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Do You Love Money Or People?

Quick quiz: let’s suppose today you received a check in the mail from a life insurance company.

It’s a good amount of money, and it represents the benefit from a policy on which you were the beneficiary.

What do you think your first thought would be:

What you can do with all that money?

Or how much the insured loved and cared for you?

Actually, I am not sure there is a clear answer here. Losing a loved one generates a tumult of varied emotions.

You think of yourself. You think of your beloved.

But deep down we do have our values and set priorities based on them.

Arthur C. Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, talks about this in a most instructive article in the Sunday New York Times.

He focuses on the links between our life pursuits and the degree of our happiness.

Here is one illuminating point:

Consider fame. In 2009, researchers from the University of Rochester conducted a study tracking the success of 147 recent graduates in reaching their stated goals after graduation. Some had “intrinsic” goals, such as deep, enduring relationships. Others had “extrinsic” goals, such as achieving reputation or fame. The scholars found that intrinsic goals were associated with happier lives. But the people who pursued extrinsic goals experienced more negative emotions, such as shame and fear. They even suffered more physical maladies.

Mr. Brooks ties together neurology, history, and political philosophy in his analysis of what life is all about – namely, being a prudent person who seeks to avoid unnecessary suffering.

What do you think of his conclusions?

Is he describing you?