July 7th, 2008

Super-Replicating False Belief: More money will make you Happier

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Economists and psychologists have spent decades studying the relation between wealth and happiness, and they have generally concluded that wealth increases human happiness when it lifts people out of abject poverty and into the middle class but that it does little to increase happiness thereafter.

-Daniel Gilbert, Stumbling on Happiness

The link between happiness an income- the difference in happiness is minimal when a person is not in poverty
The link between happiness an income- the difference in happiness is minimal when a person is not in poverty
The difference in happiness between Americans who earn $50,000 and those that earn $10,000 per year is significant. But the difference in happiness between Americans making $100,000 per year and $5 million per year is not significant. This has been proven in countless scientific studies.

So why do those making a decent income believe that more money will make them significantly happier? They have a super-replicating false belief:

Super-Replicating Belief: A Belief that has some property which facilitates its own transmission, which makes it be held by an increasing number of minds.

The production of wealth does not necessarily make individuals happy, but it does serve the needs of an economy, which serves the needs of a stable society. Society serves as a network for propagating this false belief because a healthy economy means the survival of the current system:

Economies thrive when individuals strive, but because individuals will only strive for their own happiness, it is essential that they mistakenly believe that producing and consuming are routes to personal well-being.

-Daniel Gilbert, Stumbling on Happiness

If money doesn’t make us happier, what does? Here are three tips for living a happier life:

Tips for Being Happier

1) Create meaningful goals

Identify what you’d like to achieve in your life. Set a time frame. Write it down.

Example- I’d like to write a book on Dog Training. I will complete my first draft by writing five pages per day for the next two months.

2) Enjoy the day to day process of realizing these goals

Don’t fall into the trap of believing that “I’ll be happy once I achieve my goals”- all you have is now, the present moment. Find meaning in your day-to-day activities, working towards your goals. If you aren’t enjoying your day-to-day activities, maybe you have the wrong goals.

3) Appreciate your life

Appreciate your life- don’t take it for granted. An easy way to instill the habit of gratefulness is to keep a daily log of five things you are grateful for. You may find yourself repeating the same things in your list from day to day, but that’s okay. The objective is to create a positive habit of focusing on what you are grateful for.

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