The Secret To Happiness… And Why It Has Nothing To Do With Money

Learn How A Simple Daily Habit Can Create More Happiness Than Achieving Financial Freedom

You don’t have to be rich to be happy. Cliche maybe, but also true.

Happiness is a state of mind and completely within your control regardless of your financial situation. Don’t make the same mistake I made and wait until you gain financial freedom to learn these lessons. You can have happiness right now regardless of your finances or what is going on in your life because happiness is a choice. It is a state of mind.

Below I share my personal story explaining the painful process I went through to learn these lessons about money and happiness so that you can hopefully avoid repeating my mistakes. Then I will provide you with step-by-step instructions showing you how to achieve personal freedom right now regardless of your financial situation. I hope you enjoy…

How Financial Freedom Forces You To Learn The Truth About Money And Happiness

There is a seldom spoken, little secret about financial freedom that I will let you in on. It is counter-intuitive and illustrates an essential principle about money and happiness. Here it is… when you achieve financial freedom your life suddenly changes from pre-determined to self-determined. The surprising affect of this is you are suddenly stripped of all excuses for why your life might be less than ideal. You instantly become solely responsible for your happiness with no excuses allowed.

“Money doesn’t always bring happiness. People with ten million dollars are no happier than people with nine million dollars.”

Hobart Brown

To understand how this works and why it is important let’s first look at the reality faced by most people living the work-a-day existence. Their lives are largely pre-determined. They spend the bulk of their time working to earn the money necessary to build a better lifestyle. The little time that remains is quickly swallowed up by family, errands and other personal needs. Very little free time remains to create your unique life destiny, and very little creative thought is required to live out your lifetime. You work 40 hours (or more) per week for 40 years and try to have a little fun with what little time remains. It’s pretty straightforward and uncomplicated. Society wrote the script and nearly everyone follows it.

However, once you achieve financial freedom all that changes. Suddenly 2,000 hours a year previously spent on work related issues is yours to do with as you please. Your days have zero pre-determined structure – an open canvas for you to paint the life of your dreams upon.

Let me repeat this because it is very important -  one of the little discussed aspects of attaining financial freedom is your life changes from pre-determined to self-determined. You don’t get to follow the default script imposed by society because financial freedom obliterates the script and leaves a void in its place. For some people the adventure this situation presents along with the “burden” of responsibility is exciting, but for many others it is frightening. You become self-responsible for your day, your life, and most importantly… your happiness. All the excuses are gone.

You no longer have the excuse of a job and a nasty little boss to blame your unhappiness on. You no longer have your days automatically filled with everything to do so that you never have to think for yourself, deal with your personal issues, or constructively plan your life. With financial freedom all those excuses are gone, many of your day-to-day responsibilities are gone, and you must re-create yourself and your life.

For some people that becomes a tremendous and unexpected burden. It happens to new retirees every day and it  happened to me in 1997 when I sold the hedge fund business and had enough money to retire. My plan was to marry my long-time girlfriend (currently my long-time wife) and take a six month honeymoon by travelling around Europe and the Middle-East with nothing more than a backpack and a credit card.

“Money can’t buy happiness, but neither can poverty.”

Leo Rosten

I was on top of the world. I had achieved financial freedom, found love, and was about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime. I was young, healthy, and had my whole life in front of me. It should have been nirvana – and it was – for a brief period of time. Then it was all downhill from there… the unexpected reality struck.

I made the classic mistake I see so many of my financial coaching clients make – and that you are likely making as well. I had projected my value for personal freedom onto money. I naively labored under the delusion that if I could just attain financial freedom that I would be personally free as well. I falsely believed that once I no longer had to work I would enter the pro-leisure circuit of life where every day would be filled with fun activities, friends and one continuous holiday.

I was wrong. It doesn’t work that way.

When I achieved financial freedom and quit working the biggest realization I had was that I was the same guy, with the same hang-ups and personal issues facing the same life I had before. The only difference was now I had a lot more time to wallow in it, and no distractions or excuses from the presumed work-a-day life script to distract me from seeing the truth about my life.

What I realized was the goal all along had been personal freedom – not financial freedom – and the one thing I knew for certain was I had not achieved the goal. I was happy with financial freedom because it provided the time, money and flexibility to focus on personal freedom – no complaints there. But I also realized that achieving financial freedom had done little more than lift the mask that had hidden the deeper issues. It had removed all the distractions and external things like job and money issues that I used to project my unhappiness onto. It forced me to look inward and own full responsibility for my internal state of being because I could no longer project my problems outward on life’s circumstances.

