What Is Rich and Happy

This is a guest post by Tim Brownson, @timbrownson.

Writing a book entitled ‘How To Be Rich and Happy‘ means rather unsurprisingly I regularly get asked by interviewers, “What is rich and happy?” and I always respond by saying, “I have absolutely no idea”.

As you can imagine, that is seldom the answer the person is looking for, or indeed expecting, and it usually leads to a furrowing of the brow and a quizzical look before the follow up question of “Well how can you write a book on it then?” comes my way.

Philosophers have been debating the meaning of happiness almost since the dawn of time and we still don’t have a definition that everybody agrees upon. Modern day advancements in the field of positive psychology led by Martin Seligman have certainly helped determine what happiness isn’t, but not necessarily what it is.

For example, we know pleasure isn’t happiness. In fact, counterintuitively the denial of pleasure can often lead to an increase in levels of happiness. If you quit something that brings you immediate pleasure, such as drinking or smoking, there is a high probability (once you get over the cranky stage), that will lead to enhanced levels of happiness.

We also know that money has almost zero correlation to happiness once you remove somebody from abject poverty. Billionaires, statistically speaking, are no happier than millionaires, and millionaires no happier than whatever you call people earning 6-figure salaries.

We can take that a stage further when you consider that 7-figure lotto winners, are on the whole, no happier 6 months after their win than somebody that has been paralyzed in a road traffic accident.

That is an amazing statistic uncovered by Harvard Professor, Daniel Gilbert, in his book “Stumbling On Happiness”, and one that demonstrates perfectly why defining happiness is so difficult. The incredible ability of Human Beings to overcome adversity and find happiness in all sorts of unusual situations makes it nebulous at best. Especially when you consider that the reverse applies and many people seem skilled at snatching misery from the jaws of happiness.

On the plus side of the equation, we do know having a sense of purpose in our lives (especially at work) can lead to feeling more satisfied, content and thus happy. Doing work that you know makes a positive difference in peoples lives is often a short-cut to feeling better about yourself, and your life.

Further, we recognize that people with a strong religious faith tend on the whole to be happier with life, as do married people and those that do volunteer work. Although you could undoubtedly find very religious married people that do volunteer work and yet are deeply unhappy.

We talk in How To Be Rich and Happy about ‘the formula’ to a rich and happy life, but this is no A+B=C formula. It’s more dynamic than that and will be different for every person on the planet.

For example, I have no idea what your core values are as everyones are different. I do know from my own experience and that of hundreds of clients though, that if you don’t know what they are (and very few people genuinely do by the way) you are massively reducing your likelihood of achieving long-term happiness.

Living in alignment with your core values may not necessarily guarantee happiness, but it hugely stacks the deck in your favor and being out of alignment will certainly lead to, at best, a life of frustration and discontent.

Of course you may slip into alignment by chance, in the same way you may win the lottery, but as a Life Coach it’s not really a plan I’d advise a client of mine to adopt. You are far better working out what your values are and then doing whatever you can to meet those values than simply hoping things will turn out for the best.

For example if ‘freedom’ is your most important value, think twice about taking that office bound job irrespective of how much money they are paying. All the money in the world will not bridge that gap.

Shortly before the book came out I had a meeting with my co-author, John Strelecky. We were talking about the launch and I said to John, “I do feel a tad uncomfortable writing a book about being rich and happy, when I live very much hand to mouth”.

I’m grateful to John for dragging me back to (my) reality by saying something like, “Tim you work when you like, you play golf when you like, you walk your dogs when they like and you love what you do for a living. Which part of that isn’t rich and happy?”

When I say I have no idea what being Rich and Happy is, I mean I have no idea what it is for you.

It is no mistake that the tagline to the book is “Whatever you want, whenever you want” because that is what rich and happy is all about, even if the whatever and whenever is not defined.

Of course there will always be occasions when it isn’t possible to do exactly what you want. Few people enjoy a root canal or filing taxes. But if you can utilize the Pareto Principle of doing what you really, really, want for 80% of your time and you are true to your core values, then my guess is you will feel rich and happy irrespective of the amount of money in your bank account.

