There’s one question I get asked professionally more than any other. “How do I become wealthy?” I was talking to my friend Jordan about this recently. He’s fresh out of college, making a salary that probably doesn’t quite cover even the basics. I remember living off of those numbers and it was tough. Jordan, like a lot of people, would like to build wealth. Also, like most, his salary and bonus alone probably isn’t going to do that.
Two Kinds of Wealth
When Jordan and I were talking about this, I found myself pointing out something about wealth that isn’t talked about much. There are two kinds of wealth. One is dollar wealth, or how much you have in the bank. The other is happiness wealth. I was sitting home the other day with three of my four boys. I have this favorite chair, my reading chair, just outside the dining room. I was reading and my sons were playing the board game Risk. They were having a ball, taunting each other, being boys. I loved that and I watched them for hours. I’ve learned as you get older and have invested more of your life in building relationships with family and friends, you really get to enjoy more and more the fruits of those relationships. My kids and I also play the board game Life and I like that because it’s all about making choices. Are they going to college, get married, have children, pay for their own kids’ colleges? In that game, for some things you get dollars and for other things you get life points. Those life points you are earning in the game equate to happiness. That’ s a great message and, as we play over the years, it sinks into their pores. At first it’s just a game but over time it’s a life lesson. In honor of my kids playing those board games, I’ll call those points a type of “happiness currency.” That currency is every bit as important as what you have in the bank, if not more so.
What Makes Us Happy
In fact, happiness is so important that there are legions of websites out there dedicated to the topic. One to check out is Happify. I like it because it’s science based. Happify is dedicated to helping us build skills for happiness through science-based activities and games. Check out their infographic on the science of happiness at http://www.happify.com/hd/science-of-happiness-infographic/. It illustrates what scientists know about what makes us happy, and what doesn’t. The takeaway is not surprising. We all have different definitions of happiness. Research breaks happiness down like this. It’s a combination of how satisfied you are with your life and how good you feel about your life. Forty percent of our happiness is determined by when we’re social and enjoying positive experiences and thoughts. Fifty percent is controlled by our genetics. Only ten percent is determined by our circumstances. I like these stats because this confirms that I’m in charge of about forty percent of my own happiness. A study conducted by Ed Diener and Martin Seligman backs this up. These guys are leading experts in the field of happiness research. They looked at the happiest of us, and the least happy of us. What they determined is that the first group, the happiest, is highly social and has the strongest relationship ties. Their study concludes that good social relations are a necessity for people to feel happy. For me, being social includes a variety of experiences. Certain life experiences stand out for me, starting when I was a kid. I remember the happiness I felt building a wooden bike jump with my friends, and also racing in my neighborhood soap box derby. When I got a little older it was hiking and hanging out with friends at the campfire we’d built, toasting marshmellows. Later in life, a huge happy life experience was falling in love and kissing my bride on our wedding day. When we had kids, it was watching my children in their first recitals and then skiing with my family. I am one of those people who get a lot out of being with my kids, and I’m not alone. Studies tell us that 85% of parents think that their children bring them the most happiness and fulfillment of any relationship. That’s true for me, but I’ve also learned that, as I’ve gotten older, enjoying recreational time with my long-time buddies means a lot to me too.
Hopefully you’ve already experienced your own forms of happiness currency. You know what that’s like. It’s when you’re building happiness and friendships and solid networks, all built on trust. These networks are strengthened when you find the time in your busy life to build solid relationships with a spouse, children, siblings, friends, or co-workers, or even – and, as it turns out, especially – pets. Check out this infographic from Happify.com illustrating how pets are beneficial to our well-being by boosting levels of feel-good neurotransmitters and hormones.
Keep Building Happiness Currency
Science points out the path to continuing to build happiness currency. It’s simple. Keep doing what you know is good for you. For many of us, that includes continuing to nurture relationships, enjoying positive experiences, helping others, and being grateful for what we have. If what you have already is plenty of happiness currency, next time let’s talk about how to increase your quality of life by building dollar wealth.
If you’re a business person or entrepreneur, you probably work a lot of hours. I’m curious what you do to continue to earn your happiness points. Email me using the “Submit a Topic” feature to the right.