Happy New Year! That’s perhaps the first greeting you would have for anyone you meet this month. But think about it: what is true happiness, for that person and you? Philosophers have grappled with that question since time immemorial as each one of us is ultimately in pursuit of ‘happiness’ but there are no clear answers yet. One of the reasons why it has been difficult to define happiness is that it could mean different things to different people (read differences of age, class, gender, race, nationality and more), or it could mean a combination of different things to different people.
Among the most debated measures of happiness is money. There are people on both sides of the fence—those who dismiss it as any measure of true happiness and give precedence to the non-material aspects, and others who can’t stop highlighting its obvious benefits. There’s no denying that money can’t buy time, happiness or other immaterial aspects, but it can play a role in pushing you closer to, if not achieving, them.
Happiness is Time
Covid reaffirmed the ever-present truths of life: it’s transience and the importance of spending your time meaningfully. That could mean volunteering for a cause for some, following their passions for others, or simply spending more time with family or friends.Unfortunately, taking out time to do any of the above is a luxury not everyone can afford. Not all jobs may pay enough while giving adequate mind space at the same time. There are EMIs to pay, dependants to take care of, and future expenses to save for.
Often, financial planning is seen as an exercise that’s only about investing and saving, but get into its essence, and it can free you up in unimaginable ways. It will help you measure your monetary expectations from life, in turn helping you find time to navigate and fit in your other desires. Here’s an example: If you know that you need X amount of money for your retirement, given your savings and investing pattern, and realise that you are making X+Y, you may be willing to sacrifice Y in exchange for whatever makes you spend your time meaningfully.
Happiness is Satisfaction
Most of you would have experienced that surge of happiness in moments when you achieved something—finishing high school, landing your first job, and so on. But those moments are often evanescent, a part of the happy memories bucket to be dipped into and savoured later.
A continuous sense of satisfaction, on the other hand, is more of a journey, and is closely linked to how you live and spend your life. Like it or not, in many cases, this could include how your financial life is laid out. The satisfaction of having planned well to be able to provide for your children or the society or yourself in retirement years is perhaps unparalleled for most people.
Happiness is Gratitude
Gratitude towards the little things in life can help induce the satisfaction that most of us hanker for. Gratitude towards what we have can perhaps help contain our unending wants and desires, even as we parallelly seek satisfaction from our work and other aspects of life.
The Indian philosophy understands that happiness can be achieved through a judicious balance of certain elements. Take a leaf from that to strike a balance between your emotions and purpose in life, to achieve true happiness.