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No, A Pay Raise Won’t Make You Happier

Psychologists have investigated the diminishing returns of earning more money.
No, A Pay Raise Won’t Make You Happier

Photo by Pepi Stojanovski on Unsplash

Psychologists have investigated the diminishing returns of earning more money.

While you might feel happy about going from $30,000 to $60,000 a year, earning another $30,000 won’t cause you to feel even happier.

To get the same dopamine hit, you need to double your income again to $120,000.

What’s more, once your income rises above $70,000 or $80,000 a year and you can provide for yourself and family, satisfaction diminishes.

Just ask Warren Buffet. He knows a thing or two about money, and he said about getting rich:

If you have a hundred thousand dollars and you think a million is going to make you happy, it’s not going to happen. You will look around and see people with $2 million. It doesn’t work that way.

So, aside from money as a reason to clock into work every day, how else can you find happiness at the office?

Find Your Purpose

Rather than mindlessly clocking in and out of the office each day, figure out the role the work serves in your life. Ask yourself why you’re working at a particular company or industry.

Use this self-questioning at least three times until you get to the root of what drives you to get out of bed each morning.

You could find out you’re working in a start-up because you believe in the product or company mission. Or you’re content because the job pays the bills and helps support your family. Or perhaps you picked a poorly-paid internship to improve your skills and open a door to new opportunities.

These are all valid reasons for working hard once you’re aware of them.

Now if you want work to play a smaller role in your life, turn down potentially time-consuming side projects. After all, a larger salary equates to more responsibilities and potentially longer hours at the office.

On the other hand, if you want a promotion, spend fewer hours on personal hobbies and more on building your skills.

Embrace Deep Work

Several years ago, I was working on a demanding IT project.

I spent my days responding to emails, instant messaging notifications and requests for information.

I felt more like a conduit for information and found the process frustrating and stressful.

Then I read Deep Work, where the author Cal Newport argued, “Who you are, what you think, feel, and do, what you love — is the sum of what you focus on.”

Deep work is focused, specific and takes place without interruption for an extended period. When you’re done, come up for air and attend to other people’s priorities.

For me, deep work typically involves writing articles like these.

Even if you’re not a writer, deep work could involve learning a skill like image editing in Photoshop, interviewing a customer or reviewing creative work for an advertising campaign.

Try to build 30 to 60 minutes of deep work into each workday, and you’ll feel better about how you spent the 9–5.


Thankfully, the great recession is 10 years behind us.

If work feels like an obligation no matter what you do, quit. It’s easier today than in 2008 to leave a job you don’t like and find another one.

Even if your income drops temporarily, you can always build it back up over the medium or long-term.

The one thing you won’t get back is the day before you. Buffet conceded that point too, saying,

“It’s the only thing you can’t buy. I mean, I can buy anything I want, basically, but I can’t buy time,”