A $1 billion MegaMillions jackpot was recently won by someone in Michigan. Will it bring happiness? Studies suggest almost certainly not. This article from New Philosopher (Australia) considers why greater freedom from employment or greater freedom to engage in material pursuits may not be the ticket to happiness.
"[I]s [it] possible to be happy without purpose? You might feel the temporary thrill of release at stepping outside of goal-driven expectations, of letting yourself off the hook or climbing off the wheel of capitalist productivity. The allure here is that in the absence of purpose one might be free. ... Or consider the classic retirement scenario that promises happiness off the back of ceasing any purposeful activity. Retire, and the woes of the world are no longer yours to care about! You can play golf, sun yourself on the beach, read novels, drink at lunchtime. The rules of engagement no longer apply since you’ve done your bit, served your time, given the best of your life to the work ethic. Earned the gold watch and the heartfelt handshake. So off you go now to drift into your own rosy sunset and never look back. ... [Yet] studies too numerous to mention correlate the kind of post-work scenario associated with classic retirement with rising rates of depression (not to mention alcoholism and other kinds of chemical and emotional dependency). In researching his wonderful study of late life and human finitude, Being Mortal, the doctor and writer Atul Gawande interviewed dozens of elderly and terminally ill people in an attempt to discover what factors, mental and physical, contributed to their happiness and wellbeing as they confronted the very real prospect of dying. Time and again, he found that having purpose led to greater happiness than having grandchildren who visited, or enjoying social connection or material comfort. ... Lockdown has paralysed so many of us these past months, suspending us inside our domestic bubbles and robbing us of purpose. The enforced passivity is infantilising: furloughed from our working lives, banned from caring for family and friends beyond our immediate households, debarred from public service – unless we’re ‘key workers’– we’ve sunk into a kind of collective funk. ... At the Greater Good Science Center (GGSC) at the University of Berkeley in California, happiness experts are busy studying our lockdown behaviour. They want to see if, in these straitened times, small steps can fill the shoes of larger life goals. It is no accident that people have been sewing masks, baking bread, taking online courses, embracing DIY. It’s exactly the kind of ‘intentional activity’ that GGSC psychologists such as Sonia Lyubomirsky recommend as part of what she calls the ‘architecture of sustainable happiness’, which supports and builds feelings of subjective wellbeing."
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