Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Money and meaning

I spent Friday evening surrounded by Russian models drinking champagne in one of London's 'top nightspots' with a friend of mine who picked up the bill for the whole night (which must have been about £4k!). In America, one of my finest friends has just purchased this car and is enjoying leaving various people (i.e. men) for dead at traffic lights.

Meanwhile, I have given up my job and am carefully watching the pennies as I pursue what I consider a more 'meaningful' life.

One might suspect that these two versions of the good life are dichotomous. Indeed, a whole branch of psychology is now devoted to proving that happiness does not equal wealth. Bizarrely, given my situation, increasingly I disagree. And AC Grayling, the philosopher disagrees too.

The good life is all about identifying what you are on earth for. This is not some unified version of goodness, but a complex, sometimes contradictory set of factors unique to each individual. Money has a place in this, because it buys freedom, choices and things that reinforce our identity.

All I am arguing is that this is the right identity being reinforced. I think pursuing and gaining wealth does make us happy. But I am arguing that pursuing wealth is unlikely to be enough by itself to be happy. Just as going off to work with orphans is unlikely, by itself, to make many of us happy.

It's a question of thinking about what you want from life, prioritising your time around your own values, creating a balance reflective of your goals, utilising your highest strengths, and taking the time to think about what you might want to look back on when you're on your death bed.

It isn't duty versus pleasure, but working out how to integrate these concepts which truly makes for 'a good life'.