All of us know about the treadmill, as we have used it at some or other point in our lives to shed that excess baggage (read weight), acquired over a period of time. So, when that excess baggage is shed, we are happy, we stop using it. Now that excess baggage returns, we become unhappy again, hence, we are back on the treadmill!
Probably hedonic treadmill draws its inspiration from here, which is a tendency of a person to remain at a relatively stable level of happiness, despite major positive or negative changes to life goals or achievements.
So, what it actually means? Say you make a certain amount of money and achieve certain life goals, but expectations and desires rise in relative proportion to these achievements, resulting in no permanent gain in happiness. Now, you are perennially unhappy!
In modern times, say since the 1850s, with the onset of the industrial revolution, consumerism boomed, today after 150 years, consumerism boomeranged. Things which made us happy then, are making us unhappy now!
No amount of money can add to your happiness quotient if you are not happy within. Sadhguru aptly describes happiness, “If you want happiness then you should peep within yourself, you will not find it anywhere else.”
Still, there is no denying that money has a critical role to play in every individual’s life and in every nation’s life. If you have money, you are considered successful, and happy! In India, there is a perception that whenever you say some good thing about someone like, “He is a nice gentleman, very jovial and helpful” Quick would be the reply, “Why not, he has so much money.” Implying only rich people are nice, jovial and helpful. What do we make out of this?
Money is a double-edged sword – you will get cut either way!
“Money is not the most important thing in the world. Love is. Fortunately, I love money.” – Jackie Mason
There we are! Money makes the world go round. Certainly, you can buy anything you want from money, but are you rich enough to buy those things which money can’t buy? All of us need to ask ourselves this question.
Money may have a correlation with happiness but it is not directly proportional to happiness. Having a good income can give us all comforts of life, but once our earnings reach a level when our basic needs for food, medicine, security and shelter are met, the positive effects of money are diluted by the negative effects, like we have to work longer hours, lead a stressful life to achieve targets, worry about how to park the money in safe havens or even worse IT people knocking our door.
What to say of intangible losses like lack of quality time with family, friends and relatives? Or the inability to pursue hobbies, passions or activities which provide us with happiness? We start hankering for happiness again, so it is a kind of vicious cycle – a Catch-22 situation.
Times are such that we assume that material possessions like an iPhone, Zara Handbag, Mercedes, or Rolex watch will make us happy, they do, of course, maybe in the short-term, over going to a Concert, Zumba class or going on a budget vacation. Eventually, these possessions fade into the background, whereas happiness acquired from the experiences increases over time.
Don’t you remember the incident of your father making a saving of six months’ salary and surprising you with a bicycle on your birthday?
All your friends admired your bicycle, there was a double celebration of sorts…
…Can that happiness be equated with the happiness that you get after buying a luxury car by signing a cheque every few years? That was the symbol of the love of your parents, who worked hard to make you happy. Now nobody has time to come to wish you or celebrate your new car.
This is the irony of life. Happiness on a bicycle ride takes you much far than the ride in your luxury car.
Money doesn’t buy happiness, money buys CHOICES. It’s what you do with those choices that makes you happy.
If you have money, enjoy it! Invest it in making others around you happy, pursue hobbies, explore destinations, acquire books to read, relish good cuisine, dress – up well, and help those who are not so privileged. You would be really happy.
If you don’t have money, enjoy whatever you have, and work hard for more but don’t ride a hedonic treadmill, it is nothing but a rat race!
If you want to feel rich, count all the things that you have that money can’t buy.
You will know how rich you are!
– Bienu Varma Vaghela