I’ve been involved in some discussions recently about “happiness”.
I’ve written about it before, but the message doesn’t seem to get through – people still assume money is the key to happiness despite all the evidence.
I just did an interview for Zest magazine which asked some slightly different questions, including ones about “being a better person”
That tends to depend on what you think “better” would mean. What it seemed to mean in context was having good characteristics, being helpful to people etc. Which, of course, might also include having lots of money to give away.
But it is probably a more useful goal than wanting to be “rich”.
It’s a bit of a double edged sword though. Trying to be better is a nice ambition, but it can head towards “I ought to be, I should be, why aren’t I” etc. Any counsellor, coach or therapist will tell you those are dangerous words. They make people unhappy with what they are, because if you “ought to be”, richer, a better person, slimmer etc. you aren’t and are emphasising what you don’t have not what you do, is rarely a good thing. They also mean that you’re loading expectations on yourself. Why ought you to be nice to everybody, all the time? Who says?
If you’re in the running for Dalai Lama being perfect and being nice all the time may be a reasonable ambition (but not according to the Dalai Lama himself, who says he isn’t always perfect). For most it’s not practical or reasonable to heap expectations on yourself. And it can be even more difficult for women (the main Zest audience) because they tend to be more likely to suffer from “imposter syndrome”, feeling that as they know they are not absolutely perfect, somebody is going to tap them on the shoulder and tell them “I caught you, I know you’re just faking it, you’re not really perfect, how can you pretend to be a nice person”? And that way lies madness.
What’s actually more useful in terms of being a “better person”(and which has the effect of making you happy) is to look at your motivation to be helpful, better, etc.
Why do you want to be helpful (in the same way as, if you read Taming the Pound you’d ask yourself why do you want more money – what is it for?)
Do you want to have a reputation for being helpful, do you have some friends that help you and you want to “pay back”, do you think you’re a “bad” person and need to build up some good Karma, are you just full of the joy of life and want to make everybody happy?
I looked at some of the elements before and the way they arose out of lots of separate areas of research
But in coaching, I’d look at people’s values (which is a big subject, but basically it is about what is really important to you). I’d also look at your strengths, are you naturally high on compassion, kindness etc., are you sociable and good at bringing people together, are you good at solving practical problems. Generally, you can help and be kind to others by using strengths on their behalf that they don’t have – which also has the effect of making you happier because using our natural strengths tends to do that.
So if you know why you’re doing something, what your motivation is, you know yourself and what you’re good at and you actually think about what your values are in life, you can be happier and a better person.
And you don’t actually need any money to do it.