How to be rich and happy (whatever that means)


Tim Brownson

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.

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20 Comments. Leave new

  • For me the riches in my life are those things which support and nourish me… my partner, the sunshine, my friends, my faith etc. Happiness is when I recognise or remember that I have such riches in my life and I am able to see how they help me to act in line with my values and therefore to realise my real goals.

  • I agree with Tim’s premise and live my life that way. Even though I’ve followed this route for over 40 years I would enjoy reading the book describing his adventure. Keep on the path.
    Take care,

  • Being able to be present to what is going on right now is very nourishing– including being able to be present with “unpleasant” or “pleasant” without being too knocked about by aversion or attachment. The times when I can do this are the times when I’m “rich and happy.”

  • When I finally come to terms with the Heart Sutra,
    form does not differ from emptiness,
    emptiness does not differ from form.
    That which is form is emptiness,
    that which is emptiness form.

    No ignorance (Happiness!) and also no extinction of it,
    and so forth until no old age and death
    and also no extinction of them.

    Heart Sutra kinda says it all, eh?

  • I am rich when I don’t crave “something else”. And I am happy when I let myself just ‘be’. But I forget a lot of the time too:)

  • I was fortunate to be living with a group of graduate students who were passionate about their work. I was in the same department, did well, but never knew that passion. It was in the Chiracahua Mountains in SE Arizona that I found out what I was meant to do. I pursued that course and my life is richer for it. Happiness is having been enlightened on a trip to London in the early 70s, meeting the followers of Guru Maharaji and being there when he came to visit them. It provided the happiness that I was seeking, and is with me to this day.

  • i recently gave up a hand to mouth existance, dog walking house cleaning doing whatever wee job i could do as and when if it fitted in with my priorities… parenting, time to hang with friends, time to practice yoga, time to chill and recharge to find energy for parenting… was sort of looking for being more than a loser (had been listening too much to radio 4… and was encouraged by a close ambitious friend to return to nursing as a route to improving our lot, mouldy one bed flat… be a respectable role model within mainstream society for my daughter… needless to say it was a disaster, cost me loads of money to move to a college running course, got into debt, couldnt fit the mould expected, got myself into trouble pointing out shockingly unacceptably bad care, out of alignment with aims, i wanted to care be kind be of service, my retraining was about fitting the mould, turning blind eye to cruel bullying behaviours and covering against possible future investigation by documenting the very best care… it really distressed me to be assessed on what i could write rather than people skills and kindness… i got eczma for the first time in twenty years, had no time to notice the beautiful and felt so demoralised by the bullying culture in nhs… i lost my practice and took prozac to cope with the slippery slop into a depressive state my previous lifestyle had protected me from… i dropped out and am on the road to recovery, taking time to wonder at such as the beauty in one hundred icy cobwebs, finding my core again to be a rock for my daughter… not sure how i can rebuild dog walking, that took time but not rushing and following external values… hopefully this time i will remember to stay in touch with the core and go with the flow – i felt i gave more to society when happy and balanced than when stressing to gain individual advantage for myself and my daughter…

  • when I am content with things as they are. no wanting or grasping, just being.

  • To be rich is not needing or wanting anything other than what I have. To be happy is to experience joy in the moment. Money has no impact on my experiencing richness. Unhappiness is self-induced. If I am present in my moments, I experience happiness and I am rich beyond my wildest dreams.

  • I rarely think about money – how much I have, make, or want. That absence of concern to me, is being rich. Actualy I don’t really even like the word ‘rich’ (unless it is referring to dessert hehe). I also never think about how I could be happy (or happier) than I already am. Just taking life’s vicissitudes in stride and appreciating when there ARE no vicissitudes I guess is my happiness.

  • I was just wanted to thank you all for such thoughtful and interesting comments. It’s not exactly something I’m used to in blogland it has to be said.

    Thanks to Bodhipaksa for inviting me and to you good people for commenting.


  • I have enormous wealth in the availabilty of many Teachers, Teachings and spiritual community: the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. To me that availability is the greatest wealth one could obtain since it is the key to liberation.

    I also have a very fortunate life in the Western world where I give thanks for the simple things that, in the past I have taken for granted: housing, clean running water, central heating, electricity and the availability of good food. That makes me wealthy, happy and very grateful.

    My hope is to also experience financial riches in this life since that would give me the opportunity to use those resources to help others embrace the same good fortune. That would bring great happiness to me, and hopefully, to others…..what is happiness if it cannot be shared?

  • @ Dianna – I love that! I really would love massive wealth so that I could then coach people for free that really needed it and didn’t have the resources.

    MY ambition is to triple my rates for those that have money and then spend half my time just dealing with bro bono clients. That would be brilliant.

  • After I’d done some bro bono clients, I may even consider pro bono work ;-)

  • Absolute FREEDOM is the only true happiness and wealth for me.

  • Ashley Davis Bush
    December 28, 2010 12:23 pm

    I was once married to a millionnaire who was a kind man, but our core values were completely unmatched. While he valued ‘security’ and ‘ambition’, I valued ‘the spiritual path’ and ‘freedom.’ Although few people understood why I left that marriage since I seemed to have it all, I did leave. Now I’m married to an extreme non-millionnaire (a pauper but definitely a prince!) and our core values are in perfect alignment. I can say that I have never felt so rich!

  • please enter me in the contest for the free book thanks

    • Hi, Sonia.

      For your comment to count towards the competition, you’d have to say something about what it means to you to be rich and happy.

  • As picked by’s random number generator, Jack Alan is the winner of Tim’s book! I’ll be emailing Jack to get his mailing address. Congratulations, Jack!

  • I appreciate being selected as the winner of Tim’s book! I look forward to reading it and gaining yet another perspective.
    Take care,


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