Most people often mistake material wealth as a sign of happiness and life satisfaction. You may figure that if you can afford to buy a house, a car, all the other necessities with enough left over to indulge in luxury brands and trips around the world, happiness and contentment are within reach.
Yet, rich people are often afflicted with ennui — dissatisfaction, discontentment, and boredom with life. Despite all the material blessings they’ve amassed, they do not feel happy and fulfilled. What they’ve failed to realize is that the real happiness that lies within you is not measured by how much money you have, but by the thriving, successful relationships you have with the people around you.
Get out of that rut and discover the real happiness that lies within you with these simple suggestions.
Appreciate the ordinary things.
Most of the time, rich people are so used to living in luxury that they’ve forgotten just how much happiness they can glean from doing simple, ordinary activities. Caroline works in a huge publishing company and though she loves her job, she realized just how much she was missing out when she came home early one day and saw her kids having so much fun playing with their nanny. “I felt this pang of jealousy, seeing the happiness on their faces,” she admits. “They were happy not because of me, their mom; they were happy because of their nanny.” Right then and there, Caroline vowed to cut back on her hours at work — “I put in a lot of unnecessary hours at work anyway” — so she could have more time with her kids. “Now, my family and I have a tradition of going to the park on weekends and having a simple picnic, flying kites or riding our bicycles,” she shares. “Sometimes, we just look at the clouds, trying to see what kind of shapes they form. It’s really made me feel happier and more content, doing these seemingly ordinary things.”
The bottom line: There is magic in every day. Don’t let life pass you by without appreciating it — all you have to do is go out there and look for it. And looking for it isn’t as difficult as you think!
Give back to others.
Jeannette, a 30-something professional who works for a multinational company, decided to take a sabbatical from her high-paying position and flew to a Third World country to do some volunteer work. The reason behind her decision was that she was feeling more and more stressed at work. “I was nearing burnout, even though I really had nothing to complain about at work,” she relates. “My colleagues were great, my boss was great, my family life was also great — but I felt so empty. Then I bumped into an acquaintance who told me about this program of volunteering to live abroad for a year and helping out Third World countries. All I had to do was sign up, inform the people where my expertise lies, and they would match me up with the corresponding village or people.”
Jeannette decided to take the plunge. Her decision led her to teach English to African children — an endeavor that was both challenging and exhilarating for her. “I was really nervous at first! But when I started making progress with the kids, wow, the happiness and satisfaction I felt was completely out of this world!” she marvels.
Because of her sabbatical, Jeannette realized that all the money in the world couldn’t buy her happiness — it came from helping others. “If I didn’t have all these money, I wouldn’t be able to take a sabbatical and help others,” she says. That realization has made Jeannette more determined to work harder so she could “afford” to help others. “What is the use of all these money if I cannot put them to good use? One can only have so many designer bags and shoes. With what I’m doing, I get to travel, which I love, and I also help others. That’s two benefits in one!”
Stop competing and comparing.
A roadblock to real happiness is when one constantly competes and compares herself with everybody. Take for example Melissa. “I come from a relatively large family — I have three siblings,” she shares. “My parents are not the type to play favorites, but I still felt so resentful of them and my siblings. It took a lot of soul-searching to realize that I was envious of my siblings’ success.” It took Melissa a lot of time and effort before she could finally let go of her negative emotions and discover the real happiness that lies within you — which is not based on measuring up to other people’s standards. Be grateful for what you have, take stock of your blessings, and you will find yourself complaining less and appreciating more.
Take time to enjoy your wealth.
Rich people who say they’re burned out from work are in such a state because they have forgotten to do one important thing: to enjoy their hard-earned money. Becky, who describes herself as a recovering workaholic, shares her story: “I became addicted to work. I was so addicted that I forgot how to relax — when I was out with my friends, I was constantly checking my phone for mails and messages that they got so exasperated with me for not being mentally there. Finally, my family was able to convince me to go on a trip without toting my work-related gadgets. We went to the beach, just a short trip, and it was such an eye-opening experience! I’d forgotten how fun being with my family could be, and I really enjoyed bonding with them. Now I have learned the value of detaching myself from work. It’s good not only for my happiness, but overall well-being and sanity.”
It’s simple: You work hard to live comfortably. But once you lose sight of that goal and continue working harder than ever, you will also lose time and focus to enjoy life. So make sure to allot time for yourself, your friends, and your family. Only when you spend time with the people who matter most to you and truly like or love you for who you are — not by how much money you earn or the benefits you can offer them — will you understand the real happiness that lies within you.