Happiness: The Universal Motivator

Recently I looked into my 401K balance and did a few calculations to see how much money I will have at the age of retirement. For someone like me who started early, it’s an exciting thing to consider. For others who may have started late or haven’t even started to save for retirement yet, this may be a hard lesson in reality. Whichever way you look at it though, this is a good practice to do. The person who has not yet begun to save, but has become aware of the need to save is at much more of an advantage over the person who has not saved and has not even considered it.

The same is true if we look at our level of happiness. Are you investing in your future happiness? In 5 years from now, how much happier will you be than you are now? 10 years? 50? If you are not considering this then you are making a profound mistake. The intent of this post is to address some of the things you can invest in today that will dramatically impact your level of happiness in the future. Some of these things are minor adjustments. Others will take a lot more work. All are worth the effort. Personally, I am just beginning to practice some of these things so don’t look at my life as an example. I have a lot of work to do to get where I want to be but I do know where I am going.

#1                  Discover What Makes You Happy

The first thing you need to do is to see what makes someone happy and not make the mistake that you are fully aware of what makes people happy. I’ve taken my daughters to the park before and they have a blast every time they are there. For a time they would ask me to go to the park. It was the highlight of their life. That was until they learned what Enchanted Forest was. Then THAT was the highlight of their life. Their horizons were expanded.

Pew Research has posted a very fascinating report on this topic. It’s probably one of my best reads from the last year!  See the report below:


#2                  Go To Church

If you never go to church, you are among a group of people who are reportedly 17% less likely to say they are “very happy” than those who go to church weekly or more. Even if you hate the idea of church, I think you will find that just attending church has certain benefits that overall will affect your level of happiness. Did you know that those who attend church live to be 8 years older than those who don’t? There are so many benefits of church and if you are missing it in order to have a day to sleep in and watch football then you are missing out on something that may have the greatest impact on your life ever.

#3                  Sleep Well

As the father of 3 children and a dog that likes to make early morning business trips to the apple tree in the yard, I am very aware of the importance of good sleep. When I don’t get enough sleep then every experience I have the following day is negatively affected which just adds to the negative experience I have that day. In order to ensure you get good sleep, get to bed at a decent time and get 8 hours of sleep. By getting less sleep you will be too groggy the next day. By getting too much sleep then you will feel like you have wasted your day. Also try to get uninterrupted, deep sleep. For me, interruptions are

pretty much unavoidable but I can get deeper sleep by doing a few things. Try not to watch TV or do anything else that will stimulate your mind right before bed. Make your room as dark as possible. Invest in a good mattress (Candice is probably laughing as she reads this. We are long overdue in this area).

#4                  Manage Your Money

If you are not budgeting your money or haven’t a clue how to do so, then I will bet that there is a lingering worry in your mind about your financial future. Candice has been staying at home with the kids for the past few years and we are relying on one income. When I tell this to people I sometime get a surprised look and they ask me how in the world we are able to do this while they are struggling with 2 sources of income. I could write several other posts on this topic and perhaps I will in the future but the key thing is that you must realize the importance of managing your money. At the very least, read a good book on the subject. This is essential for your future happiness. Start today.

#5                  Eat Well

Just like a car needs fuel to run, we need food to run and think. This is one of the most fundamental things that you can do to have a happier future. If you don’t eat well then your health will deteriorate, you won’t be able to make good decisions during the day, and you will not have the energy to get anything accomplished that will affect your future happiness. If you don’t like breakfast, eat it anyway.

#6                  Think of Others

You may be asking yourself what this has to do with YOUR happiness. Well, surprisingly your happiness is greatly increased when you help others be happier. In fact, as I am typing this, the thought that this may help a reader practice some of these things and be happier as a result, makes me happy. It has been said often that the greatest gift is to give. Think about a time when you gave to someone else or put their needs or wants above your own. The whole idea of sacrifice is to give something in exchange for something, not to give something with no reward. There is always a reward whenever a decision is made. Experiencing the benefits received when acting selflessly toward another person is life changing.

#7                  Forgive

When someone hurts you emotionally or physically, you want justice for what is done. If justice is not delivered in a way that you are satisfied with, you harbor negative feelings toward that person. These feelings will negatively affect your happiness. The sooner you can let things go, the sooner you can be happy. So, if it’s this simple then why don’t people do this? We have had it engrained into our minds that if you let things go then you are “being walked on” and you need to stand up for yourself. My answer for this is that to a certain point you do need to stand up for what is right. However, try to think of the other party. Why are they hurting you? A happy person makes others happy. An unhappy person makes others unhappy. The only way to make an unhappy person happy is to show happiness to the unhappy person. Get it? In other words, if someone hurts you, retaliate with goodness. Who else is going to show it to them and end the downward spiral?

#8                  Cultivate Relationships

Some of the happiest times I have had are when I have had deep, meaningful conversations with someone I love. I blogged not long ago about my best day ever. It was when I spent time with Candice 

on an anniversary and we were just able to spend time together without kids or anyone else. This one-on-one time was such a happy time. The same goes with friends and other family members. Go beyond the small talk and really get to know the other person. I don’t even know where to start when I tell you about the great relationships I share with my family.

#9                  Manage Your Time

Think of time as money. Each American born today has 77.4 years of life to spend. One third of this will be spent on sleeping. That means you have just over 51 years of life to live. What are you filling your time with? I recently looked at my schedule and what I do during a typical week. What I found was shocking. I have a lot of free time in my schedule. Do I really need all that free time? I decided to stop watching TV and playing video games. I traded in music for my drive up to work with audio books. I decided to spend more time reading. Reading gives you the knowledge to make better decisions in the future that will affect your happiness. Going back to the Pew research study, happiness is strongly tied to education which brings us to my last point….

#10                  Never Stop Learning

My college commencement speech was surprisingly impactful to my attitude toward learning today. A lot of people leave high school and decide never to read a book again. For me, I have seen the practical application of math in my everyday life. I find that increasing my knowledge helps me solve problems quicker, I make better decisions, and it greatly increases my happiness and the happiness of others. At the very least, start reading the news and understand what is happening in the world today.

 There is so much more I could go into. My hope though is that this gets you thinking about the direction your life is heading now and opens your mind to the possibility that there is hope for the future beyond what you have ever comprehended before even if you do consider yourself to be very happy. Don’t settle with what you have. Dig deeper, reflect on your findings, put them into practice, and start digging again. I leave you with this quote from C.S. Lewis:

Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.