As much as you may be loathe to admit it, your dreary 9-to-5 job could be giving you more happiness than you realize. Research indicates that one of the reasons people with greater salaries often seem happier than their peers is actually an outcome of their success rather than the dough they're raking in. In general, people who make more money also tend to be more successful at what they do: It's this success that makes them feel good, not the money itself. The money is a mere sideshow of the real happiness booster [source: Brooks].
Successful people are also usually more productive and satisfied with their jobs, thus creating positive feelings of self worth, pride and contentment. The extra money the hard work creates is simply an added benefit -- the good feelings would be there regardless of the payoff. People with jobs they find highly satisfying but that don't pay as well can be just as content, and the cattle-herding Masai mentioned on the first page bear this out.
Another reason success stimulates feelings of happiness is because of the challenges involved. People get a charge out of pushing their mental and physical capacities to the limit, and when they pursue something that fully captures their interest and attention, time passes by imperceptibly. Not only is the hard-earned outcome rewarding, but so is the sweat put into making it happen. Scientists have nicknamed this phenomenon flow and they give it credit for a number of positive emotions. Results of one study indicate workers would happily take a 20 percent pay cut if it meant their job would involve more variety or require more skill [source: Futrelle].
But don't turn down your next salary raise just yet. If you play your cards right, you might be able to squeeze a few extra bits of joy out of that work bonus.