Why You Can't Buy Happiness (No Matter How Cute Those Shoes Are)

woman shopping
Love, Self

Why growing your bank account should never replace investing in your relationships

It's not unusual for our human brains to believe that a change will make our lives better. We believe that if we just had a different job or lived in a new house, we'd feel more successful. We believe that we'd find romance with our partner if we took a perfect trip to Paris. We believe that we wouldn't be so stressed out if we were thinner. 

One of the most common themes I see, not only in my coaching but in my personal relationships, is that folks hold on tightly to the belief that if they only had more stuff (and more money to buy more stuff) then self love, lower stress levels, and incresased success would follow. In order words, if they had more stuff (or more money) they would be happier. 

My client, Curtis, believed that if he worked hard and built up a savings of at least $500,000, he would prove his worth as a man. He worked long hours and dedicated his focus to making money so that "some day" he could relax and enjoy life. When he began working with me, Curtis had amassed substantial savings (of about $500,000), had a job that paid him six figures — but, he was struggling with depression. He'd recently divorced and was feeling not only lonely, but also genuinely confused as to why he wasn't happy. He couldn't understand why he felt so stressed and exhausted most of the time.

Curtis slowly began letting go of the belief that a certain dollar figure would prove his worth as a man, attract (and keep) the right woman and let him be blissfully satisfied with his life. He learned that looking for ways to use his money now to help others gave him more joy than endlessly working toward "some day". As for that stress and exhaustion? Well, you know what they say about all work and no play making for a dull (depressed and depleted) boy. 

Now, five years later, Curtis is a changed man. He’s typically upbeat and describes himself as happy. He keeps his golf dates with his friends and has taken up meditation. He set up a charity for underprivileged boys and is in a loving (and healthy) relationship. He understands that having money never made him happy, but that being able to have money to help others live a better life brings him great joy.

Another example of this, from my own life, is my mother. When she died in the summer of 2010, my sister and I helped our father clean out my mother's closet. By the time we were done, we ended up with twelve 50-gallon garbage bags full of clothing, shoes, belts and handbags. Most of the shoes were unworn and many of the clothes still had price tags on them.

Now to be clear, my mother was a miserable woman. No matter how much money my parents had — or didn't have — she never could find her joy. Sure, she got a little bit of a high when she purchased something new, but it faded quickly. No matter how many new clothes and pretty shoes she had, she couldn't find satisfaction in life. I came to understand that no amount of money (or stuff) will make you happy. And, in fact, too much stuff can actually stand between you and your joy. The energetic weight of stuff can drag you down.

If you are seeking happiness, the answer isn't in stuff or in dollar amounts, it's within you. Your beautiful soul and your loving heart and those special, unique gifts you were given to share with those around you.

I'm the first to admit that the stress of not having enough money to pay bills can certainly add a level of unhappiness to your life. However, no amount of money will buy happiness either. If you are seeking happiness, begin first with gratitude, not money. It will lead you down the path towards a deeper, richer joy.

A self-admitted Tarnished Southern Belle, Debra Smouse is a life coach living in Dayton, Ohio. An expert de-tangler, she believes in busting clutter as a path to greater clarity and that within every woman is vibrant, passionate, and sexy being just itching to make their inner sex kitten roar.