How to Feel Happy in Three Simple Steps

It’s a comment we’ve heard throughout our career in the money game.

“I just don’t feel rich,” folks tell us. “I’m barely scraping by now… and I’m worried the future will be even worse.”

If you feel this way, you’re certainly not alone.

And it’s not your fault.

But by following some simple steps, you can allay these fears and not only feel rich… but be rich.

Why It Hurts

The sour idea of never feeling rich is all over the place these days. We’ve heard countless folks making $100K… $200K… and even $500K griping about how hard it is to get by.

With the nation’s median household income just shy of $60,000, the folks coming to us certainly aren’t in the throes of poverty. And yet they’re right… they truly are living paycheck to paycheck… and they’re miserable.

What gives?

The answer lies in a deep-rooted psychological trait. It’s bred into humans, and there’s nothing we can do about it.

It’s the reason Warren Buffett (worth some $79 billion) still goes to work each day.

It’s the reason Richard Branson (worth $5.1 billion) is still starting new companies.

And it’s the reason boat salesmen have no problem selling folks a model that’s just 2 feet bigger.

There’s simply something in our brains that wants more… much more.

Jaak Panskepp – the creator of the term “affective neuroscience” – said that of a human’s seven core instincts, seeking is the most important and powerful.

As usual, it’s linked to dopamine – the neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers.

This “seeking” instinct is why squirrels never stop looking for nuts (that they’ll most likely never eat). It’s why whales will swim around the world (while everything they need is already around them). And it’s why humans never truly feel all their desires and needs have been met.

We always want more – more money, more love… and, yep, a bigger boat.

It’s in our DNA.

“Great, Andy,” we can already anticipate the feedback. “So you’re telling me I’m always going to feel this way and there’s no solution.”

Nay, nay. Keep reading.

You may always feel that way… but you certainly don’t have to.

Gnarly

Tim Ferriss is a young, rich guy who’s said a lot about the topic. With some $20 million tucked into his wallet, he’s quick to admit that more money doesn’t lead to more happiness.

More money, the two of us agree, simply leads to craving more money.

“I know people who have hundreds of millions of dollars who are completely f&%$ing miserable,” he said. “All they do is bitch and moan about how someone who is maybe like a frenemy now has a bigger jet than they do. It really eats away at them. And I’m like, Wow; what a gnarly conundrum to be in.”

Yeah, gnarly.

But it doesn’t have to be.

Tim hints at the problem… and the solution.

For so many folks, money leads to misery because they never bother to think about what they want. They just know that somebody else has something bigger, better and cooler… so they want it too.

It’s a recipe for unhappiness.

It’s also a recipe for feeling broke no matter how much money is flowing your way.

The answer to this age-old conundrum isn’t all that complicated. And yet I bet nine out of 10 folks have never bothered to try it.

Here it is. You ready to start feeling happy?

How to Feel Happy (Three Steps)

There are three steps.

Step one: Set your goals. Write them down. Read them often. And celebrate when you hit them.

A decade ago, for example, my wife and I set a very simple goal. We wanted her to be able to stay home and raise our kids.

At the time, it seemed impossible. We had to nearly double our income.

But with hard work, planning and a steady eye on our goal, we breezed through the benchmark.

Ah… little did that was the easy part.

The hard part – where that damned DNA kicks in – is feeling content with reaching our goal. We could have celebrated with a drink and moved on to the next goal… caving to our instinct to “need” more.

But we didn’t.

That’s where step two comes in… Reset and reflect.

You see, it’s oh so easy to reach a goal, rip it up and start on a new one. But that’s just plain wrong. It will lead to a life of pain.

Instead, continue to celebrate your goals. My wife and I constantly praise her ability to stay home. Compared with where we were a decade ago… we’re flat-out rich.

But if we compared ourselves with Buffett or Branson… we’d feel dirt poor.

That’s why we don’t do it.

We compare ourselves with ourselves – and feel great doing it.

Finally, step three… Don’t be afraid to talk about money. So many social norms tell us that it’s taboo to talk about money. That’s bunk.

Of course it’s silly to talk about money at the dinner table (we have an essay in the works on that topic), but it’s absolutely not silly to seek advice from like-minded folks. And we’re not talking about financial advisors or some other professional who has skin in the game.

Look, few folks get empathy for the pain and frustration that come with getting wealthy. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t seek good, rationale advice.

It’s why our Triad puts so much weight on our Connections. We need folks in our lives to help keep us grounded and give us sound financial advice.

If one of our pals comes to us looking to blow his retirement on a boat that’s just 2 feet bigger… you can bet we’re going to tell him the news he doesn’t want to hear (and that’s coming from a guy who loves big boats).

We demand the same. Often, we depend on it.

Perhaps we can summarize all of this by simply looking at the definition of wealth: to have more than you need.

If you don’t feel wealthy, it’s most likely not an income problem – not in modern America. It’s an outgo problem.

Set your goals.

Keep them. Celebrate them.

And seek out like-minded folks.

It’s in our DNA to not feel wealthy. But with some simple tips, we can easily overcome the pain and suffering of always wanting more.

Aim for the fences… but don’t keep moving the fence.

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