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Money Can’t Buy Happiness—or Can it?

November 28, 2015 by  
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We’ve all heard the old saying “money can’t buy happiness”, but like many enduring myths, this one is proving not to be true.  Harvard business professor Michael Norton says that money can and does, in fact, buy happiness in many cases.  And quite frankly my personal experience has proved his point over and over again. But really, it’s what you spend the money on that determines if that money actually brings you happiness.

As we’ve just finished the giving of ‘thanks’ on Thanksgiving Day and as we approach Christmas time and the possible gifts we can pass on to others, it’s a good idea to really think through what possible gifts would bring the most lasting happiness and satisfaction. I don’t think giving just ‘stuff’ is the answer as I think professor Norton proves.

Many years ago, I figured this ‘money myth’ really was just that—a myth. I learned it during those years when my family traveled the world. We went everywhere in Europe and had some very interesting and thrilling drives in the family station wagon through the middle eastern countries of Turkey, Syria, Jordon, Lebanon and Egypt. Later in life I even did a ’round the world’ trip. I have often found myself thinking over the grand memories of these wonderful excursions and when I compared the money spent on travel with money spent on a big screen TV or a new fancy car, the experience of the travel won every time.

Discovering that money really can buy happiness was a huge wake up call for me and motivated me in my younger years to figure out the secrets of making millions so I could really lift my happiness level and keep it up there at a high level most of the time.

When it comes to bringing lasting happiness, Professor Norton’s studies show that experience trumps the acquisition of ‘stuff’ almost all the time. That includes all kinds travel and vacations as well as a trip to the beach, mountains or an amusement park with a ride on the roller coaster.

Think about your own life and experiences.  If you are like me, you get tons of pleasure for several days even before you go on your exotic trip simply by thinking about the great things you may encounter and experience. Then you get more happiness and fulfillment during the trip or vacation.  As an extra bonus after you return home, you often live and relive that trip over and over again, sometimes for many, many years after. Compare that with how you think about the ‘stuff’ you have.  The newness of things quickly wears out and doesn’t thrill you much after a short while.

So again, think about the gifts that you may give this Christmas and maybe throw in a plane ticket or two for you kids or grandkids to some place they’ve never been. And yes, keep on earning and investing wisely to build your estate, without guilt, and give others experience rather than just stuff.

Don’t Miss Your Bliss

November 20, 2015 by  
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Yesterday I stumbled across a poem written about this thing we call “Bliss”.  It’s something we all like and we all want in our lives. We try to pursue it as best we can even though it does elude us much of the time.  I read it with great interest because I’ve gone after bliss many times and experienced bliss at times in my life but haven’t had near as much of it as I’ve wanted.  Here’s the poem. I hope you like it as much as I did and that you find it’s helpful to you too in your pursuit of bliss.

BLISS

How many years do we waste as we search for this?
Contentment, peace of mind, a state of bliss.

Young men work to build their bodies strong.
Attach themselves to vanity and stay too long.

Finally, they move on–but now it’s assets, goals and stuff.
They’re so competitive, work so hard and play so rough.

But the end is justified by the means.
Yet when they arrive, the prize is not what it seems.

What have I missed? My wife, my kids, my life is amiss.
Is it now too late to follow my bliss?

What’s it all worth if ‘in the getting’ I lose my soul?
Please let me get it back, the price is too great a toll.

But sometimes life will let you do just that,
change roles, reverse direction, and switch your hat.

For we all must learn in the proper time and season,
for wisdom comes with patience, suffering, and for a reason.

Bliss rarely comes when one is young,
but neither is it guaranteed from an old man’s tongue.

Its secret is buried and is man’s greatest foe.
Simply put, it’s the taming of the ego.

Ego locks you out of your bliss.
God’s one test you best not miss.

But it takes almost a lifetime to get that peace of mind.
Here’s the secret–you don’t have to be right, just be kind.

By the way, the author of this poem, and I had totally forgotten this, is little ol’ me.  I wrote this back in 1998 and as I read all these years later I was quite surprised that it struck me as pretty good. Well, it must have been more what they call ‘inspiration’ because it was too good to come just from my brain.

 

Be Grateful Now

November 13, 2015 by  
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It seems most of us don’t stop and take time to appreciate and have gratitude for so many things in our lives, until we lose something that has great value for us.  However, if we lose it and then get it back, suddenly, our gratitude and appreciation factor can soar.  I’m talking about everything from our health, wealth, relationships, family, and friends, just to name just a few.

