Happy People Make More Money

I like to view Thanksgiving as a national celebration of gratitude. Three years ago on Thanksgiving Day, I started a new family tradition: I asked everyone present at the dinner table to share a few things they’re most grateful for and write them down on a colorful leaf cutout. Each year, I ask my friends and family to add another leaf. I adorn our Christmas tree with this colorful gratitude garland. Last Thanksgiving when I asked my then two-year-old daughter to decorate her leaf, she added sparkles and glittery gems. When it came time to help her write her message of gratitude on the back, I asked her, “what makes you happy?”. She replied, “Purple!”. It truly is all of the little things that make life so beautiful.

Since then, our family shares “happy things” during dinner, year ’round. It’s so cool – our daughter looks forward to our evening tradition and usually initiates the daily gratitude conversation.

Over time, I’ve learned something that is so ridiculously simple: that happiness is a choice. Even during intensely difficult times (caring for my mom during her long, debilitating illness and mourning her resulting death, for instance), I realized that I could be happy anyway. It isn’t circumstance that dictates whether I live a happy life — rather, it is a matter of choice. I can succumb to sadness and overwhelm or I can choose to focus on gratitude, love and happiness. I’ve witnessed that by focusing my thoughts on the happy things, rather than those that sadden me or stress me out, I attract more positive circumstances and contentment to my life. This simple act of gratitude literally transforms my experiences.

How do I change my focus? I make it my mission to look for at least five things each day that make my heart melt, my soul sing and my smile widen. I actively search for things to add to my list. By doing so, my focus changes and in turn, so does my mood. It doesn’t always come easy– I’m genetically predisposed to clinical depression. I’ve learned that happiness takes practice. With practice, I develop a HABIT of feeling happy.

“In our daily lives, we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but the gratefulness that makes us happy.”
— Albert Clarke

For the skeptics in the bunch, I’d like to point out that the power of gratitude is PROVEN. Two psychologists say their Research Project on Gratitude and Thanksgiving indicates that gratitude plays a significant role in a person’s sense of well-being:

“The study required several hundred people in three different groups to keep daily diaries. The first group kept a diary of the events that occurred during the day, while the second group recorded their unpleasant experiences. The last group made a daily list of things for which they were grateful.

The results of the study indicated that daily gratitude exercises resulted in higher reported levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, optimism and energy. Additionally, the gratitude group experienced less depression and stress, was more likely to help others, exercised more regularly and made more progress toward personal goals. According to the findings, people who feel grateful are also more likely to feel loved. McCollough and Emmons also noted that gratitude encouraged a positive cycle of reciprocal kindness among people since one act of gratitude encourages another.”

Furthermore, happy people MAKE MORE MONEY! Newsweek reports, “although money doesn’t buy happiness, happiness can buy money. Young people who describe themselves as happy typically earn higher incomes, years later, than those who said they were unhappy. It seems that a sense of well-being can make you more productive and more likely to show initiative and other traits that lead to a higher income. Contented people are also more likely to marry and stay married, as well as to be healthy, both of which increase happiness.”

So dear readers, enjoy a HAPPY Thanksgiving! Please share your gratitude for the “happy things” in your life by leaving a comment. Here are a few of mine for today:

tickling my daughter awake
my husband’s laid back attitude
my sister and I putting aside our differences and enjoying the holiday– and one another
my book club friends
learning to play the Marimba
my massage therapist
watching the birds congregate at my birdfeeder
spiced apple cider
you, my reader, for sharing your thoughts with me

Is Your But Too Big?

Do you have a big but problem? You’ll never be successful, happy and wealthy if your but is too big.

Here, let me show you why…

photo credit: flickr.com/photos/86954993@N00/429461958/

“But I have so little to offer.”

“But I’m too scared.”

“But I don’t have anything worthy to offer.”

“But everyone in my life keeps bursting my bubble.”

“But I’m not pretty or skinny enough.”

“But I’m broken.”

“But no one believes in me anymore.”

But I’m a victim

“But I’m a victim.”

“But everyone tells me I can’t do it.”

“But no one loves me.”

“But I’m the ugly one.”

“But I’m too old.”

“But I can’t keep up with all this new-fangled technology.”

“But my life is too complicated and I’m too entangled.”

“But it’s a dog-eat-dog world and I’m terrified of dogs.”

“But my wishes never come true.”

“But I don’t have anything unique to offer.”

“But I’m stuck (in a boring job; in my marriage; in this godforsaken town).”

