Money. A necessity for food, shelter, and video games. That singular elusive butterfly that promises happiness. If you dispute that assumption, I challenge you to watch the 11:00 news every night and try to guess how many people are crouched in their dimly lit living rooms or bedrooms, clutching a lottery ticket in their fingers, eagerly awaiting the numbers that are surely going to make them millionaires.
While it's safe to say that being "poor" isn't any fun, when attempting to qualify and quantify the illusion of money bringing happiness, some startling truths come to light. Truths that show happiness as a state of mind, not a state of financial success. A favorite poem of mine says,
"Happiness is like a crystal, fair, exquisite, and clear--broken in a million pieces--shattered, scattered far and near. Now and then, along life's pathway, lo! some shining fragments fall. But there are so many pieces, no one ever finds them all." (Pricilla Leonard)
Happiness, so another sayings goes, is found along the way, not at the end of the road.
I decided to write about money and happiness today because we live in a world crackling with technology, full of expectation, in a millennium that holds infinite promise. Abraham Lincoln once said, "People are about as happy as they make up their minds to be." This belies the belief that one needs $$$$ to be happy. And yet, it's hard to muster up a smile when the wolf is at the door, which is one reason all those people in paragraph one are glued to their TV waiting for the lottery numbers to be announced every night.
In an article (written by Don Peck and Ross Douthat) in the January/February 2003 issue of The Atlantic Monthly, the authors reported that, "Above about $20,000 per capita, increases in wealth yield at best minimal increases in happiness." Further on in the article, the authors quote Robert E. Lane, a Yale political scientist, arguing that happiness comes from two sources, "Material comfort and familial intimacy." My bolding.
Familial intimacy--a phrase that speaks to family togetherness. A concept which keeps popping up in my reading of late. Not necessarily in those exact words, but in words that reflect America's push to return to the comfort of the nest. Families are pulling in on themselves, as a result of 9/11, so some say. But, I think it's also a result of the increased pace of life in general. A pace that some find overwhelming. So overwhelming, many of us--male and female alike--are opting to cocoon, nest, make our home our world, building in-home theatres rather than go out to movies; paying for satellite dishes and cable TV; and even opting to shop for groceries online!
There is comfort in having our loved ones around us. There is security in closing the door and shutting out the big, bad wolf, whether that's Al Qeda or just the noisey dog next door. Faith Popcorn, author of "EVEolution" and "The Popcorn Report" noted in a Wall Street Journal interview with Suzanne Vranica a few months ago that Americans suffer from two kinds of fear, one internal, the other external. These fears, Popcorn says, "makes consumers suspicious and it makes it harder to sell to them. Big advertisers should be more maternal in this type of environment." My bolding.
Yes, indeed. More maternal. Women hold the key to overcoming the stress, the worry, and the fear. Use our inherent need to take care of our families and friends to sell to us. Perhaps we are online shopping because it's more convenient, but never forget that one of our primary shopping activities is to buy stuff for other people. In business and in the home. To a woman, happiness is brightening someone else's day. We need $$$ to do some of that, but don't concentrate only on price to get us to buy. Instead, focus on our need to please others. Focus on the connection to familial intimacy. Don't forget that those people we work with on a daily basis often become like family to us. The term extended family comes to mind. For women, our extended family includes blood relatives, close friends, colleagues, and the extensive network of people in our children's lives.
Now, I'm off to do some shopping. My granddaughter's birthday is coming and I need to get something personal, special, extraordinary, and age appropriate. Let's see...how can I do that from the chair I'm sitting in?
Online, that's how. I like it.
Cheers! Hope your Easter is sunny and full of fun.