“Happiness is that feeling that comes over you when you know life is good and you can’t help but smile¹.” We all want more joy and happiness in our lives and as a culture, we are encouraged to pursue it in full force. The trouble is that so few actually achieve the happiness we are seeking.
Some people believe if we had more money our lives would better: We wouldn’t struggle to pay bills, would have enough for a vacation, or would be able to fund long-term goals like retirement. We convince ourselves that happiness is ultimately dependent on increasing output in the form of increased income.
But is that actually true?
If you look back over the last decade of your life you have likely received raises and perhaps even switched jobs in the pursuit of a better financial life. Has the 3 or 5 percent raise each year made you any happier? Did changing jobs solve your financial problems?
Instead of chasing happiness with your wallet, trying these strategies may help you find yourself more happiness…and more money.
Get Work/Life Balance in line. You want time for family, yet work demands keep you at the office working more hours than ever. Happiness builds as you make daily choices that keep your work/life balance in line. You have a mortgage, car payment, and family obligations that must be paid. . You stay at your job working longer hours trying to give earn enough to provide a cushion.. Resenting the long hours will not only reduce your happiness but can impact important family relations, which is why you are working so hard in the first place.
Time is not Money. Time is a great equalizer. Everyone is doled out the same 24 hours each day and everyone must choose how to spend it. You will never be offered a minute more or less than anyone else. Success and quality of life are not an ‘either or’ propositions: You are able to have both if your time is managed effectively.
Reduce Stress. You cannot be overwhelmed and content at the same time. Stress steals both your physical and mental health. Worrying about money does not put any additional funds in your bank account. Allowing yourself to stress over things you have no control is like drinking poison. It runs through your veins and impacts every aspect of your life.
Beware of Social Pulls. Social expectations create a barometer of what is ‘normal.’ Conventional wisdom says if you want to be happy spend time with those who are filled with joy. If you want to be successful, spend time with those who are living lives you admire. The challenge is that many have a public life that is only a mirage, and not connected with their real life: Some people may be carrying massive amounts of debt even though they live in a desirable neighborhood. They may appear to be happy, but secretly filing for divorce. Instead of chasing your neighbors or coworkers dreams focus on chasing your own. When you end the comparison game you are able to find much greater satisfaction with the things in your life that are going right.
Spending Typically Matches Income. The reason 10% more income does not solve your financial problems is because your spending tends to rise with income. Common thought is that you will spend what you make.. Perhaps this is why studies show that making over $75,000 in income does not correlate with an increased level of happiness.
Find Pleasure in Positive Habits or Volunteer. Studies show that doing for others or even buying for others offers greater joy than purchasing things for yourself. Activities that build up others increase personal happiness. Whether you are serving your family or strangers, putting a smile on someone else’s face, improves your own level of satisfaction with life. This might include building financial security so your spouse and children will be comfortable. It may be volunteering for a cause you support. Helping others need not always be financial. Volunteering your time allows you to be more connected with the service than simply writing a check.
Prioritize Your Time and Money. Align these two key elements of your life with your core values and beliefs. When you spend your time and money in the places that matter the most to you, joy and happiness most likely will follow.
Let Go of Guilt. Guilt is a reminder of things in your past that you would rather forget. Guilt should be used only as a tool to help you recognize mistakes, not to hold you as a prisoner of your past. Feel the guilt, then make changes today that prevent a repeat of the mistake. That will change tomorrows outcomes. If you wasted that bonus check on frivolous spending, evaluate your financial goals so next time a windfall comes along; you put it towards your top priorities.
Recognize The Role Money Plays in Your Life. Money is not the end all be all of your existence. It is simply a tool that allows you to discover who you are and what’s important to you. Instead of putting money first and expecting it to be the path to happiness. Seek happiness in your job, your relationships, and your life, and the money will follow.
When your spending matches the things that are important in your life, you will find there is more happiness in the journey. Don’t wait for the raise, the better job, or your financial ship to come in to be happy. Work on being happy and content in where you are. Then take productive steps to move your life forward and redirect those parts of your life you are less happy with. Then you will discover that you can find joy in whatever your circumstances are today.