A big part of my work has been influenced by the French philosopher Volney who stated that human beings strive to become happy through becoming better and more virtuous. In Empire of Ruins he wrote that the purpose of life was:
“To render you more happy…by rendering you better and more virtuous. It is to teach man to enjoy his benefits, and not injure his fellows…”
In other words, happiness is not merely about making yourself happy. It is, in large part, about giving something to the world that makes the world a better place. That could be goods or services or your time or something else. Who knows? But happiness is not merely the pursuit of personal happiness, but providing something to your surroundings that gives other people reason to value your contribution. That’s the path to true wealth. We could go off on tangents here about what’s “productive” and what’s not, but the value of your contribution to society is ultimately determined by other people and the demand for your contribution (whatever it might be). So, the true path to wealth is giving something back. In essence, true happiness is derived from giving something more to others than you give to yourself.
Anyhow, I am blathering, but I was excited to read this story in The Atlantic from January about the same issues. Give it a read, give it some thought and tell me where I am wrong if you think so….