I just read that a 30-year-old took her own life. Is it me or am I hearing about it more often these days? My heart aches that young people are choosing to cut their lives short.
Enough already! Please stop. No more.
She ran track in college, became a lawyer (plus an MBA degree), won Miss USA, had a promising career, and was an outspoken advocate for women.
Lest you misunderstand, I’m not implying that your life is somehow worth more if you are smart, athletic, or beautiful. Far from it. I’m simply pointing out that she chose not to go on living despite all her accomplishments and the outer beauty to boot.
Which is puzzling because it seems that young, rich, and pretty people shouldn’t choose to end their lives. Why? Because, well, they’re young, rich, and pretty. They got everything anyone can ask for. What’s to feel sad about?
Yet, alas, they do.
Because of my profession, I regularly work with folks with money. They tend to be smart, hard workers, and high achievers (and I respect them for those attributes). But I can also speak with certainty that becoming wealthy doesn’t suddenly make you kinder, more generous, more loving, or more humorous. It definitely doesn’t make you happier.
So, money doesn’t buy happiness. (This assumes, of course, your basic needs are met. For someone in poverty, money is the greatest anti-depressant).
Anyway, some very smart people seem to agree – like these articles by Adam Grant, here and here.
Yet, almost everyone yearns to be wealthy. We all want more – more money, more house, more things, more accolades, more prestige, more friends, more travel destinations, more “likes” on social media, more notoriety…. And we want the same for our children.
But, if it’s true that money doesn’t buy happiness, and we internalize that, perhaps we can reorient our thinking a bit. If attaining things isn’t itself the end, maybe we can simply enjoy the journey and find fulfillment in it rather than expecting sustained euphoria when we arrive (if we arrive). Instead of being focused on things, we may become more grateful for the people in our lives who, by the way, won’t be in our lives forever. We can perhaps learn to fully engage and live in the mundane moments.
(And come to think of it, the happiest moments in my life had nothing to do with money or things or accomplishments.)
There once was a powerful ruler named Abd al-Rahman III. He ruled in al-Andalus (the Muslim kingdom of Spain) for 50 years. He became so successful and powerful that he declared himself Caliph (successor of the prophet Muhammad). As he was nearing death at age 70, he wrote, “I have now reigned above fifty years in victory or peace, beloved by my subjects, dreaded by my enemies, and respected by my allies. Riches and honors, power and pleasure, have waited on my call, nor does any earthly blessing appear to have been wanting to my felicity. In this situation, I have diligently numbered the days of pure and genuine happiness which have fallen to my lot: they amount to FOURTEEN. O man, place not thy confidence in this present world!”
So, after all that, just 14 days of genuine happiness. A lesson for us all.
Young people, if you’re reading, please, your life is precious—even when it doesn’t feel that way. And for the sake of your parents and those who love you dearly, don't break their hearts. Remember that your life is precious and worth living, not because of the “likes” on your social media or the success you’ve achieved (or not). They don’t mean much in the end.