What creates happiness?  Are the rich and famous happier than you?

Every day people come into my office because they are unhappy, restless, bored, or depressed. They feel they are missing something in life.  They are not sure quite what it might be, they just know there has to be more. 

Do you ever feel that way? If you do you are not alone. Every person on the planet, regardless of who they are, at times experiences disappointment, boredom, sadness and restlessness in life.  All of us.  No one escapes. Somehow we just expected more out of life and don’t have it and are disappointed.  We look at “other people” and envy some of them and wonder what has gone wrong for us? Could it be that our expectations of life are too high?  Too unrealistic? That we believe that life should be a “fairy tale” with a happily ever after? Or a scene from a Hollywood movie?

When I work with clients it is very important to help them figure out exactly what their expectations are for their life.  If their expectations are “over the top” such as “I want to be a famous movie star or a top model, or have millions of dollars, or be 6’3” instead of 5’9 or play football like Tom Brady, that indicates that they are not realistic. I bet even Tom Brady some days wakes up and is surprised he is “Tom Brady”, and is revered by many, famous everywhere and walked away with the prom queen (his wife super model Gisele Bündchen).  I bet the two of them could outline the pros and cons of having such a high-profile life…and not all of it would be good!  We all have to accept the fact that very few of us will be a Tom Brady, a Nobel prize winning scientist, an Oscar nominee, a princess in a royal family, or a Bill Gates.  

People who do achieve fame probably aren’t any happier than those of us who have regular lives. Studies have shown that once you have enough money to support yourself, your family and have an “ok” lifestyle, having money beyond that doesn’t create happiness.  In fact, it can create more problems!  It depends on why someone was “driven internally” to be famous.  If they did it so others would “recognize them” and this was the primary motivation that drove them, then that is the wrong reason. But if they became famous for doing something they love, that gives them deep satisfaction that would be the right reason and would create fulfillment. As American social psychologist Orville Brim said “the fame motive has come out of the basic human need for acceptance and approval. When this need is not fulfilled because of rejection by parents, or adolescent peer groups, or others, a basic insecurity develops and emerges as the fame motive. Well, it turns out that fame is not the answer for your need for love or, acceptance by others.” Fame does not create meaning for your life. Fame does not create a fulfilled life on its own.  In fact, it complicates life. The hunger and search for fame for its own sake, driven by a basic need which was not fulfilled in childhood, will not create happiness.

It is very important to understand that life is daily. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday… It is daily for you and me and daily for everyone else on the planet.  One day followed by another day followed by another.  When we are looking to have “big moments” all the time, we are doomed to be disappointed.  It is not realistic, and it doesn’t happen for anyone.  Most of us watched when Prince Harry married Meghan Markel. Once the wedding is over, the honey moon is over and “real life” begins…. her life will over time become “routine” and her “daily life” will become her “normal everyday life”. Just as our life becomes our normal everyday routine. She will love some of it, hate some of it, have fights with Harry as he will with her, just like we all do. The only thing that sets them apart from us are their titles, their clothes, their houses and that they are members of the Royal Family.  However, the trade for that lifestyle and its privileges is their privacy, and constantly being watched, commented on, speculated about their marriage, will they have kids, is she up to the job, do they still love each other, is she getting too thin or too fat, he is losing interest? Anything the gossip columns can make up about them will be written and that will be their daily “norm”.   I am sure after a while if anyone marries someone they don’t love, no matter how great the perks might be, it can’t guarantee lasting love, happiness and getting along with your in-laws. Life is life for all of us.  Once we have enough money to support ourselves and our family, a place to live, people to love and to love us, a roof over our heads, life at that level evens out for all of us. Money buys “comfort” the best of everything but not happiness (ask Prince Charles about his marriage to Diana).

To a great extent “happiness” can be a choice. The clear exception of course is when someone suffers from a “clinical depression” where they feel that life is not worth living, and they have physical symptoms and feelings that create despair, panic, anxiety, hopelessness and even suicide.  This is a serious condition and needs treatment, medication, careful monitoring and sometimes hospitalization.

However, for most of us the decision to be happy or unhappy has more to do with us, our attitude, our outlook on life, having someone to love and be loved in return, than it does with how much money or fame we have. That realization can give most of us some hope and a more realistic expectations for our lives! I have seen rich people who are happy and poor people who are happy.  I have seen rich people who are miserable and poor people who are miserable.  Once we have shelter, enough food to eat, our necessities are met, and enough money to live, life seems to “even out” for us all in terms of happiness.  I think that is reassuring. 

Remember no matter how rich, how famous or how important you are we all get up in the morning brush our teeth, take a shower and put our socks on….it’s the same routine around the world.  While we are here on earth let’s try to do it with joy and remember someone somewhere has it better than we do….. and someone somewhere has it worse than we do.  Who knows, maybe happiness is more “a choice” or an “outlook” or “attitude”.  What do you think?  Do you believe that could be true? That might mean there is hope for each of us and …maybe, just maybe it is inside of us and we must search until we find it. Maybe it can be found in our marriages, with our children, our extended families, our jobs, our health, friendships and the very fact that we are all on this earth together. According to Gilbert Brim it might be more a “state of mind” and enjoying what you have and not always longing for more and more of what you don’t have.  If that is the case, maybe most of us could be much happier than we are if we took this to heart and practised it. What do you think?

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