Can't Buy Happiness?

Money, personality, and well-being

How Do People Define the "Good Life"?

Research shows that self-development increases happiness.

Certainly, people value certain aspects of happiness more than others. So, we asked users of BeyondThePurchase.Org to defined the "good life." People selected one of four choices--the good life is: experiencing pleasure, avoiding negative experience, seeking self-development, or making contributions to others.

Define the good life.
As the graph shows, most people define the good life as developing their personal strengths. Research shows that valuing the development of personal strengths and contribution to others (eudaimonic aspects of happiness) are linked to the well-being people actually experience.

Possibly, people who seek self-improvement may be more likely to experience pleasure and happiness from purposeful activities, as opposed to people who seek pleasure directly. However, valuing pleasure still leads to pleasure-seeking (which, of course, also contributes to happiness). 

Beyond The Purchase is a website dedicated to understanding the psychology behind spending decisions and the relationship between money and happiness. We study how factors like your values and personality interact with spending decisions to affect your happiness. At Beyond The Purchase you can take quizzes that help you understand what motivates your spending decisions, and you’ll get personalized feedback and tips. For example:

How do you score on the five fundamental dimensions of personality? Take our Big Five personality test and find out.

How do you feel about your past, present, and future? Take the Time Attitudes Survey and learn about your relation with time.

How happy are your Facebook updates? We can analyze your last 25 Facebook status updates and determine how happy you have been.

How happy is your subconscious? Take our Happiness IAT and find out.

With these insights, you can better understand the ways in which your financial decisions affect your happiness. To read more about the connection between money and happiness, go to the Beyond the Purchase blog.

Ryan T. Howell, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at San Francisco State University.

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