About the author: Tim Brownson is an English certified Life Coach, Master Practitioner and author now living in Orlando, Florida. He is currently involved in a huge project to giveaway 1,000,000 copies of How To Be Rich and Happy.

29 thoughts on “What Is Rich and Happy”

  1. Pingback: There Will Never Be Enough Time
  2. Hi Tim,

    This is an interesting read and fascinating discussion. I really like what you said in response to the comment from Farnoosh,

    ‘The link between helping others and happiness is incredibly high, much higher than any other single thing by some margin.”

    To me “Whatever you want, whenever you want” sounds like a recipe for the environmental disaster we are now in and doesn’t sound like a formula for lasting happiness. However, I will put my doubts on hold and trust that’s not the point of your book based on the worthiness of this article!

    Thanks for the interesting read.

    • Glad you are suspending your doubt Sandra!

      When you get down to it and help people understand what they really value (i.e. not money etc) you are way more likely to generate a feeling of connection and a desire to help others.

  3. Hi Tim,
    Hopefully no one will take away the message that they should go get married, pick up a religion along the way and start doing volunteer work :)!
    To me, statistics mean absolutely nothing – if anything, they muddle the situation. My state of happiness – which is high – may translate to misery to others. I know atheists who are very happy, devout religious people who are happy or miserable, and mothers who are miserable even though children are supposed to bring the highest joy to our lives. To me, happiness is extremely individual. Yes on living aligned with your core values but also in listening to yourself, in following your rhythm of your own heart and not that of the society surrounding you, and in looking for your own comfort level as far as financial security goes. Some of us may need a lot more or less than others. Thank you for reading my thoughts and I enjoyed reading yours!

    • I don’t mind if somebody reads it and then runs out to volunteer for a good cause!

      The link between helping others and happiness is incredibly high, much higher than any other single thing by some margin.

      Of course you are right that happiness is highly individual, but if somebody is unhappy and wants to change that state, helping others is statistically speaking the thing most likely to help.

  4. This post comes at a good time, my posts this week have all had to do with the theme of happiness. It does seem that everywhere you turn people have different perspectives on what happiness is.

    Many people are waiting for some big event to “finally make” them happy, such as getting married, reaching a certain income level, etc. I lived that way for a long time, and it’s not a happy existence!

    At this point in my life I have found that happiness is being able to enjoy life right where I am at, not worrying about the past or the future. It is also in the fulfillment of growing personally, overcoming obstacles, being grateful, helping others, and much more.

    As long as it isn’t dependent upon circumstances or other people it can be achieved. Not to say that it comes easily or without work. I don’t think that many people accidentally stumble upon happiness.

    • I don’t think that many people accidentally stumble upon happiness.

      I’m not sure I agree, I think most people stumble upon it and that is why happiness is so subjective. Because it varies so much from person to person following a plan to get you to happiness is fraught with difficulty.

      • Happiness is definitely subjective. Which is why we hold differing views here. I think that smaller levels of happiness can be stumbled up, though what I was referring to was the deeper, more lasting happiness not being so easy to achieve, because like you said you can’t follow a plan for happiness. Happiness is found when one is focused on other things, rather than being focused on happiness as the goal.

        I appreciate your thoughts!

    • I know! They often talk about things they value vs. what they value in life. I think it’s funny when they come to me wanting a breakthrough in their business or finances, and I get them talking about their values. They wonder where the heck I’m going with the conversation! But I see it as a kind of sneak attack 🙂 When they really get their values and start making choices aligned with them? Well, that other stuff usually starts to fall into place. And that’s when I get to do the happy dance!

  5. You are speaking my language Tim! As a coach myself, I love doing values work with my clients. More than any other aspect of coaching, it makes such an instant profound impact. When I live in alignment with my values, honouring them and allowing them to inform my actions, life really is amazing. My favourite thing too is that when I’m out of alignment, ie: feeling like crap, I simply look at which value has been violated and that makes it so much easier to get back on track.

