Rich People Are More Unethical -- And More Miserable, Too

One of the fundamental claims--amply proven through both scientific studies and personal stories--of The Bliss Experiment is that pursuing external desires and goals such as wealth and luxury is a sure-fire recipe for unhappiness. And worse, really: spiritual disaster.

A brand-new study, out just this week, offers yet more proof for this claim. Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the studies title does a pretty good job of summing up the finding: Higher social class predicts increased unethical behavior. In fact, this article isn't just a summation of one experiment conducted by the researchers but seven distinct ones. (Read here for a good layperson's summary.)

Put simply, rich people are more likely to lie, cheat, break the law, and generally behave abominably. As Paul Piff, the lead author of the study says, "Elevated wealth status seems to make you want even more, and that increased want leads you to bend the rules or break the rules to serve your self-interest."

Now, in itself, I suppose that the more Machiavellian among us might respond, "So what. What does unethical behavior have to do with happiness? Maybe getting what you want, no matter how, is the best way to gain happiness."

Alas, nothing could be further from the truth. The more we lie, cheat, steal, and behave poorly, the more and more miserable we become. People who habitually engage in these behaviors grow suspicious of their fellow humans. They know that they are lying and cheating so there is ever reason to expect that others around them are doing the same. This kind of paranoid and negative view of others is hardly a good way to create a positive internal mental landscape. Over time, in fact, it isolates the do-badder from others. No one wants to hang out or get too close to those they expect of trying to harm them so the end result is isolation, loneliness, and a cynical / pessimistic outlook on others.

This isn't merely hypothetical, either. In The Bliss Experiment, I reference dozens of scientific studies that further bolster this viewpoint. The truth is that there is absolutely no correlation whatsoever between wealth, accumulating luxuries, and genuine happiness. None. I realize that can be a difficult thing for us to believe--sometimes I hardly believe it myself--but it's true. Unassailably so, at least once we read the research or take time to understand the spiritual reasoning behind the claim.

Fundamentally, it boils down to this: anytime we think that real happiness can be found outside ourselves--whether in money, objects, or sex, fame, beauty, power, and so on--we've made a mistake. Genuine happiness can't be found in anything external. It resides wholly and completely inside ourselves. We find it by learning how to tap into the deep reservoir of pure, unadulterated bliss that resides within. Once we truly grasp what this means, it's actually great and comforting news. Not only does nothing "out there" affect it very much but we're much closer to it than we imagined. We carry it around with us each and every day. We only need learn how to access it.