“But I don’t know where to find what I need.’

“But it takes too much work.”

“But I’m broke.”

“But no one wants to help me.”

“But there’s not enough time.”

“But it’s too complicated.”


Please, already…. Shut your big but up!

The next time you hear the “big but” voice in your head, confront it. Put up your dukes and pound it to pieces. Shove those poisonous buts into your garbage disposal and pulverize them. Wash the toxic remains away and watch as they swirl down the drain and become one with the rest of the sewage.

Kick your big but’s a$$.

Until you conquer your “big but” problem, it’ll hold you back and prevent you from achieving success.

Our lives are nothing but the stories we tell ourselves. If you don’t like the story your life has become — tell yourself a better one. Think about all of the things you can do instead of the things you can’t. Start a different internal conversation and you’ll become wealthy in more ways than one.

Imagine the kind of person you want to be and think the thoughts that person would think. Act the way that person would act. Once you start behaving like this person, others will start treating you like that person. You’ll start to believe it. Then it will be true. Then you’ll be open to learn. Open to change. Open to grow. You’ll be ready to allow success, wealth and happiness into your life. Researchers find that an optimistic personal outlook is more than just seeing the bright side of things. Believing in yourself actually produces increases in good health, motivation, and achievement in most people. (Schulman, P. 1999. “Applying Learned Optimism to Increase Sales Productivity”)

Make no excuses. Allow it to happen. If it works for me, then why not you? Your new life will astound you.

(Hey now, I said no more buts!)

How to Find Your Zingers

I attended a writers’ retreat at a scenic guest ranch last weekend and had two days of blissful solitude to dedicate to writing. As the twelve other writers in attendance furiously tapped out world-record word counts, I barely managed to scribble one hundred incomplete sentences.

If it sounds like a serious case of writer’s block, you’d be only partially correct. (I can blame this bout on the grief I experienced recently when I my website was hacked and I realized I would need to start over.) But more importantly, I discovered that I needed the solitude to reflect on more than just my writing.

The ranch was a gorgeous, inspiring place to move in and out of my head. I walked along the river, hiked up into the hills, exchanged warm greetings with the resident furry beings and admired the tranquil beauty of the place. I sat upon a gigantic pancake-flat rock along the river’s edge to watch the birds bathe and preen for so long that my butt froze. My camera accompanied me everywhere and it seemed that everywhere I turned, a picture was begging to be taken. If it’s true that a picture says a thousand words, than I suppose I “wrote” plenty.

Truth is, I’m feeling restless. Early winter always puts me in a bit of a funk. I know that I need a new, engaging project, especially this time of year. My intention is to wake each morning eager to do something that grabs hold of my attention with such vigor that time becomes a non-issue. My life, by intentional design, is open to endless opportunities. And with this blessing comes a seemingly impossible list of options from which to choose. Sometimes the enormity of choice feels overwhelming and I’m tempted to respond with apathy.

When I was a working stiff (meaning that my job wasn’t a good fit for me), I’d hit the snooze button on my alarm clock at least a half dozen times, then make my grumpy commute. At work, I’d watch the wall clock all day, urging the arms to tick forward faster so that I could punch out and make my escape. That was hell. I wasn’t making a living — I was earning a slow death. Once that realization hit, I was no longer willing to participate in that kind of “life”.

One introspective day, I asked myself what I wanted to do when I woke up. “Toss the alarm clock, sleep until I’m done and work at something I love to do, from home, in my pajamas.” the little voice said. I figured out how to make it happen. And I lived. This shift happened only after I could identify what it was I wanted to do.

And this is where I tell you about zingers and the 100 incomplete sentences that I wrote during the retreat this weekend.

My spare words came as a result of a simple ten minute writing exercise. Here’s how it works:

  1. Number the left side of your paper from 1-100.
  2. Write as fast as you can on one topic (see below for topic ideas)
  3. You don’t have to write in complete sentences. Just get it down, even if some of it doesn’t make sense.
  4. Repeats are okay.
  5. Write the list in one sitting. It is the sheer volume of entries that dredges up the information from your subconscious mind.
  6. When you are finished, look for patterns. Usually the first thirty items are pretty obvious to you. The second third often contains repeats, and somewhere in the last 10-20 answers, you’ll find a zinger that surprises you.

