The Link Between Money and Unhappiness

working man wearing hard hatBy the time I graduated from high school, society had already drilled into my head the importance of money. Making plans after high school, whether I went to college or not, revolved around getting a job that paid well. In fact, this was such a high priority that it almost didn’t matter what kind of job I got, as long as it paid well. Of course, having no practical job experience meant getting a job that paid next to nothing.

Early in my working life, I wasn’t so concerned where I worked. I picked up any job that I thought I would enjoy, or could, at least, tolerate. The pay was typically low, but eventually, I knew that the amount of money I made would determine how quickly I could go out into the world, away from the safety net of the home I grew up in. So the search for a high-paying job became my number one priority. But by then, I had already discovered the joy of credit cards…as well as the pain from getting into too much debt. Money, for all its greatness, was already making me unhappy.

Your Story or Mine?

This story could be just about anyone’s story. It might even be yours. We come off the assembly line, known as public education, and we each follow, in lock-step, the person in front of us. We walk around with our eyes spinning like little hypnotic spirals and we chant, “get a high-paying job…get a high-paying job.” When we gather with friends, inevitably, the topic of work comes up and the guy with the highest paying job has no difficulty accidentally stating how much he makes. He slides it in sideways, as though that wasn’t the main point of what he was saying, but we all knew that it was.

We walk away dejected, frustrated, and even more determined to chase that golden bag of money that will solve all our problems, give us the luxuries we think we deserve, and allow us to travel…probably when we’re too old to do so.

We find ourselves hopping around from one job to the next, each one promising to pay more than we’ve ever earned before, but never quite meeting our expectations. And while our back is turned, we go deeper into debt and get even more desperate to find a high-paying job.

Hello? Your Mid-Life Crisis is Calling

If it hasn’t already happened yet, we hit 40 and totally freak out. Our finances are a mess, we hate our jobs, we’re not getting any exercise or sleep, and we live on junk food and TV. What happened? We’ve spent so much time chasing money, that we’ve become consumed with misery.

First of all, if you’re one of these people, I’m sorry that you had to go through this. If you’re not, then this is your wakeup call. I was one of those people. Although, my reality check happened in my mid-30s, which, I guess, was a good thing. If it’s not already painfully clear what’s going on here, there is an obvious link between money and unhappiness. Maybe it’s not true for you, but I’ll bet it’s true for 95% of all people in the United States.

Because we are so trained to get a job that pays well, we spend way too much time trying to get one and not enough time trying to find out who we are and what would make us truly happy. Society tells us that we aren’t supposed to be happy with our jobs, because they are jobs and they’re not supposed to make us happy. Hmmm…do I detect a bit of circular logic here?

Even going to college is no guarantee that you will end up in a career that you will even like. Almost all the people I know who have college degrees of any variety, are not working in careers that match their degrees. Why? Because even when we decide what to pursue in college, it’s not necessarily based on a deeper sense of who we are and what would ultimately make us happy. It’s based on…what? You guessed it, money!

Ignorance: Not Always Compatible with Bliss

Okay, there are exceptions. I’ve heard of people who go to school for something in which they’re very interested. They graduate, get a job in their field of choice, but…the next thing they knew, they had been promoted right out of the work they love and into a lovely, but miserable, higher-paying job. Ain’t life grand?

Sometimes we get lucky and our childhood training doesn’t completely misguide us and we actually choose a career that we love. However, the old mantra is still working in the back of our subconscious minds, “get a high-paying job…get a high-paying job.” We’re totally ignorant of the fact that we’re programmed to pursue money. And whatever hope we had for true bliss dissolved, little by little, with each new job and each new promotion.

Get Out Now!

Well, I’m here to tell you, it’s not too late. Somewhere, deep inside you, there is passion, there is hope, there is your true calling waiting to be found…waiting for you to rekindle a lost love for it. And this is the truth that will set you free: following your passion is actually good. There is a way to follow your passion, your true interests, your greatest skill, and earn a living while doing it. But this is not a passive journey. Following your passion takes effort, but so does working at a job or in a career that you hate. Following your true vocation might mean changing directions in life, but there is a payoff that’s hard to ignore: true happiness.

Don’t wait another day, make your plan to get out of the job you hate, a job that stresses you out or makes you miserable and sucks the life force right out of you. Waking up knowing that you’re working toward establishing yourself in a new career that you love will give you a new lease on life. People will know something is different about you. And you’ll begin to notice everything you love about life and the people who are around you because you won’t be chasing the wrong thing. If your true vocation is worth going after; if you have the grit that it takes to succeed, you’ll find a way and the money will chase you.

If you need some guidance for taking the next step, I highly recommend these books by Dan Miller. I wholeheartedly endorse these books and Dan Miller because he’s a man of high integrity. FYI, these are affiliate links so if you buy the books, it helps me out.

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  1. Right on! I homeschool my three kids and that alone is refusing what society believes to be the only way to educate and socialize your children. But few people critically examine that whole process called public education.

    I try to teach my kids to follow their passion, or if they don’t know what that is, to pursue anything so that they will learn what they like and don’t like–to find out who they are, and you can’t do that very well when you are following the herd.

    I like asking the questions, “Do we really have to do it like that? Is there a better way?” The answers are usually, “No” and “Yes” respectively….

    • [Applauding]

      I hear you, Peggy, and I’m right here with you on this one. It took me far too long to realize how I was duped. I’m not saying that all guidance from society is bad, it’s just that when we base our values and purpose on old, out-dated assumptions, we end up miserable because we’re chasing the wrong things.

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