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Tough times
These are tough times. Millions of folks are experiencing pain and suffering – lost jobs, reduced wages, continuing foreclosures, bankruptcies, lack of proper health care, increasing stock market volatility and on and on. According to Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the most basic need is that of survival. These folks are experiencing that desperate state – simply looking to survive.

Unhappiness and income
Curiously, there’s another group among us which is surviving, has covered their basic needs, but who experience a similar state of desperation – namely, unhappiness. This group is those who feel that more money is the one element that will bring them happiness.

Recently, researchers from the University of Warwick in the UK found that for many of this latter group, some form of inner work – therapy or counseling – is far more effective (32 times more effective!) in reducing unhappiness and distress than an increase in income.

In other words, it seems that that once our “basic needs” (a la Maslow) have been met, income increases don’t do a whole lot to increase our sense of happiness and well-being.

In their study, the researchers found a four-month experience of therapy or counseling produced a greater impact on individual’s sense of well-being than an increase in income such as a pay rise or even winning the lottery. Even the monies won for “pain and suffering” in lawsuits do not repair emotional or psychological harm.

Health vs. health
What I find interesting when I read about the state of our country’s health is that many base their assessment of “health” on the basis of the GDP and similar economic and financial statistics. Me? I choose to look at the country’s mental health statistics – indicators like rates of obesity, cancer, heart disease, depression, suicides, abuse or addiction.

Why? Because the results of the Warwick research also point to a steady decline in mental health and happiness in developed countries over the past fifty years. Individual and collective economic growth has not increased national happiness.

How much is enough?
On a personal level, Daniel Gilbert, author of the recent book Stumbling on Happiness, suggests that “by and large, money buys happiness only for those who lack the basic needs (Maslow). Once you pass an income of $50,000, more money doesn’t buy much more happiness. Our culture implores us to buy bigger, newer, better things, but research shows “stuff” does not buy happiness.”

In the end, there’s a vast segment of our population that spends their lives doing things that they hate to make money they don’t want to buy things they don’t need to impress folks they don’t like all in the attempt to experience happiness. Is that you?

If it is, ask the ultimate trite but important question, “How’s that working for you vis-a-vis experiencing true and real happiness?”

“If all the gold in the world were melted down into a solid cube, it would be about the size of an eight room house. If a man got possession of all that gold — billions of dollars worth — he could not buy a friend, character, peace of mind, clear conscience or a sense of eternity.” – Charles F. Bunning

Some questions for self-reflection:

  • What do I want money to do for me? How so?
  • What is happiness to me?
  • What things, qualities, service, and purpose do I value in life?
  • What is the role of money in my search for meaning? Does it even have a role?
  • How do I you relate to money?
  • Does money scare me?
  • How does money rule my life?
  • Is money my servant or your master?
  • What was my and my family’s experience around money like when I was growing up?


(c) 2015, Peter G. Vajda, Ph.D. and True North Partnering. All rights in all media reserved. I’m grateful for the opportunity to share this reading with you and I hope you find it insightful and useful. Perhaps you’ll share this with others, post it on a bulletin board, and use it to generate rich and rewarding discussion. What is the one thing that is keeping you from feeling successful, happy, confident, in control or at peace as you live your life – at work, at home, at play or in relationship? Maybe you know what that thing is…maybe you don’t. You just have a feeling that something has to change, whether or not you embrace that change. And how would that change support you to show up as a “better you?”   I’m available to guide you to create relationships that reflect honesty, integrity, authenticity, trust, and respect whether at work or outside of work. I support you to focus on the interpersonal skills that enable you to relate to others with a high level of personal and professional satisfaction – unhampered by personal inconsistencies, beliefs, “stories,” and behaviors that create barriers to a harmonious, pleasant, conscious, compatible, healthy and productive relationship.   I coach by phone, Skype and in person. For more information, 770-804-9125, or pvajda(at)

You can also follow me on Twitter: @petergvajda.