You often hear comments like, "you have to look out for yourself
" or "those people
really know how to live...how to party" or "you have to be happy
yourself before you can help others be happy." All are very common justifications for happiness
. Who is happiest person? The person devoted to having fun or the person devoted to helping others? Rimland
(1982) did a very simple experiment. List the 10 people you know best. Rate each one as either happy or unhappy. Then, rate each one as self-centered or others-centered. Rimland found that happy people were ten times more likely to be unselfish than selfish. I rest my case. It is strange that happiness comes to people who have decided not to seek it as their main purpose in life. It comes as a fringe benefit to helpers.
There is accumulating evidence that striving for power
, fame, wealth, and material goods--big parts of the "American Dream"--more than for good relationships, personal growth, and altruism is associated with more anxiety, more depression
, and poorer general functioning (Kasser & Ryan, 1993). In short, materialism may be bad for your mental (and spiritual?) health. As Fromm (1976) observed, a focus on "having" distracts us from "being" our best person.