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We live in a capitalistic society. Economics drives everything. We work hard and we have more money to provide for our families and do the things we want. But what actually makes us happy? Some of us spend our lives looking for that answer and never find it. Some look for it in church, others pay life coaches, and some think the more money they have the happier they will be. I don’t think there is a simple answer to this. Everyone is different, but for most people happiness comes down to four things.
We often hear that without health, you have nothing. We hear that often because it’s true. However, health is something that most people take for granted. We only appreciate good health when we lose it or when someone close to us loses it. I have often wondered why so many people strive to be in the top 1% in their profession, but those same people don’t try to be among the top from a health standpoint. I have been guilty of this, but as I get older, I think about health a lot more.
A famous study from Harvard tracked a group of people for decades to determine the key to happiness. The study said that healthy relationships with your spouse, family, and friends are by far the most important key to happiness. Marry the right person and you’re halfway there. Having healthy relationships with your parents and kids is not always easy but people who do are usually happier than people who don’t. The study also placed quality over quantity. A few close friends who you enjoy and who sincerely care about you are better than lots of friends who are more superficial. The more you give unconditionally, the more you get. I also believe you attract what you project. If you are a petty person who loves gossip, you’ll attract people who love gossip and talk trash about people, conversely, if you are a high-character person who is kind and generous, you will attract people like that. Surround yourself with successful people if you want to be successful, but surround yourself with successful people who also care about you, and odds are you’ll be successful and happy.
This may mean something different for everyone. It might mean making a lot of money for some and for others it might be about saving the world. People who are born into money often struggle to find meaning in their life because the one thing people spend the most time doing is working to make money, and they don’t have to do that. However, even people born into money need to achieve something – to feel like they are making a difference, and that their life has purpose. We are taught that setting goals is important, but few of us take the time to figure out what gives our life purpose. What imprint do we want to leave. What kind of example do we want to leave our children. Having clarity around your purpose in life and going after it with passion is critical to happiness.
Achievement takes work, but life can’t always be a struggle. We have to have peace in our lives. For some people, peace is found through God or their own personal spirituality. Prayer and/or meditation is a tactic that can lead to a more peaceful existence. For others, finding peace is a journey that takes time. When we are young, we love the fight, but as we get older, we tend to appreciate peace more. I equate peace with emotional intelligence. Emotionally intelligent people will usually pass up money and will often walk away from a fight for the sake of peace. What’s important is that we understand the connection between peace and happiness and make choices that lead to more peace in our lives.