How to be happy in life (no it's not about the money)
Photo: Unsplash

We all have dreams. We all want to be happy. Sometimes, that happiness is financial. Usually, however, it's not.

We're constantly bombarded with messages telling us that happiness is a choice. Happiness is something we can control. Happiness is a state of mind. Happiness is a product of our behaviors. In fact, it's all of these things. It's also something we can amplify and improve — and we can do it in many ways.

Money buys happiness... or does it?

The thing is, money can't buy you real happiness, because it doesn't actually make you happier. Imagine that you love eating bananas. Now imagine that you had a full truckload of bananas to yourself. Sure, you’d eat a few, but after a while, you’d become overwhelmed with what you're going to do with all those bananas and soon you’ll realize that the food that you thought you absolutely loved in life suddenly makes you feel burdened. Sure, like food, we NEED money to survive comfortably in modern society. However, money is simply a by-product that affords us the freedom to do what makes us happy. (So it’s not actually the money per se that makes us happy.)

If you truly want to be happy, you need to make sure you're living your life in pursuit of what really matters. Most people are only living the life they think will get them the most money, but that's not how it works.

Here’s the thing about money: When you’re a teenager, $5,000 a year is a lot of money for most. When you’re in your 20s, making $25,000 could be quite an accomplishment. Once you’re in your 30s, you might feel that you need to make more in order to live the life you want. It doesn't matter if you're making $100 million or making $1 million, if you're not happy doing what you're doing then there's no point in continuing with that path. You'll never be satisfied with the amount of money you make because you'll always want more. It's a neverending goal. Instead, focus on your life passions and write down everything that brings you joy in life — every hobby and interest — and then see if there's any way you can monetize them or turn them into a business.

The problem is that once you have enough money to live comfortably, there's no point in pulling your hair out to make more. You'll eventually be dissatisfied with the amount of money you have and will justify ways to get more. Don’t get me wrong, money can be a great motivator, but it's not the only thing that will motivate you to wake up each morning to hustle. The truth is, money doesn't actually make you happy, but it does give you more options in life.

But since money is a need in order to survive comfortably in this world, you’ll need to focus on having some of it in order to comfortably get to your happiness. For example, if your life goal is to eventually retire on a sailboat, calculate how much money it would take for that to happen, do what it takes to make that money while focusing on that sailboat.

If you're not happy with your salary, consider these ideas:

Start a side business. The hardest part about starting a side hustle is getting started. Once you've got the ball rolling, you're on your way to becoming happier.

Take an unpaid internship or experience-based trip. If you've got the skills and the time, consider taking an unpaid internship or paying for an experience-based trip like a trip around Europe or Asia (or even one day in New York City). There are also ways to passively make money by selling things online to people all over the world.

I believe the key to becoming truly happy is to focus on your life passions (what would you be willing to do even if you weren't getting paid for it).

When you were a child, did you love to draw pictures? Most of us didn’t get paid to do it, but we did it anyway. Why? Because it felt good to do it. If you're not excited about your work, it'll show. It’s next to impossible to become great at anything if you don’t love what you’re doing. You might be making a lot of money, but if you don't love what you do, chances are, you’ll never feel like it’s good enough. Don't allow yourself to get bored with your work. If you can't stand your job, you'll never want to work for a living. Your passion and your work should almost be the same thing. If you hate what you do, it's not worth doing at all.

For me, I love creating and recording music. I could do it every single day given the opportunity and time. If you dropped me off on a deserted island with some recording gear and with enough food and water to not worry about my basic needs, I’d be good. I wouldn’t even think about money.

Once you've determined your passions, focus your energy on them. Don't worry about making money; that will come in time.

For most of us, we already know and think about what a happy life would look like in our imagination. We have a pretty clear goal in mind. However, the reason why most never follow through with their ideas is that they're too focused on their day-to-day life which consists of work, school, obligations, etc. - Simply put, we get a little sidetracked.

Ask yourself, what comes to mind when you think of great people who seem as if they’ve got it all together? Great people are usually happy because they're following their passions in life, not because they're trying to get rich or impress others. Making money is a byproduct of your passions. A passion for something means that you're willing to wake up every morning and do anything necessary to pursue it. These life passions are things that cause you to wake up in the middle of the night with a smile on your face. Whether it's something as simple as playing music or dancing or being outdoors, being passionate about something will make you feel alive and fulfilled.

The happiest people in the world don't think about money, they think about their passions and their lives.

This is the magic question: If you had one life to live and had total control over how you spent the next 24 hours — while knowing that there would be no consequence for doing things differently — what would you do? What would you need in order to get it done? Figure it out, jot it down somewhere, and make a plan.

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