I recently watched an episode of the new Katie Couric daytime talk show (DVR’d, of course) that focused on the subject of what makes us happy. Katie attempted to tackle one of the big questions we all seem to have: Does money make us happy? To me, the most interesting part of this segment was her interview with Michael Norton, a professor at the Harvard Business School and the author of the new book, “Happy Money,” in which he shares his research on the science of spending.
In his interview, Katie asks him if there is a magic number, in terms of income, that is the threshold to happiness. Norton shares that his research findings indicate the door to happiness opens when one reaches an annual income of $75K. After this, we seem to become “used to” a certain lifestyle and instant gratification, and set higher expectations. At the point when one’s income exceeds $75K, happiness “tapers off” because our standards have been set so much higher – the excitement of a more affluent life begins to wane.
It was a truly “aha” moment for me when the conversation turned: It’s actually not how much money we make, but how we spend our money and, consequently, the experiences we create and relationships we build that really makes us happy. Most Americans seem to follow this mantra in their personal lives – time with loved ones, vacations with family and friends, etc. – but do we apply this same mentality to our work environment, where we spend more than a third of our lives?
My colleague, JD Sparks, wrote a blog about a month ago that highlighted the importance of work – that it’s more than merely a means to an end. It’s “about forming and sustaining relationships to accomplish mutually beneficial goals…[it’s] an investment of time and attention.” To her point and Norton’s, our time is more of an investment than money is – we are giving part of our life to accomplish something – with someone.
Another colleague, Leslie Kirk, highlighted the reasons we all work at Dodge and our clients in the health information technology space: “professional development, a fun and casual atmosphere, hard work, new ideas and a commitment to team success.”
There’s a common theme among these recent blog entries. Of course, we all begin our careers to make money. But, we continue the development of our professional growth to thrive in our experiences, to build relationships, to have pride in our interactions with the people we have come to know and trust…ultimately, to be happy. While the work and financial results can be gratifying, at the end of the day it’s pleasing others that really pleases us.
This is true for us at Dodge – our work is more than just our business. It’s about fulfillment, personal enjoyment and mutual respect. Not only do we endeavor to be a “professional family,” we strive to be more than just our client’s PR and marketing partner. We are eager to dive into the minds of our clients, to learn as much as possible about their products and services, their objectives – both short- and long-term – their sales techniques, their own customers’ needs and responses. Armed with this knowledge, we are best able to provide strategic planning in both PR and marketing efforts and move forward with eyes wide open.
And, along the way, we gain the trust and respect of our clients, have some chuckles with them now and then, sneer at bumps in the road, and celebrate momentous occasions – both professionally and personally. It’s the success of our clients that makes us successful…and the relationships we build with them that makes the journey enjoyable – and our paychecks more than just money.