Naval: You can achieve happiness without financial wealth. Most of us recognize you’re not going to buy your way to happiness. But in modern times, you can buy your way out of common causes of unhappiness. Financial wealth can give you freedom and more time. It can give you peace.
Renouncing things is not an easy path to happiness
In olden times, one of the routes to finding peace was becoming a monk. You would renounce things—sex, shelter, money and other material attachments—and go off in the woods. You might find some peace after 30 years, when you’d finally gotten over the fact that you weren’t going to have these things. The truth is, most of them probably never got over it. There are lots of monks out there but there aren’t a lot of enlightened people.
It’s easier to fulfill your material needs than to renounce them
It was Osho who said, essentially: “Every time I meet a prostitute, she wants to talk about God. And every time I meet a priest, he wants to talk about sex.” Whatever you deny yourself will become your new prison.
Today it’s actually easier to fulfill your desire for material comfort than it is to renounce it. It’ll take you a lifetime to renounce material comfort, and it still might not work. But you can make some money and be materially successful in less than a lifetime.
You can achieve happiness without material comfort, and it probably would be a more lasting form of happiness. But that’s playing on hard mode.
When you’re sick, your desires run away
Physical health is the foundation of everything. If you don’t have your physical health, you have nothing. A Confucius saying I like: “A sick man only wants one thing, a healthy man wants 10,000 things.” When you’re sick, your desires run away. Without the ability to get up and function, you can’t turn into the desiring machine that you are.
Although physical health is the most important, I speak the least about it because it’s the area where I have the least specific knowledge. I am not self-actualized in that regard. I’m in OK shape and have an OK diet. I understand the theories of physical health, but I would feel fraudulent offering it to you unless I were a paragon of physical health myself.
I’ve gone from being unhappy to being very happy
In wealth, I’m much more self-actualized. And on the mental health side—finding happiness and peace—I’ve gone from being a mostly unhappy person to being very happy. That was deliberate. It was practiced and effort-based. It happened through realizations. Because I made progress, I can tell you what worked for me.