Jun 8, 2020 in Analysis

Dozens of years have already passed since researchers started to find the key to the happiness. Frankly speaking, I understand their burning desire to research this topic. I myself would be very thankful to them if they did. Happiness seems an abstract notion, but at the same time it feels so close, so reachable, and so essential feeling. For many people, happiness means different things. However, most of them associate happiness with money. They say that there is the price of happiness. They would teach you how to buy happiness. They would also open you the secret to happiness, which, by the way, does not require money. Perhaps for a reason, people say “Many men, many minds.” The same is with happiness and its definitions. After watching a few TED talks I have come to the conclusion, that money plays its role in making people happier, but it is not the only possible chance to happiness.

People spend enormous amounts of money for luxuries. They often do not need those things but buy them for pleasure and enjoyment. Actually, they buy them for happiness. Benjamin Wallace tried to find out whether happiness can be bought. He delivered the speech titled The Price of Happiness, in which the author shares his experience and emotions from sampling the most expensive products in the world. Surprisingly, but people do not get satisfaction and happiness from actually buying things. They enjoy the idea that the best things cost the most. That is why they are passionate about luxury objects. Speaking about a bottle of Chateau Cheval Blank of 1947, Benjamin Wallace says that people “wanted to believe that the most expensive bottle of wine in the world must be the best bottle of wine in the world, the rarest bottle of wine in the world”. There were many luxury things on Benjamin’s list of the most expensive products in the world. Among them, there was Kobe rib eye steak for $160, pasta with white truffles for $120, Ty Warner Suite for $30 000 per night, Cor soap for $125 a bar. There also were Jomons jeans for $800, Per Me olive oil for $33.50 for 3.4 ounces, Five-star golf clubs for $57.000, Kopi Luwak coffee for $600/lb, Neorest 600 toilet for $5.980, Vividus bed for $64.950, and Veyron 16.4 for $1.5 million. However, trying those things did not bring Wallace happiness. Instead, he was very disappointed with those luxuries, since he did not see the use of many of them. Thus, the main idea of Benjamin’s Wallace’s TED talk can be formulated as follows. People experience more pleasure from things, which are more expensive. This idea was proved by Stanford researchers who made MRI brain images of the participants of the experiment. Images showed that participants literally experienced more pleasure from more expensive products. Therefore, it is not possible to buy happiness, since it is not a matter of price, but a matter of our perception.

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Researching the question whether money can buy happiness, Michael Norton gives his audience a positive answer. The secret to happiness is to spend money not for yourself, but for other people. Norton states that “if you think money can’t buy happiness, you’re not spending it right”. As a rule, people who win a lottery do not become happy. Moreover, their lives become ruined, as well as their social relationships. It is far from happiness. In fact, winning a lottery, and money by itself, makes people antisocial. Money also makes people selfish. Michael Norton suggests being prosocial with one’s money. The experiment performed by Cambridge researchers also revealed cultural differences on what you do with your money. A woman from Uganda made a life saving donation, while a woman from Canada bought a present for her mother. However, the way you spend money on other people does not matter much. It is the fact itself that matters. Thus, it is not necessary to do great things with your money, small things also count. Another data show that in 136 countries of the world, except of Central African Republic, people who give money to charity feel happier than those who do not. The idea of being prosocial and spending money on other people also works in a team. The research shows that teams that were spending money for their team members had better results in selling. The main idea of Norton’s TED talk is that money can buy happiness. It buys happiness when is spent for other people.

The importance of money in the today’s world is beyond the doubt. The lack of money contributes to unhappiness, but the increase in it does not increase happiness. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his TED talk speaks of creative people and their sources of happiness. Thus, money cannot bring happiness. Creative people experience happiness when they are creating something new, or are performing something on the stage. Creative people can find happiness in poetry, skating, singing and many other things. Mihaly states that these activities bring about a so-called state of “flow.” He also adds that “if you want to enter flow from control, you have to increase the challenges”. Therefore, if you want to experience happiness, you should leave your zone of comfort and challenge something new, something unknown. It may sometimes be scaring, but the outcome is worth trying.

All three authors have different points of view on the correspondence between money and happiness. On the one hand, Benjamin Wallace finds it useless to buy the most expensive things in the world. He thought that trying those things would bring him happiness, but it brought him a disappointment. Wallace‘s main idea is that money cannot buy happiness. On the other hand, Michael Norton is convinced that money can buy happiness. The key to happiness, according to Norton, is spending money for other people, buying presents for them, and even giving money to charity. He states that spending money on other people is the reason why the world stays happy. While two previous authors discussed the place of money in forming happiness, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi set aside the importance of money and considered other sources of happiness.

I strongly believe that the reason for the author’s disagreement on the correspondence between money and happiness can be found in their biographies. Initially, Benjamin Wallace did not have the possibility to buy all those expensive products. Sampling the products on his list was sponsored by the magazine, for which he was working. Perhaps, he expected that emotions received from trying those products would amount to their price. However, it is not always like that. Luxury products did not live up to his expectations. As to Benjamin Wallace, he is a professor of Harvard Business School. I think that his way of thinking is directly related to the place where he is working. Thus, happiness can also be a commercial product. Speaking about Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, it should be said that he was brought up in Europe during the wartime, namely during the time, when money did not matter a lot. People lost lives, and nothing could be done with that. Money was useless at that time. Going through such tough times could not but remain in one’s consciousness. Perhaps that feeling of the uselessness of money, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi delivered his TED talk. However, all three authors found common ground. All of them were in deep searches for happiness. The idea of happiness unites them.

To conclude, people always wanted to find a key to happiness. Some of them associate this feeling with money, while others don’t. Opinions differ even among researchers. They perform different experiments to support their points of view, but no consensus can be found so far. Benjamin Wallace, Michael Norton, and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi express completely different views about the correspondence between money and happiness. According to Benjamin Wallace, happiness has no price, and money cannot make you happy. Michael Norton has a contradicting point of view. He believes that money can buy happiness. Money can bring happiness when is spent on other people. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi states that increase in money does not increase happiness. He is convinced that happiness can be experienced in creative activities. Thus, all three authors have different opinions, but the common ground of three of them is in the process of searching for happiness.

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