If you look at life satisfaction and what makes people satisfied with their lives, most of it has a lot to do with people’s goals. So when we ask people how important money is to them when they are 18 and we look at their income at age 45, we find that the people that said at age 18 that money didn’t matter to them very much, at age 45 money still doesn’t matter to them very much. So the correlation between their income and their satisfaction with life is really very low.
The people who said the money is very important to them, those who have made a lot of money are really quite satisfied with their lives and those who didn’t make a lot of money are really quite miserable. So goals are very important to life satisfaction. Also being educated is good for life satisfaction. High income – the more the merrier – is good for life satisfaction.
Subscribe for counterintuitive, surprising, and impactful stories delivered to your inbox every Thursday
For emotional happiness, it’s quite different. I would say the main thing is social. The main source of emotional misery is loneliness and the main source of emotional happiness is spending time with people you love, so they are really quite different.
60 Second Reads is recorded in Big Think’s studio.