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Why Doing a Job That Pays More Doesn’t Increase Your Happiness

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Why Doing a Job That Pays More Doesn’t Increase Your Happiness

Nod your head if you know someone who is not satisfied with their job, despite earning copious amounts of money. I’m pretty sure that you can at least name one person. Or maybe you are that person? Previous studies have shown that there is a positive correlation between income growth and happiness. The problem is, these were short-term studies.

Happiness-Income Paradox

In a research paper entitled Happiness-Income Paradox Revisited, Richard Easterlin, professor of Economics and founder of the field of happiness studies, revisits the happiness-income paradox or the Easterlin paradox. The study analyzed the happiness and income relationship – across a worldwide sample of 37 countries over a period of 22 years.

In speaking to Science Daily, Easterlin explains the paradox as follows:

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“Simply stated, the happiness-income paradox is this: at a point in time both among and within countries, happiness and income are positively correlated. But, over time, happiness does not increase when a country’s income increases.”

Easterlin goes on to say:

“Where does this leave us? If economic growth is not the main route to greater happiness, what is? We may need to focus policy more directly on urgent personal concerns relating to things such as health and family life, rather than on the mere escalation of material goods.”

The Factors of Improved Job Satisfaction And Happiness

Money then really doesn’t buy us happiness. Sure, it matters. We need it to survive. We need it to pay the bills. We need it to do stuff we enjoy. But our job satisfaction and ultimately our happiness does not depend solely on it. There are other factors to consider.

This is highlighted by Robert H. Frank – Economic Professor and NY Times contributor, in his article, The Incalculable Value of Finding a Job You Love.

Attractive working conditions, greater workplace autonomy, more opportunities for learning and enhanced workplace safety – are all factors. An important dimension of job satisfaction is also how people feel about their companies’ mission or values.

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Frank uses the example of someone weighing up two jobs for writing advertising copy for two different companies. The first is for the American Cancer Society campaign to discourage teenage smoking, and the second is for a tobacco industry campaign to encourage it. He asked his students at Cornell which one of these they would choose if the pay was identical. Almost 90% were in favor of the former. No surprise there.

But arguably one of the most important elements of job satisfaction and ultimately happiness is doing something you truly love. Psychologists have identified “flow” as one of the most satisfying human psychological states. It happens when you are so engrossed in an activity that you lose track of time and what is going on around you. During flow, people often experience deep enjoyment and creativity. Many people who do jobs they love can attest to experiencing such feelings.

Do A Job You Love, Money Doesn’t Matter

Wouldn’t you want to experience such feelings all the time? Particularly as you spend a huge portion of your life working. No one is denying the importance of money. After all, we need it to survive. We need it to pay the bills. But as Frank mentions:

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“…social science findings establish clearly that once you have met your basic obligations, it’s possible to live a very satisfying life even if you don’t earn a lot of money.”

It makes sense then to do a job you truly love, even if your earnings aren’t high. If you are someone who has already found that job, thumbs up to you and if you are someone who hasn’t, keep searching. Find that flow. It will be worth it.

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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Nick Darlington

Nick is a Multipotentialite, an entrepreneur, a blogger and a traveler.

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