I have noticed that many people with high incomes take pride in their inability to enjoy less expensive things. “I can only drink Fiji water”, “I don’t know how you can bear driving a used car”, “I can’t stand to shop at Wal-Mart”. What all of these statements imply is that they can only be happy with the most expensive things. This is a weakness not a strength and it isn’t something one should be proud of.
The ability to be happy regardless of your circumstances is a skill that can be developed and will lead to far greater lifetime happiness than money could ever buy. Imagine two people, one has everything that money can buy and that is unhappy anytime the slightest thing doesn’t go their way, the other lives in a 3rd world country and barely has enough to survive but is still happy. Who has the broadest ability to be happy in a variety of situations? It is highly likely that the person in the 3rd world country will have more lifetime happiness because any changes in the situation will likely be positive, where the high-income person will likely be unhappy the majority of the time because things are rarely perfect and the high-income person will find a flaw to be unhappy about.
You don’t have to live like a person from a 3rd world country, but it definitely helps to think of people happily living in 3rd world conditions to put things into perspective. Even kings in medieval times didn’t have many of the luxuries we take for granted now. Hot running water, toilets, cell-phones, the internet, air travel, out-of-season food, etc… We are essentially living a more luxurious life that the richest people in the world many years ago. Do we really need to be unhappy and complaining? Think about this next time you catch yourself complaining about some aspect of your life like your car being too old. Could you still be happy if you didn’t even have a car? How luxurious would it be for a king in medieval times to be able to travel hundreds of miles in a few hours? Can we appreciate this luxury that even the most basic of cars can provide us and just be grateful that we have the use of a car?