How To Find Happiness In The Material World

The Australian’s monthly publication The Deal recently published their special 10th-anniversary birthday issue. In this particular issue, many dominating business moguls such as Frank Lowy (Westfield), Radek Sali (Swisse Vitamins), and Janine Allis (Boost Juice) were interviewed and questioned about their toughest ‘deals’. The deals alluded to the process of selling or buying major businesses and raises questions on how to find happiness.

James Packer’s controversial Sydney Crown Casino deal in 2013 is included in the publication. When asked about the stress he was facing, Packer had this to say:

‘I was on a diet of testosterone, cigarettes, vodka, lime, and soda, and occasionally would try to eat something. That is how I got Sydney and CMH closed. Then I wanted to run away.’

Packer also blames his pursuit of the material for his slew of failed relationships.

The irony of Packer’s most stressful moment was that he was aboard a luxury cruiser when he heard the news of his success in pursuing the deal. These extreme ups-and-downs are typical of individuals such as Packer, Lowy, Sali, and Allis – extremely conscientious people, able to work 25-hour work days and then moments later escape to private islands or foreign resorts. There is no mundanity or average for this unique breed. They are either stretching their mental, physical, and emotional limits or indulging in the world’s most exotic pleasures. And yet they are still unsure how to find happiness.

How can one simply turn off the stress and unwind? You can’t. James Packer is that example. The age of the online entrepreneur and a growing hunger for materialism fuels most of our desire for ‘the good life’. This has long been the case, as humans naturally aspire to what they cannot have. But minimising stress, and maximising time with others has proven to be how to find happiness.

Capitalism: The Best and Worst Thing in the World

‘The American Dream’ was a ruling source of propaganda in the United States during the 20th Century, preaching one of the basic tenants of capitalism: that a good government will allow its citizens to work hard through a free economy. The promise is that if you work hard enough, you and your family can have all you desire through free and meticulous enterprise.

Even in the early years, the advertisement and marketing of the material were crucial to the success of ‘The American Dream.’

This theory, in essence, is an essential right for all humans and is one of the short answers on how to find happiness. Generations of suffering have afforded the Western world near-unlimited and beautiful freedom that should not be taken for granted. But surely there comes a time when an honourable man’s pursuit of happiness becomes an extortionist’s greed. And once that time comes, it begins to affect health, happiness, and the soul.

How Much is too Much?

The Ancient Greeks warned against the pursuit of hedonistic pleasure. Buddhism abhors the blind want for materialistic goods. The verdict is in: the unrelenting chase for ‘things’ will only end badly and is not how to find happiness. So, with freedom comes the freedom to say when enough is enough.

The stoics warned against the danger of excess.

Social media presents us with unrealistic, superficial images of a life created by some mysterious ‘influencer’. But near every online publication will tell you that. Still, the majority of us dream of supposedly better lives. The only way to achieve these overt and unrealistic standards is to sacrifice what makes us human – our spiritual and emotional desires. This includes sacrificing the time one would usually spend with family or friends, or building lasting relationships.

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A Harvard University study determined that learning to minimise stress is a major factor in the pursuit of long-term happiness:

‘We found that the people who cope with stress by engaging more directly with reality rather than pushing it away have better relationships with others. This coping style makes it easier for others to deal with them, which in turn makes people want to help them.’

Avoiding surface-level temptations and delaying gratification were also excellent indicators of future contentment.

I won’t deny that some people are just made to work, to conquer, to never rest until the die is cast. But for most regular people, the secrets to happiness won’t be found in a drunken rampage on a cruise through Tahiti. They will be found in ourselves and in the valuable time, we use to forge relationships with those around us. This is how to find happiness.