Dec 17, 2010
How to be rich and happy (whatever that means)
Writing a book entitled How To Be Rich and Happy means rather unsurprisingly I regularly get asked by interviewers, “What is rich and happy?” and I always respond by saying, “I have absolutely no idea”.
As you can imagine, that is seldom the answer the person is looking for, or indeed expecting, and it usually leads to a furrowing of the brow and a quizzical look before the follow up question of “Well how can you write a book on it then?” comes my way.
Philosophers have been debating the meaning of happiness almost since the dawn of time and we still don’t have a definition that everybody agrees upon. Modern day advancements in the field of positive psychology led by Martin Seligman have certainly helped determine what happiness isn’t, but not necessarily what it is.
For example, we know pleasure isn’t happiness. In fact, counterintuitively the denial of pleasure can often lead to an increase in levels of happiness. If you quit something that brings you immediate pleasure, such as drinking or smoking, there is a high probability (once you get over the cranky stage), that will lead to enhanced levels of happiness.
We also know that money has almost zero correlation to happiness once you remove somebody from abject poverty. Billionaires, statistically speaking, are no happier than millionaires, and millionaires no happier than whatever you call people earning six-figure salaries.
We can take that a stage further when you consider that seven-figure lotto winners, are on the whole, no happier 6 months after their win than somebody that has been paralyzed in a road traffic accident.
That is an amazing statistic uncovered by Harvard Professor, Daniel Gilbert, in his book “Stumbling On Happiness”, and one that demonstrates perfectly why defining happiness is so difficult. The incredible ability of Human Beings to overcome adversity and find happiness in all sorts of unusual situations makes it nebulous at best. Especially when you consider that the reverse applies and many people seem skilled at snatching misery from the jaws of happiness.
On the plus side of the equation, we do know having a sense of purpose in our lives (especially at work) can lead to feeling more satisfied, content and thus happy. Doing work that you know makes a positive difference in peoples lives is often a short-cut to feeling better about yourself, and your life.
Further, we recognize that people with a strong religious faith tend on the whole to be happier with life, as do married people and those that do volunteer work. Although you could undoubtedly find very religious married people that do volunteer work and yet are deeply unhappy.
We talk in How To Be Rich and Happy about ‘the formula’ to a rich and happy life, but this is no A+B=C formula. It’s more dynamic than that and will be different for every person on the planet.
For example, I have no idea what your core values are as everyones are different. I do know from my own experience and that of hundreds of clients though, that if you don’t know what they are (and very few people genuinely do by the way) you are massively reducing your likelihood of achieving long-term happiness.
Living in alignment with your core values may not necessarily guarantee happiness, but it hugely stacks the deck in your favor and being out of alignment will certainly lead to, at best, a life of frustration and discontent.
Of course you may slip into alignment by chance, in the same way you may win the lottery, but as a Life Coach it’s not really a plan I‘d advise a client of mine to adopt. You are far better working out what your values are and then doing whatever you can to meet those values than simply hoping things will turn out for the best.
For example if ‘freedom’ is your most important value, think twice about taking that office bound job irrespective of how much money they are paying. All the money in the world will not bridge that gap.
Shortly before the book came out I had a meeting with my co-author, John Strelecky. We were talking about the launch and I said to John, “I do feel a tad uncomfortable writing a book about being rich and happy, when I live very much hand to mouth”.
I’m grateful to John for dragging me back to (my) reality by saying something like, “Tim you work when you like, you play golf when you like, you walk your dogs when they like and you love what you do for a living. Which part of that isn’t rich and happy?”
When I say I have no idea what being Rich and Happy is, I mean I have no idea what it is for you.
It is no mistake that the tagline to the book is “Whatever you want, whenever you want” because that is what rich and happy is all about, even if the whatever and whenever is not defined.
Of course there will always be occasions when it isn’t possible to do exactly what you want. Few people enjoy a root canal or filing taxes. But if you can utilize the principle of doing what you really, really, want for 80% of your time and you are true to your core values, then my guess is you will feel rich and happy irrespective of the amount of money in your bank account.