Consumerocracy, bureaucracy, and technocracy promise us greater satisfaction, but don’t deliver. Consumer purchases promise to make us more attractive and entertained; the government promises protection from life’s vicissitudes; social media promises to keep us connected; but none of these provide the love and purpose that bring deep and enduring satisfaction to life.
This is not an indictment of capitalism, government, or technology. They never satisfy—not because they are malevolent, but rather because they cannot. This poses a real dilemma, not just for society, but for each of us as individuals. But properly informed, we are far from defenseless. Here are three principles to help us keep the forces of modern life from ruining our happiness.1. Don’t buy that thing. Brooks points to research that analyzes:
...the happiness benefits of at least four uses of income: buying consumer items, buying time to pay for help (by, say, hiring people to do tasks you don’t enjoy), buying accompanied experiences (for example, going on vacation with a loved one), and donating charitably or giving to friends and family. The evidence is clear that, although people tend toward the first, much greater happiness comes from the other three.2. Don’t put your faith in princes (or politicians).
If I complain that government is soulless or that a politician is making me unhappy—which I personally have done many times—I am saying that I think government should have a soul or that politicians can and should bring me happiness. This is naive at best...Government cannot bring happiness, but it can eliminate the sources of unhappiness.3. Don’t trade love for anything. In the...
...famous study that followed hundreds of men who graduated from Harvard from 1939 to 1944 throughout their lives, into their 90s...subjects who reported having the happiest lives were those with strong family ties, close friendships, and rich romantic lives. The subjects who were most depressed and lonely late in life—not to mention more likely to be suffering from dementia, alcoholism, or other health problems—were the ones who had neglected their close relationships....You will sacrifice happiness if you crowd out relationships with work, drugs, politics, or social media.
The world encourages us to love things and use people. But that’s backwards. Put this on your fridge and try to live by it: Love people; use things.