You often hear comments like, "you have to look out for yourself" or "those people really know how to 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.

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