He was rich, but unhappy. She was a successful entrepreneur, but she wasn’t happy. He was a popular actor, but he sufferered from depression.
This dichotomy often makes for good stories. Yet, I have one problem with such premises – the use of the word ‘but’.
Happiness is a tricky goal – we are still not sure of what it takes to be happy. Yet, we have enough research to show that external measures such as wealth, success and popularity aren’t sufficient to make us happy.
However, when we say somebody was ‘rich, but unhappy’, we imply a contradiction – that despite being rich, the said person is unhappy. We seem to implicitly believe that wealth automatically ought to bring happiness with it. This leads to a culture where more people chase wealth, fame or success in pursuit of the happiness that eludes them.
Sentences such as ‘Rich and unhappy’ or ‘successful and depressed’ make for boring stories, but are a more honest reflection of the world.