The Enemies of Wellbeing

One principle underlines the whole process of working out what makes you happy, of financial wellbeing; that of ‘Know Thyself’.

This dates back to the ancient Greeks, and is one of the ‘Delphic maxims’, a list of 147 aphorisms to live a good life by (although number 67, ‘Master wedding-feasts’, may be seen as less than essential…).

The idea of understanding yourself, and what makes you happy, in order to structure your life (and by inference your finances) to make you happier is therefore not a new one.

Why then, are we still having to relearn the same thing over and over again? In other words:

What are the enemies of wellbeing?

Comparison is the thief of joy

The comparison theory of happiness suggests that if you compare yourself with your peers, then this will either make you happy or unhappy, depending on whether you are better off or worse off than them.

The above quote is from Theodore Roosevelt. To compare oneself to others and use this as a way to judge your wellbeing is surely the opposite of Know Thyself.

Statistically, you are more likely to be worse off than better off than those around you. There is always someone who seems to be richer or better or faster or prettier or more successful. Social media has heightened this effect.

What is success?

Your very definition of success may be a significant factor in your wellbeing. For example, if you have a specific purpose or objective that is specific to you – known as an intrinsic purpose, then achieving this will give fulfilment and wellbeing.

If your definition of success, however, is linked to others – a materialistic or extrinsic purpose – such as financial reward or the approval of others, then achieving that goal is likely to feel hollow.

Life is not something you win at. To see your life as a competition, and therefore comparison against others, is unlikely to bring you fulfilment.

‘Know Thyself’ is about understanding what makes you happy, not about comparing yourself to other people.


There are two types of advertising. There is the noticeboard, making you aware of something in case it might be of interest to you. Content marketing often fits into this informative type of advertising.

Then there is advertising which is designed to make you want to buy something. By definition, these adverts are trying to make you unhappy, in order that you buy the product which will restore your wellbeing.

We know that buying stuff gives only a short term boost to wellbeing, and that the value of materialism is at odds with wellbeing.

An advert that tells you that you will not be cool, gorgeous, be able to jump a queue, or appear more successful than your peers is likely to reduce your wellbeing.


As we travel down life’s stony road, it can be hard enough just concentrating on the day to day. Taking a step back to ‘Know Thyself’ is often a luxury many of us cannot afford.

Like the nicotine in a cigarette, however, there is an outside force at work. It is not our fault you find it hard to give up smoking, it is the addictive nature of the nicotine.

Likewise, it’s not our fault that you find it so hard to change your behaviours around money. There are many outside forces, and many internal behaviours, that are working against us.

Take some time to understand these forces, take some time to help your clients to ‘Know Thyself’, and you will find it easier to help clients onto the path to wellbeing.

You can learn more about Financial Wellbeing and how to defeat the ‘Enemies of Financial Wellbeing’ by attending our upcoming annual conference.  Find out more on our Event page