We have quite a few quotes of how money doesn't buy one happiness, with stories of unhappy tycoons to back them up. We've also got stories of people who have lots of money and still remain happy and fulfilled.
In the interest of my future happiness, I decided to do some research, and was pleasantly surprised at the conclusion. While what I talk about below isn't the full story, I thought it a nice snippet that illustrates the point well.
In his talk 'The Uniqueness of Humans', Robert Sapolsky talks about some key defining characteristics that make humans more than just another off-the-rack primate. The talk is intruiging, and I'd recommend watching it through. There is one section that though, that is very relevant to the topic at hand. Seen here on Youtube, he talks about dopamine, that neurotransmitter that is so highly correlated with pleasure (you get a huge spike of dopamine with cocaine).
He makes 3 crucial points about dopamine:
- It encourages goal-driven behaviour through pleasure
- Peak levels occur in the anticipation of reward, and fall once the reward arrives
- The more uncertain the chance of getting the reward, the greater the amount of dopamine released
In other words: We get a kick out of waiting for good things to happen. The more unlikely the chance of that good thing occurring, the richer are our fantasies of when we finally get there.
So now that we've got some scientific evidence to back up the theory that the future is always imagined better than it really is (the reverse applies as well), we can start to formulate a mental construct to deal with this. After all, we're not monkeys at the mercy of our hormones (most of the time).
Hence my conclusion is: If you're not in poverty and aren't happy now, money and fame isn't going to change that. If you're basing your happiness on something great in the future, at least take some time to appreciate the hedonic benefit of waiting and anticipation. Always accept that you will be chasing a goal. And most importantly, remember that we're just hormone-driven primates after all.