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As presented in the TED talk by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (3:30) repeated research has been unable to show a correlation between happiness and level of material wealth (above a certain minimum threshold).

As a result, a line of reasoning that is often made is:

"We should stop pursuing more wealth, since attaining it will not make us happier."

While i agree that we can conclude from this research that attaining more wealth will not make us happier, i don't think we can conclude that the amount of effort we put into pursuing more wealth has no influence on our happiness.

There is anecdotal material to show that putting less effort into the pursuit of wealth makes you happier, take Zen monks for example, but there are a lot of other factors that could be causing their increase in happiness.

  • What research has examined the merit/effect of detachment from material wealth?
  • To what extent is pursuing or not pursuing wealth related to happiness?
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Voluntary poverty as a concept comes to mind. In the modern America there are also people who advocate "less is more"- in general this means owning less stuff. –  Alex Stone Feb 22 '13 at 5:02
Thanks, googling on "voluntary poverty" gave me this article. Quite interesting, since it mentions a lot of findings that seem to contradict the data of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, and it makes some points in the direction of what i'm looking for: bridgesandtangents.wordpress.com/tag/voluntary-poverty –  Wouter Feb 22 '13 at 8:37
It might be worth looking at this question from the perspective of success; if success is important in personal happiness, wealthy people who did not succeed on their own terms (who inherited, for example) might have very different "happiness" than wealthy people who are wealthy because they succeeded at something. Possibly also relevant is how exactly happiness is operationalized (contentment/satisfaction? joy? lack of negative affect?) and whether different operational definitions would give different answers. –  Krysta Jun 17 '13 at 14:27
Good question (+1) I don't have an answer but note that jumping from a (apparently) cross-sectional absence of link to a causal story of the kind presented by Csikszentmihalyi is a little questionable. That richer people do not report being happier on average does not mean they, personally, would not be less happy if they were poorer (and vice versa). –  Gala Aug 6 '13 at 6:38
Apparently there's research out there showing that -having- goals is essential to happiness, but achieving them is not necessarily so. That goals function as a tool to provide happiness in the present. I'll get back if i find some references. –  Wouter Oct 11 '14 at 10:53

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