I ran across a quote by actor Jim Carrey the other day that I wanted to share:
“I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.” –Jim Carrey1
How many times have you thought that if you were only rich or famous, or had done all the things you had hoped to do, then you’d be happy? Or maybe your goal isn’t to be really rich or really famous. But there is a desire for at least a little more money or recognition or influence.
Yet, here is Carrey, who’s experienced all these things, saying they’re not the answer most people think. In themselves, they’re not going to bring the happiness or fulfillment that we’re tempted to assume. It’s not that things like wealth and fame are inherently bad. They can be used wisely or foolishly, selfishly or generously. But in themselves, they don’t provide happiness or fulfillment—at least not of the lasting variety.
You’re already rich
We’re tempted to think, “if I were rich, then I’d be happy.” But one problem with that line of thought is “rich” is a very relative term. Rich compared to whom? Regardless of what we already have, we can always think of people who have more. And we’re tempted to think if we had a little more too, that would solve our problems.
What’s interesting, though, is that while we may not always feel wealthy, if we were to compare ourselves to people around the world, many of us would easily qualify as “rich.” According to the latest numbers I’ve seen, an income of around 32k/yr would put someone in the top 1% of wage earners in the world2. By the standards of most people in the world, we in the west are extremely well off. But if we’re not content or fulfilled with the abundance of resources and conveniences already at our disposal, why assume that acquiring more will change that disposition?
The issue is that happiness and contentment are rooted in the kind of person you are, not just what you possess. The person who has not learned to be happy when they have little, but thinks acquiring more will be the “answer,” is in for a surprise. Sure, additional money or resources may make some things easier. But they won’t fundamentally change the kind of person you are on the inside. And that’s what makes all the difference—regardless of how little or much you may have at any given moment.
Reader’s Digest, March 2006. ↩︎