Some Ideas for Lists of 100:

100 marketing ideas for my business
100 ways I can make money
100 things I want to do
100 things I’m good at
100 things I’d do if I had the time
100 things I’m grateful for

I chose to write a list of 100 things I want to do. Many of my responses were predictable for me (places to see, ways to be creative, nature appreciation) and some took me completely by surprise (ride a zip line, attend a sand castle contest, stay with a host family in an African tribal village). And then, just as predicted in the instructions, the last dozen were my zingers:

89. hit the road and go wherever we want to go
90. settle in and snuggle
91. see the world
92. wonder
93. feel
94. experience
95. live
96. be awake
97. be amazed
98. feel content
99. find the story
100. tell it.

As soon as these items were out, I knew what I wanted: I envision hitting the road with my family in a cozy, snuggly home-on-wheels and letting curiosity lead our way. I want to experience amazing places and meet amazing people. With a camera in one hand and a pen in the other, I want to find the stories and share them.

Try it. Find your zingers. Live life your way.

How To Increase Your Financial Bliss

Everyone needs food, shelter and clothing. But beyond basic survival needs, there is an endless array of money-hungry possibilities that can consume disposable income. Many let money slip through their fingers without giving much thought to the big picture. We often buy the latest and greatest stuff simply because our neighbors do; so we can keep up with the infamous Jones family. Advertisers, the media and society influence how we spend.

But living according to your own personal values is the key to happiness and financial well-being. Once you’ve mindfully identified what truly makes you tick, your financial decisions can be guided into alignment with your value system. When you live (and spend) true to your values, you are bound to feel fulfilled, content, peaceful and happy.

You may value a beautiful home — so you spend generously on a home purchase and decorating, remodeling and furnishings. I may value freedom, travel and recreation above all else — so I don’t mind living in a more simple home. Perhaps you feel strongly that it’s important to protect the environment — so you’re willing to fork out more moola to purchase a vehicle that operates on alternative fuel. Your neighbor’s priority might be safety — so they drive a large SUV.

On the other hand, perhaps you are unconsciously investing in things that are not as important to you as others are. Financial happiness occurs once you figure out what is important to you and spend accordingly. Evaluating your key priorities provides a beginning structure for your spending plan– a budget that you’ll be enthusiastically motivated and happy to adhere to. Not sure what your top priorities are? Take a good look at your Treasure Map to a Rich Life — it will reveal important clues.

For purposes of illustration, I’m sharing my own list of priorities and values today. It’s been my experience that the ways in which we choose to think directly influences our actual behavior and in turn, our behavior powers our outcome. Therefore, note my choice of words that serve as affirmations such as “I choose to…” rather than “I wish…”.

My List of Priorities and Personal Values:

1. Family Relationships: I value spending quality time with my family each and every day. I choose to spend more time with my family than on any other endeavor, including my career. Therefore, I accept less income in exchange for more free time.

2. Friendships: I choose to have enough free time to nurture, maintain, and enjoy my friends. Again, I choose to trade income for free time.

3. Health: I value strength, energy, and longevity. I choose to take care of my physical self so that I am better equipped to do all of the things that I love to do. Therefore, I gladly trade money for organic foods and weekly massage therapy.

4. Fun: Life is a precious gift meant to be enjoyed. I choose to live an enthusiastic life; to enjoy my relationships, hobbies and interests; to laugh, smile and acknowledge my gratitude daily. Therefore, I choose to be a do-er, not a have-er.

5. Freedom: Freedom from money worries, serious health problems, stress, and time restrictions. I choose to be able to do what I want, when I want, where I want; and to be free from shoulda-coulda-can’t types of thinking. I choose to be free from the need to wake in the morning by the obnoxious bleeping of an alarm clock. Therefore, I choose to be my own boss and set my own hours.

6. Curiosity-Led Learning: I value a lifetime love of learning. I choose to pursue my own interests, and I facilitate the same curiosity-led learning opportunities for my daughter.

7. Environment and Sustainability: I believe that everyone has an individual responsibility to protect our natural resources. I choose a lifestyle that emphasizes sustainability over wasteful consumption. Besides, by owning less stuff, I have more money – and time – to spend on the activities that matter most to me.

8. Community and Compassion: I believe that each individual is an important and integral part of our world-wide community. I choose to feel and act compassionately towards others. Therefore, I am willing to work sans pay (volunteer) for the benefit of others.

When you review and revise your annual spending plan (aka budget), ignore the Joneses. Make sure that your plan reflects your personal values. By mindfully doing so, you’ll likely find that money can buy you happiness!