Your Happiness Project
Studies have shown that people who feel more successful than their friends are happier than people who feel less successful. That made me laugh—maybe all you need for happiness is poorer friends! The Dalai Lama says most people base their happiness on comparisons to others. A study evaluated lottery winners and the impact winning had on their lives. The same researchers also studied another group—paraplegics. The study revealed that six months after winning the lottery or becoming a paraplegic, both groups experienced the same level of happiness. So winning the lottery will make you just about as happy as becoming a paraplegic. I stopped buying lottery tickets. Why buy a ticket if all you need to do is jump in front of a bus? (I’m not jumping in front of any buses either!)
Here’s a much more useful tip: First, write down everything you would buy, do, have or be if you did win the lottery. What changes would you make in your life? What would you do differently? Then, make those changes now, in whatever small ways you can. You may not be able to buy a Maserati, but you could test drive one now. If you’d quit your job, start looking for work you’d enjoy if you didn’t have to work. This is the new retirement. After lying on the beach or playing golf, most retirees start scouting around for something more fulfilling, challenging and rewarding to do. They might not want to work 40-60 hours a week, but most want to do something other than loll around. If you already do work you love, congratulations! You’ve effectively retired early. If you won the lottery, would you hire a housekeeper or a cook? You might find that you can afford these luxuries now, even if it is just once a month. Most of the things people think they want don’t require as much money as you might think. Sometimes, you just need to look at how you are spending your money. Is it making you as happy as possible? If not, reallocate your spending to the things that give you joy.
One of my clients with a million-dollar house realized she didn’t actually want the house, which cost a huge amount each month to maintain. Instead, she decided, she wanted to live in a beautiful apartment with a pool and yard—one that requires no maintenance, is within walking distance of her daughter’s school and costs far less each month. She realized she would rather have the extra money to take a trip to Disney World and travel abroad. Is your lifestyle what you really want, or are you trying to keep up with your friends? After all, it’s silly to base your happiness on what someone else’s life looks like.
Another thing that mystifies me is how people think they should be happy even though they aren’t regularly doing anything that makes them happy. If you are in a job you don’t like or a relationship that brings you down, why would you expect happiness? If you aren’t doing anything that brings you joy (dancing, playing soccer, painting, dining with friends, etc.) why should you expect to be happy? Structure your life so you are doing something that makes you happy every single day. It doesn’t have to be something big. One client spends every morning sitting on her porch with a cup of tea, looking at her beautiful garden and writing in her journal.
Are you working to support a lifestyle? Is it worth it? Make your lottery list and take a close look at your spending. How much joy do you get from every dollar?
P.S. Discovering what your hidden gifts and talents are and applying them in the work you do is another way to achieve happiness. If you haven’t already taken the Career Change Coaching Kit™—with its two computerized career tests helping you identify your hard-wired abilities—you can learn more about it here. Why not “retire” early by finding work that you absolutely love—work that is so much fun you’d never want to stop doing it? It is well worth the investment in time and money to find this ideal career as soon as possible. If you aren’t happy in your work, it is time to make a change.
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