People who value happiness over money usually have these 7 special traits

A few weeks back, I was an observer to an age-old debate, that of the “Does money actually make us happy?” type. 

One friend was adamant that we can’t be happy without money and that, generally, the more money we have, the happier we will be. The other claimed that focusing on money was the source of much unhappiness for many of us today. 

And they are both right in some ways. 

I think we can all agree that a lack of money is not conducive to happiness for most people. Those of you who have struggled to pay your bills at one point or another will know this.  

What may surprise some of you, however, is that research suggests that more money is, in fact, correlated with more happiness, and it doesn’t seem to stop as we make more money. 

Yep, you read that right. More money = more happiness.

I can hear the objections from here. 

Many of these will come from those of you who have read that life satisfaction plateaus at 75,000 USD. An older study did suggest this, and while it’s a nice thought, more recent and more detailed studies have shown this to be largely incorrect. 

The truth is that research would suggest that for most people, more money equals more happiness. So aim to make the most money possible, and we will be happier, right?

Nope, it’s not that simple, either. 

A 2003 study suggested that the more we aim for money, the less satisfied we will be in certain areas of our lives. Researchers noted, “the stronger the goal for financial success, the lower the satisfaction with family life, regardless of household income.” 

Another study conducted in 2019, as put by HBR, “suggests that prioritizing money over time may actually undermine our happiness”. 

And funnily enough, these are the things most of us do. 

We create big financial goals. Then, we work those extra hours, we target that promotion, and we get our side hustle going.  

We think the extra bucks will make us more content, not realizing that such financial goals and the sacrificed time they require are likely doing the opposite. 

Many of us, then, have got it wrong. 

But not all. 

There is a rare group of individuals who look at this in a more nuanced way; they prioritize happiness, the ultimate goal, over the route many of us believe will get us there: money.

What do these people do differently? 

That’s what we get into today. 

1) They prioritize spending time with people they care about 

So, some research suggests that the more money we have, the happier we are. But guess what the longest-ever study on happiness suggests?

It suggests that “Close relationships, more than money or fame, are what keep people happy throughout their lives.”

People who value time over money are well aware of this, whether they have read the study or not. This understanding guides their choices, leading them to seek quality time over quantity of possessions.

Want to be happier? 

Investing in relationships and cherishing moments with loved ones often yields immeasurable joy and fulfillment, far surpassing the transient happiness material wealth can offer.

2) They avoid overworking

Ever felt the pressure to stay just an hour or two longer in the office, or the looming fear of disappointing your boss if you don’t? 

It’s a common scenario many of us face, but as noted by HBR, numerous studies show that overworking is simply not good for our well-being. These studies have shown that it can result in “impaired sleep, depression, heavy drinking, diabetes, impaired memory, and heart disease.”

Hardly a recipe for happiness, eh?

And even when we do work more, do we actually get more done? 

In many cases, it seems not. A study by a Stanford University professor highlighted a startling fact: productivity decreases sharply after a person works 50 hours a week, and those logging more than 55 hours make no more headway than their peers who capped their week at a more reasonable 70 hours​​.

3) They buy time 

Yes, this might sound strange, but people who value happiness over money often use the latter to gain the former. 

What do I mean by this? 

Well, they might hire someone to handle daily chores, opt for convenience services that save time, or even choose a job closer to home to reduce commute times. These decisions aren’t about splurging on luxuries but about valuing and reclaiming time, the ultimate non-renewable resource. 

And there really is something to it. 

When Harvard Business Review surveyed 15,000 people, those who ‘bought time’ showed 10% higher life satisfaction. 

“Well that’s fine for rich people” you might say. I hear you; that was my initial thought, too. However, it turns out this relationship also applied to those making under 40,000 USD a year. 

The essence here is not about the amount spent but the value placed on time.

4) They turn down promotions 

When I worked in finance in my early twenties, a colleague of mine did something no one expected: he turned down a promotion. 

He rejected more status and more money. For what? 

Well, I asked him back then. 

He told me that he valued his personal life and well-being more than the allure of a higher position. He wanted to ensure he had enough time for his hobbies, family, and simply to relax, rather than being consumed by increased responsibilities and longer hours that he knew would come with a promotion. 

His choice reflected a deeper understanding that happiness often comes from life’s intangible aspects, a sentiment shared by those who prioritize happiness over material gains. 

This isn’t to suggest that declining advancement is necessary for everyone to achieve happiness, but it serves as a poignant reminder of the power of choice we hold in shaping our lives. 

Balancing our professional ambitions with personal fulfillment is key, and for some, that means saying “no” to a promotion.

5) They limit their desires 

When I was 17, my father got me a car. I was lucky.

 Was it a great car? No. 

Was I happy? Yes, I was over the moon.

Would I be happy with that car now? If I’m honest, probably not. 

Ever notice how when we make more money, our desire for things also increases? This is particularly evident in how, as our income increases, so does our appetite for luxury and excess. 

However, those who prioritize happiness over material wealth resist this urge, adhering to the wisdom of ancient philosophers like Epicurus, who believed that joy stems not from endless desires but from simple, sustainable pleasures and not wanting. 

By embracing moderation and finding contentment in what is truly essential, they sidestep the perpetual discontent of chasing what’s just out of reach​​. This approach isn’t about deprivation but recognizing that unbridled longing, especially for the insatiable, often leads to unhappiness. 

6) They choose a job based on their life, not the other way round 

Here’s a fact for you: A 2022 Gallup survey revealed that 6 in 10 people are emotionally detached at work, and a whopping 19% are miserable.

Why do so many of us spend so many of our waking hours (and lives) doing something we hate?

Well, most people, when asked, would say something like, “The bills don’t pay themselves” or something similar. 

People who put their happiness above money don’t do this. They don’t fall prey to putting money above daily satisfaction with their jobs.

Sure, no job will be perfect all the time and not everyone will be able to find a job that they are totally in love with. However, by choosing a job that aligns more closely with their personal values, interests, and desired lifestyle, they set themselves up for a more fulfilling life. 

In essence, it’s about crafting a career and life path that brings out the best in you rather than one that merely serves the bottom line​​.

7) They save money 

Let’s get back to reality with this final thing. 

We often think of this in terms of how much we make; we are obsessed with income. However, people who value time over money know that what we make is second to how much we can keep. 

They know that money in the bank can buy us time and options. 

For instance, having savings can afford us the luxury of waiting for a job that truly fits our passions and skills rather than jumping at the first offer out of financial desperation. 

It allows us the freedom to take a break, to ‘just be’ without the constant pressure of the next paycheck. 

This financial cushion can also provide peace of mind during uncertain times, reducing stress and increasing overall life satisfaction. 

In essence, savings empower us to make choices that align with our values and aspirations, not just our financial obligations.

Final words 

That’s it for today, folks. 

As always, I hope you enjoyed reading this one.

Until next time.

Mal James

Originally from Ireland, Mal is a content writer, entrepreneur, and teacher with a passion for self-development, productivity, relationships, and business.

As an avid reader, Mal delves into a diverse range of genres, expanding his knowledge and honing his writing skills to empower readers to embark on their own transformative journeys.

In his downtime, Mal can be found on the golf course or exploring the beautiful landscapes and diverse culture of Vietnam, where he is now based.

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