How to be happy even if you're English

what is happiness and how to get it


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Would you be happier if you won the lottery?

 

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Apparently, lottery winners tend not to report themselves any happier ten years down the line.  In fact, within just three months of a significant lottery win, statistics show we return to the level of happiness we had before.

Oh dear.

Do I buy that ticket, then, or not bother?

Well, buying a ticket is our way of putting our hand up; “yes please, I’d like to be happier”.  No harm in that, aiming for happiness.  We all want to be happy.

You’re right.  But I’m sure I’d be happier if I won just a bit. Enough to pay off the mortgage, or get a deposit on a house.  That would do it.  I could relax a bit.

Sounds good, I agree.  I met a man once who did just that, and bought an extra field and a horse.  He took his horse and a cart around the village every day after that, and was very happy.  A simple life.  That’s all he wanted.

Cool.  But didn’t he want anything else?

No, he was happy enough.  He’d lived in the village all his life, with his family and friends.  That was enough for him.

There you are then.  You only need a bit.

Yes, but how much is a bit?  I met another man who had won £2,000.  “Lucky you”, I said.

“No, he complained.  It’s a kick in the teeth, £2k.  What can I do with that?  That’s only enough to keep the wife happy for a couple of weeks”.

“A kick in the teeth?”

“Too right.  I’d rather not have won anything”

“But for some people that’s life changing.  They could buy a car which could get them a job”.

“Yeah right”.

OK I get your point.  If you’re miserable by nature perhaps money can’t help.  But that was only £2,000.  The other guy obviously got more.

He did.  He won £80,000 in a syndicate win with his friends.  But I got the feeling that the first would have very happy with an extra £2,000, and the second probably wouldn’t have been any happier with the jackpot win.  It’s just the way they were.

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Is that it, then?  Just the way we are?

I think so.  It’s nice to think that a magic ticket would change our level of happiness just like that.  But imagine… say you got your gold lamborghini, did your round-the-world-trip, bought your dream house and had champagne for breakfast.  Six months later you’re sitting in your dream kitchen and your champagne breakfast is nice, granted, but it doesn’t have the same wow-factor that it did the first week. And you realise that breakfast is breakfast, wherever you are, and you are still the same you.  You might have a touch more tan and whiter teeth, but you’re still the same underneath.  The only difference might be that you’ve nothing left to dream about because, frankly, you’ve done it.  So what now?  What’s left?

Another holiday?

And then?  That’s the trouble; we keep chasing our tails.  Once we’ve got something, we want the next fix.  It’s like an addiction.  A habit we’ve got ourselves into, that we all subscribe to.  We link money with happiness without thinking.  Our whole society’s bound up in it.  Ultimately, money fails us on a personal level.

Point taken.  But I could give some to my friends, too.  That would be nice.  And some to charity.  It’s not all bad.  A few million could go a long way!

Yes, altruism is certainly a contributor to personal happiness.  Giving is good.

But lottery winners get hassled, don’t they?  Everyone asking for money.  And working out how to distribute it.  That’s a big responsibility.  Hard to do the right thing.

Sure, there’s a lot of thinking to be done.  And a lot of discernment.  Working out who’s genuinely motivated, where best to focus your money, all those things.  Not a bad problem though.  Not if you can do good with it.

A tough one, though.  You could lose a lot of friends and be left very untrusting.

Yes, it happens.  And our friends are one of our primary ingredients for happiness.  So it can be a major loss.  Being without friends can make us more unhappy than we were before, very quickly.  We’re social beings.

It’s not looking quite so attractive, winning the lottery…

Well, there’s a lot of good that can come of it.  But as superman said, with great power comes great responsibility….

Maybe it’s responsibility we should be working on, then.  You don’t need money for that.  And friendships.  Friends are free.

Not a bad idea.  We could put the money we saved on tickets towards self-help books to share with friends.  A self-help library!  Then we might not feel the need for a ticket! 🙂

Is that the answer, do you think?  Work collaboratively with our friends towards a happier society?

Funnily enough, they’ve been doing that in Bhutan since 1972.  They made ‘Gross Domestic Happiness’ a priority above economic wealth.

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You’re kidding!  For real?

Yes, and they’re officially the happiest country in the world (the UK is about halfway in world ratings).

Why can’t we do that?

Why indeed…  Here’s the World Happiness Report, compiled in 2013 by Richard Layard, John Helliwell and Jeffrey Sachs. Their aims are to end extreme poverty, achieve environmental sustainability, embrace social inclusion and operate under good government. Maybe you could use your lottery winnings to propel these aims?

Good idea, if I win.  But I’ll start at the source.  I’ll think more carefully about what makes me happy every day, and make sure those things feature regularly in my life.  Friends, yoga, walking, making cakes… all that stuff…. perhaps I’m happier than I thought!

