money on material goods leads to fleeting happy moments. In direct contrast, the feeling you get reliving the memory of a life enriching experience or helping people in need will becoming a bigger part of what defines your core values and will reinforce internal happiness. So it is safe to say that spending money on life experiences or for the greater good (vs money spent on tangible items for oneself) will leave a lasting positive impact on your life. While there is no doubt that money can make life easier on some levels, we have seen how it complicates life on many other levels. More money does not lead to more happiness. Certainly we know that money won’t guarantee either happiness or success. 

From a young age we are taught that success is measured by achieving traditional milestones. These can include but are not limited to: getting good grades in school, being accepted into a perceived great college, a prestigious career in a notable company, earning a 6 figure salary, having a certain amount of money in the bank, living in a big house in an exclusive neighborhood, marrying the right person, driving an expensive car. It extends to having talented well behaved and high achieving children, who excel scholastically and athletically, owning a pedigree dog, etc. The list is endless. Its enough to make the shakers and movers feel unsuccessful. The truth is that none of these things are an indicator of real success. Let looks at how the notable thought leaders and influencers defined success:

  • “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.” -Maya Angelou
  • “Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.” -John Wooden

It is apparent that neither one of the definitions are tied into attaining popularity or prosperity through the achievement of traditional milestones. Conversely, both definitions reflect internal satisfaction with the person you have worked to become. Ultimately how success is defined will be the major factor in the overall happiness equation. It is important to examine the goals you set and achieve including their timelines, and how they tie into the traditional definition of success in this fast paced modern world, where immediate gratification is expected.

You may be left asking, “How then is Happiness defined and how does it relate to money and success?”. Happy moments when traditional success is achieved is not to be confused with happiness. True happiness at its core is much larger, deeper, more fundamental and ties into a personal value system. It is not related to setting or achieving goals. It reflects a state of mind that allows you to appreciate the moment, it provides purpose and honors your core values. Research has proven that happy people have a higher level of confidence, optimism and energy. They are driven to undertake new goals that reinforce positive emotions and happiness which ultimately leads to a feeling of being successful. Additionally, happy people are more likely than their peers to foster fulfilling marriages and relationships, earn higher incomes, exhibit superior work performance, be committed to a cause, be involved in their communities and see the importance of a heathy lifestyle. Happy people use their strengths to meet challenges faced in the workplace and at home with optimism, gratitude and kindness combined with hard-work, while remaining focused on the purpose.

In the lie we have been led to believe, the equation is unbalanced. The premise that making money leads to success which ultimately leads to happiness is false and part of a vicious cycle.

The truth lies in years of research and is the direct opposite of what has been passed down for generations. We now know that it is happiness which leads to success, which then leads to the ability to earn more money, which can be used to enrich one’s life and the lives of others who are rising up from behind. A positive cycle.

You’ve heard the lies and now know the truth. Life is a circle of choice. Who you are and what you bring into your circle continuously comes back around to you. Choose carefully!

Photo credit: Daniela Balzano, multitalented folk artist and mother of two, resides in Guilford, Connecticut. She believes in kindness and compassion, eating chocolate at least once a day, and celebrating life through arts. Her work may be viewed at 

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