Finding total happiness is the ultimate goal for many people — but should it be? New research suggests that if wealth and success are also at the top of your list, the two goals may be somewhat incompatible.
Diener and his colleagues used data from the World Values Survey, which measures the happiness of respondents on a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 the happiest). They found that income did indeed increase along with happiness but not at the very top. The 10s earned significantly less than the 8s and the 9s. The latter were also more likely to have gone to college, have engaged in the political process and have saved money.
Why is it better to be happy but not euphoric? Diener’s take is that happy – but not too happy – people are strivers. They’re interested in making the sorts of changes necessary to get ahead in life, including engaging in competition (not always a happy pursuit), obtaining more education and changing their behavior when what they’re doing now isn’t working. The 10s, on the other hand, are too complacent to adjust enough…
Extreme optimists (those who overestimated their own life spans by 20 years or more), additional research shows, also behaved in other ways that weren’t good for their future. They accumulated debt and didn’t save. Moderate optimists, recognizing that their luck could run out, saved more than the extreme optimists did.