 


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The business of humanity

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There’s nothing quite like a successful person with a genuine smile to cheer the spirits.  I really enjoy seeing my perceptions and assumptions challenged in any area, but around money and wealth in particular. I was hard-wired to view wealth as the product of capitalist evil.

Encountering people who have created wealth whilst endeavouring to operate their business with integrity and genuine desire for betterment inspires me.  This list could apply to any one of us in any degree of interaction, and should.

Hats off to Richard and his smiley face.


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Humble thoughts and honest reflections

Bertrand Russell.  Now there’s a man.  From the days when people thought, and other people listened, and changes were made because what those people said made sense, and had vision.

Bertrand Russell

Yesterday I was pondering on my own actions, delving to see where the roots of them lay.

Here’s the picture;

I’ve been pre-occupied with trying to pay off my mortgage (does this ring a bell?) but there’s a pay-off with that. Making lump-sum early payments is a prudent way of safeguarding my family’s finances.  If I pay it early, that puts me in a better position to help my children’s transition to adulthood. Especially if interest rates increase.  From many angles (I won’t bore you) it makes sense.

There’s a big however, though.

Unsurprisingly, it means a financial shortfall in the here-and-now.  And there’s the dilemma. Because that money could facilitate opportunities and experience that could formulate memories for my children.  Not big things.  Not trips to Disneyland, not ‘tick list’ stuff, but things that feel right, like a trip in a campervan.  Things that I always felt, as a parent, I would want to give to my children.

It’s not rocket-science.

And I wondered; have I been following this path of simplicity too far? Have I become an addict of abstinence? Has what I set out to achieve become somehow inverted?  Where is the tipping point between simplicity and slavery?

It was at this point that I read this quote:

Conscious self-denial leaves a man self-absorbed and vividly aware of what he has sacrificed; in consequence it fails often of its immediate object and almost always of its ultimate purpose.

What is needed is not self-denial, but that kind of direction of interest outward which will lead sponteneously and naturally to the same acts that a person absorbed in the pursuit of his own virtue could only perform by means of conscious self-denial.

(Bertrand Russell, The Conquest of Happiness).

Perhaps I’ve been trying too hard.  Perhaps the time has come to rest a bit, to play a little.  Time to step back from worrying over the future, and get on with the present.  Before it’s gone, and there’s no time left to make memories with.  Less in, and more out. Perhaps it’s not so much about identifying a plan, but the feel of what I’m hoping to achieve, and making all my actions resonate with that. Now that would be a plan worth having.

 

 


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Does happiness grow on trees?

money-treeA few days ago my youngest said to me “Mum, I’m glad we’re not poor”. I think that’s the most satisfying thing I’ve ever heard (aside from him saying “Mum, why do people write diaries? Why don’t they just tell their mums instead?”).

It resonated because I’m one of those people who grew up hearing ” money doesn’t grow on trees”.

In reality, I’m a single mum and whilst I’m creative, conscientious and hardworking we actually don’t have much cash. Our lifestyle is very simple, and we’re fairly solitary. I don’t buy much for them and we don’t go overseas for our holidays. In fact we don’t do much at all!

But when things come up at school or clubs I always ask if they are interested and if so I pay up, no question. (After all, paying for one child to go to France is cheaper than all 3 of us going, so I’m grateful). The upshot of that is that they don’t feel guilty, and they feel they can have what they want. Somehow, despite my frugal economics, they feel they’re living the life they want to lead. And I hope this will see them into a positive relationship with money, not an anxious one.

There are habits around money I’d like to teach them; looking after the pennies, and staying aware of debt, but if they learn these in an atmosphere of clarity and confidence I will be happy.  Meanwhile they’re forming the habit of not having new stuff all the time, and recognising that, actually, they have everything they need, and there’s not much they want either.

It’s difficult to shed messages that cloak every desire for growth with guilt. I’m still battling with it, and struggle with every purchase. If that pattern stops with me, I can pat myself on the back. For now I’m delighted that my son doesn’t feel impoverished, and feels secure in the world.


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Read this again, and again, and again…

 

 

 

 

Think about this. A lot.

 

 

dalai-lama-quoteWhen we pursue something we are busy NOT NOTICING everything else. The goal is our focus. But the goal, at this point, isn’t real.

Devotion, persistence, strife; these are all qualities worth cultivating for a fulfilling, happy life. Pay attention to the nature and content of the goal itself, though. Some goals bring good. Others a mixed blessing. Still others have negative value. Too much focus on a negative goal, to the detriment of positive things present in our lives, will only result in an impoverished life experience.

Look around you. Learn what brings happiness. Look at the goals others pursue and notice the results they bring. Draw inspiration from inspired goals and the creative minds that put them in place. Watch, learn, and impliment. Ultimately you might yourself inspire others through your vision, aims and actions.

Be your own inspiration.