Most of your assumptions about happiness are likely wrong. Psychologists over the years have found that people are bad at perceiving happiness and estimating what will or will not make them happy. Furthermore, multiple surveys show that despite differences in income, geography, culture, and gender, people tend to have the same level of happiness on average. If these are not reliable predictors of happiness, then what is?

Most people believe if they won the lottery, they would be much happier. However, on average, when measured a year later, people who had won the lottery were not any happier than those who had not. There have even been accounts of lottery winners taking their own lives because they thought they would be happy, but the money changed their lives negatively, either through changing their relationships with friends and family or feeling like they did not deserve the money.

We are also bad at remembering what made us happy or unhappy in the past. Previous moments are, most of the time, not as unpleasant or enjoyable as we remember them. Our brain generalizes one feeling for an entire event. If we remember a moment as pleasant and enjoyable, we tend to remember the entire experience as pleasant and enjoyable. Equally so if the experience was unenjoyable.

When people want happiness, they tend to seek pleasure, which is not the same thing. Pleasure is related to happiness but is not the cause of happiness. Children are happy when they're down at the park, playing on playground equipment like swings or slides. However, ask a drug addict how their pursuit of happiness turned out. Ask a recovering gambler, who lost everything, whether the pleasure of gambling made them happy.

Research proves that people who focus their efforts on materialistic pleasures end up more emotionally unstable and unhappy over the years. The seeking of materialistic pleasures often forms the basis of a focus on money. More money can afford more pleasures, yet something rings hollow. There is more to life.

We have all heard of a story from a coworker, friend, or family member who had a lot of money and yet was still miserable. At the same time, we have heard that saying, “Money may not buy happiness, but I’d rather cry in a Jaguar than on a bus.” The question then becomes how do we make enough money to meet our basic needs while focusing on our self-fulfillment needs? The goal is to have enough money to have our own version of a Jaguar but not cry along the way. We want to be happy right now, however, money is part of the process of getting to where we want to be and should not be the end goal.