Money -- Even Lots and Lots of Money -- Can't Buy You Happiness

There are reasons why so many people who get rich quick suffer from depression, guilt, stress and social isolation.

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By John Brubaker


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As soon as winter storm Jonas was announced, mobs of people rushed out to the grocery store to buy food. As soon as the billion-dollar Powerball jackpot was announced, mobs of people rushed out to the store to buy their tickets. Both announcements got people crazy.

Then, as the snow-pocalypse dumped a couple of feet of snow on the northeast last weekend, there were a lot of disappointed people. There were also a few happy people. When the Powerball winners were announced last week, there were a lot of disappointed people. There were also a few happy ones.

Related: What Will You Do When You Don't Win the Powerball?

One of my friends from Virginia actually called me to complain that he was stuck at a resort in the Bahamas an extra two days because his flight home was canceled due to the weather. Blue skies, beaches, sunshine -- the only thing frozen were his margaritas, and he was complaining.

We often think if our environment or financial circumstances changed, things would be different, and we would be happier. As the adage goes, be careful what you wish for.

A former client of mine recently hit the lottery so to speak. She purchased an undervalued company, grew it rapidly and struck it rich. Really rich (think Powerball rich). She wasn't happy before she owned the company and was often struggling to make ends meet.

Shortly after her jackpot, she blew through a million dollars making unnecessary personal and business purchases, expanding the company's footprint at an overly aggressive level -- and guess what? She still wasn't happy, and millions later is still struggling to make ends meet.

The psychological term for this is sudden wealth syndrome. You will see it in lottery winners, pro athletes and entrepreneurs who get rich quick. Overnight millionaires are prone to develop symptoms of depression, guilt, stress and social isolation as a result of their windfall. Additionally, a majority of them wind up broke within just a few years of their windfall.

Many lottery winners claim that it wasn't all that it is made out to be, and that winning the lottery was the worst thing that ever happened to them. Before winning, they expected money to solve all their problems. In reality, it created new ones, causing a divide between them and their family and friends. Same holds true with entrepreneurs who get rich quick.

Related: 5 Inspiring Guys Who Prove Overnight Success Is BS

A psychological study by Northwestern University researchers revealed that people who have experienced accidents that render them quadriplegic report having greater happiness after the accident than lottery winners after becoming millionaires.

The reasoning behind this is that the accident victims have adjusted their perspective, and in doing so have learned to greatly appreciate being alive. They realize every day is a blessing.

The new-found millionaires that have been caught up in materialism and fall victim to its trappings experiencing frustration, depression and stress. In short, they thought money would solve all their problems -- once they had money, life would be easy. One group changed their perspective, the other didn't.

I share this with you, because so often, I hear entrepreneurs tell me that if only they had more financial resources, they'd be happier and more successful. This couldn't be further from the truth. Money doesn't define our happiness, nor does it necessarily facilitate success. It can often be a hindrance. We make our own happiness, and we make our own misery. It's all about perspective.

Our perspective determines if we see opportunities, or if we see obstacles. Our perspective determines if we see adversity, or if we see advantages. As a result, our perspective determines our results. If you want to change your results, change your perspective.

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Related: The One Thing You Have to Do to Win or You've Lost Already

John Brubaker

Performance Consultant, Speaker & Award-Winning Author

John Brubaker is a nationally renowned performance consultant, speaker and award-winning author. Using a multi-disciplinary approach, Coach Bru helps organizations and individuals turn their potential into performance.

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