A couple of weeks ago I was hit with 3 big health issues that shook me to the core. I had been previously told that I had the beginning stages of COPD and then I came down with a horrific sinus infection that was not only very painful but my nose was running like a river day and night.  On top of that I took a blood test that showed my blood was over the safe limit in its thickness and my PSA numbers indicated that I may have prostate cancer.  Talk about getting hit in the face with your own weakness and mortality all at once!

I was beside myself not only with physical pain but huge, incessant, mental worry and stress.  I was a mess.

Now fast forward a few weeks and everything dramatically changed. The sinus pain, nasal drip and horrible cough stopped, the infection was cured by medication.  My latest pulmonary test showed my lungs were normal and improving, so most likely I didn’t have COPD and my prostate exam came back negative, so no cancer. YEA!

I was ecstatic and, on top of that, it was a huge relief. I was so VERY DAMN GRATEFUL to be healthy and pain free.

I couldn’t stop thinking about how grateful I was and then something struck me pretty hard. I was thinking, “Hey you dummy. Why weren’t you appreciative and so totally grateful back before all of your problems began?”  Why is it that we humans seem to need to lose something very before we fully appreciate what we have? It’s kind of strange but most of us really don’t fully appreciate so many things in our lives until we lose them.

So, the bottom line is that every day, I’m going to concentrate on being aware of all the great things in my life–health, wealth, family, friends, freedom, love etc.– and do that without having to take that round trip of losing it and getting it back before truly appreciate what I have. And if you don’t think you have enough good things in your life right now, stop and take a minute to think about what your life would be like if you lived in Syria or you were one of the many refugees freezing and trying to make it to a safer country. I’m certain you have a lot to be grateful for and the time to appreciate it is now.

 

The 66 Day Habit

November 6, 2015 by  
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I thought that changing the habit of driving on the right side of the road to the left side as I did recently in Ireland was a tough habit to change. Well, believe it or not driving my new car here in America is proving to be just about as hard. Ok, I can hear you asking, how can driving a new car on the right side of the road in the country you grew up in require a person to form a new habit?  Well, the car is different from every car I’ve ever had. It’s a Tesla and it can operate almost completely on its own. So why would that require a change of habit? Because all of us are in the habit of controlling our car and it’s counter-intuitive to turn that power over to the car and its computer.

Especially if you are traveling at 80 miles an hour on the freeway in traffic and going around curves.

I’ve had the Tesla for a little over a month and I am still working on shifting my usual driving habits. I remember reading many years ago that changing or developing a new habit takes 21 days. I think I read that in an old classic book by Maxwell Maltz, Psycho Cybernetics. So here it’s been over a month and I’m still trying to relax and let the car take over.

I began to question the 21-day thing and found out that was a bit of a myth started by Maltz all those years ago. A more recent study done by Phillippa Lally, a health psychologist at University college London, studied 96 people as they tried to change a habit. Her research showed that a change in habit or developing a totally new habit takes a little over 2 months–66 days to be more accurate. This is a very good thing to know because our habits, good and bad, really make or break our entire lives and if we held on to the 21-day myth we could easily become disappointed when we failed to change or develop a habit after 3 weeks. This could cause us to give up.

When I look at my own life with its big ups and downs I can’t help but see where some bad habits have held me back, causing me pain and failure. But then again, when I look at the good habits I have, I can see why it was such a good thing that I worked hard to form them. My dad for example, pushed and pushed me to form the habit of reading good books, which I finally did. I also pushed myself to develop the habit of working out, running, walking a ton and playing tennis virtually every single day and now at almost age 72 I am seeing the huge benefit of this habit and it’s not even hard to do anymore.

I also have to attribute my wealth to forming some very powerful and productive financial habits that have served me so well. Some are very simple, like saving at least 10% of every bit of income, which I did even when I was poor and making only $600 a month. Early on I also formed the habit of reading every financial book I could get my hands on as well as investing every penny I could into wise investments.

So I would plead with you to look at yourself and your habits and make a list of both your good and bad habits noting how the good ones serve and the bad ones aggravate your life and your family. Determine to keep up with the good ones but also add new habits and to change the bad ones. Stick with each new or changed habit for at least 66 days and watch the results! Try also to get your kids, significant other, parents and friends to do the same thing. I pretty sure you won’t be sorry.

A well ingrained habit is second nature and we will do it automatically, even those things we don’t enjoy doing all that much. The thing is, we love the results and if you keep your eye on what good habits can do for you, you can do it 66 times and beyond.