    So glad you wrote this post and are shining the light on values!

  6. Simple formula about happiness:

    Happiness = Being in alignment 🙂

    Now, how helpful is this formula? Well, probably not very much, because many people don’t know what does it mean to be in alignment.

    By being in alignment, I mean to be in alignment with your truly being, your soul if you wish, your real YOU.

    Passion is a good instrument of alignment. Whether in business or relationships or any other context of life, if you are passionate about it, it means you are in alignment with who you really are.

    Furthermore, having a sense of purpose is another instrument. So when you live your purpose, even if you are confronted with problems that should make you unhappy on your path, because you have a long-term view of where you are going, you are still happy!

    That’s globally being happy or being aligned!

    There is also a local perspective and that is when you confront with everyday challenges like criticism, disappointment, etc etc, then CENTERING is a tool to get aligned again.

    What is centering?

    Centering is becoming aware of you, yourself, your environment (people around you) and the whole FIELD, that hold everything (the universe, the space, …)

    How do you center? I’m glad you asked!

    Well, deep breathing is good way of centering. Then clearing your mind (losing it, but not getting crazy). Becoming conscious about your thoughts, the situation, the emotions, the environment, the field…

    That’s why practicing meditation is a good way to get aligned locally and globally! It helps you find you passions, stay on you path of purpose and gives you sense of security in distractions that could lead to unhappiness!


  7. Great to see two of my favorite bloggers working together!

    I love how the “Rich and Happy” phrase makes people (me included) step back and think about values, lifestyle, time and so forth – and how:
    (1) it’s not just about money as it sometimes first appears
    (2) everyone’s definition of “rich and happy” is different – e.g. my urban life would drive a country boy crazy, while the quiet nights and open spaces 365 days a year would get to me…

    It’s so true that when you step back and ask yourself the “why do I want that?” question, you quickly drill down to your core values… no one wants money, or the Ferrari, or the boat in and of itself, but only insofar as those things satisfy your core values.

    Thanks for a great post!

  8. Here is the most crucial thing about happiness-decide on your goals. As you have mentioned, Tim, if you are clear on a general level about what you want- stuff like freedom, money etc than you can work your way towards achieving those goals along different paths.

    My goal is freedom so yeah, I would be an arse to settle for green if I become another cog in the wheel,even a cog with a fat wallet. A thinner wallet and a free agent is what I am shooting at

  9. Hi Tim,

    Good to see your here. I find it interesting that we usually use these two words together: rich & happy – as if there is a strong correlation between them. I think you point out very well here how there isn’t much of a correlation. Must be an association we created in our heads in the 1930’s or something.

    • Actually Eduard in the book we go into great detail around the rich aspect of it. We’re talking more about being rich in spirit and feeling rich than having a load of money. We’re being deliberately provocative with the title.

  10. Tim,
    Good stuff!!

    I’ve recently dug into this idea of core values more deeply for me (with the help of a life coach). And knowing what these are for me, I know what does bring a deeper sense of happiness (and riches in many senses of the word) into my life. (that doesn’t mean I’m always living from a place that is in alignment, though, with these values…which is a continuous work in progress for me…)

    Happy golfing!!

    • And that’s the thing with life, it’s always work in progress. If we start thinking we’ve nailed it one of our ducks that was in a row gets bored and wanders off.

      I think that’s what’s called a mixed metaphor, but hey, it works for me!

  11. The author of The Art of Manliness wrote about something like this, giving survey data and chart information. They said that money can buy you happiness up to 75,000 dollars annually. Anything after that will cause more problems than good. Relationships; sex with many absolute strangers with a high frequency doesn’t give you more happiness that sex with a person you’re in love with with sexual activity being at a low frequency.

    For me, happiness is about doing what you want, with the people you want. There is no euphoric subject that is more powerful than a good conversation. Not even an orgasm.

    Great post man!


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