Friday, July 4, 2008

Dollars and sense

I’m not sure when money was invented, but my guess is that it was only about three-fifths of a second later that its inventor figured that it wasn’t going to be the secret to happiness. However, I’m not advocating poverty either. Being poor, as I remember from my childhood, is no fun, but it is a fact that once you and your family are well-fed, educated and sheltered, money takes on a different hue. No one enjoys top-of-the-line gourmet dining in an exotic location more than I do, but I still understand that I can get the same pleasure (and often more so) out of a simple meal at home with my family. So here’s a question about happiness to follow up my last post on the subject: Do money and happiness connect? Ask the academics.

According to a recent study by Professor Michael Norton and his colleagues at Harvard Business School, the answer to that question is “yes”. In science, they argued that the amount of money you earn isn’t as important as the way you spend it. Ok, I think most of us would have had that covered for a win and a place. Their next finding is more interesting. Although most people think that money can buy happiness, it turns out they are in fact happier if they give some of it to someone else. Their research also puts a dollar value on the experience. They reckon that an amount as small as $5 may be enough to up your happiness quotient on a given day. Five bucks can help you have a good day. Now this is exciting. I’ve always believed that we can improve our lives and the lives of other people by personal commitment and combine this individual action with our corporate responsibilities. As I have said before on this blog, it's about and/and.

• Being inspired by corporate social responsibility and through personal involvement.

• Giving money to causes and living in a way that reflects our dreams for the world.

• Making positive change on a global scale and one person at a time, in our own communities.

As Professor Norton and friends have proved, we can buy happiness. We just have to spend it on the right things: other people.