In a nutshell, when you have the financial ability to arrange your life in any way you want, the one thing you lose is excuses for any aspect of your life that doesn’t measure up. Financial freedom removes the facade by eliminating the excuses.

“It is not easy to find happiness in ourselves, and it is not possible to find it elsewhere.”

Agness Repplier

This set me on a journey of personal growth in pursuit of that elusive animal known as happiness. Don’t get me wrong – I wasn’t a manic depressive or anything like that. I just wanted to know how to enjoy each and every day of my life – no excuses allowed – regardless of the circumstances of the day. I did not want to have another unhappy day ever again.

While I’m still a little shy of reaching that lofty objective, I have made significant progress toward the goal and I’ve learned some valuable lessons along the way. One of my discoveries I would like to share with you here. It is what I call my “Daily Happiness Accountability.”

Daily Happiness Accountability

The essence of the daily happiness accountability is that your happiness is a product of your thoughts – nothing more, nothing less. This may sound goofy to some of my hard-nosed finance readers but it is timeless wisdom that really works so hang in there.

“The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts, therefore guard accordingly; and take care that you entertain no notions unsuitable to virtue, and reasonable nature.”

Marcus Aurelius Antoninus

It doesn’t matter what occurs during your day or how many things go wrong – you can still experience happiness. All it takes is the correct frame of mind. To get myself in the correct frame of mind every day I created a “cheat-sheet” that can be read in less than a minute. It is a “Cliff Notes” version of the greatest wisdom on the subject of personal freedom so that you can read it each morning and evening to slowly but surely re-train your mind for happiness.

Your daily practice is to read the following brief list of thoughts at least once per day so that you re-focus your mind on personal happiness. After a month of practice you should notice tangible results and after 90 days of habitual practice you should have internalized much of the thinking pattern. It is just that simple.

Best of all, it costs you nothing. You risk nothing and nobody can sell you anything. It isn’t even complicated. From an investment perspective that is a no-brainer proposition because it offers huge potential reward yet costs nothing and has no risk. The only price you must pay is to do the work and put it into practice with enough persistence to notice the difference.

Remember, your happiness is a state of mind. You don’t have to be rich, and you don’t have to wait until you reach some level of achievement in the future. You can have happiness right now.

As of matter of fact, learn from my mistake and don’t wait to become rich to figure this stuff out. Financial freedom is important and worthwhile but the real game is personal freedom and happiness. That is what will make the biggest difference in the quality of your life.

Below are some of my favorite thoughts to re-read each day that redirect my brain toward choosing happiness. They are grouped by category as follows…


Choose Happiness As The Priority For The Day

“The pursuit of happiness is a most ridiculous phrase; if you pursue happiness you’ll never find it.”

C.P. Snow

  • THE DECISION TO BE HAPPY IS ACTUALLY THE DECISION TO STOP BEING UNHAPPY.
  • Most people seek happiness as a by-product of their achievements, actions and other things they do throughout the day thus making their happiness dependent upon what happens during their day. I can make happiness a direct choice without any dependency.
  • MY HAPPINESS DOES NOT REQUIRE FAVORABLE EVENTS, INTERACTIONS, OR ANY PARTICULAR STIMULUS. I can just choose happiness at any given moment no matter what is going on and for absolutely no other reason than to just be happy.
  • Suffering today in an effort to earn greater success and income for tomorrow so that I can relax and feel secure at some future date is insane. I can embrace the adventure that is my work, do what I can each day without stress but with creativity and joy – and trust the results will be meaningful.
  • I can pursue all my goals from a happy place today, and not let my internal state of being depend on external events to materialize that I believe will make me happy at some unknown future.
  • There’s no reason to limit happiness to the dessert in life: it can be the whole meal.
  • Happiness is an option, and misery is an option. They are both optional choices you can apply to the same day’s events. Which option do you choose?


Let Go Of Judgments

“Man is the artificer of his own happiness.”

Henry David Thoreau

  • THE SECRET TO HAPPINESS LIES NOT IN THE EVENTS, BUT IN OUR RESPONSE TO THEM.
  • Adopt an accepting attitude to all things and events in life.
  • Try to go the whole day without blame, shame or complain. No negative thoughts.
  • See everyone as being on their own heroic journey through the trials and tribulations of life doing the best they can with what they know. If they do you wrong then have compassion for the pain that motivated them to do wrong.
  • Develop a trust that everything in life is somehow for the best and accept that I will never know why or how.
  • Byron Katie has a great quote, “There are three kinds of business in the world: your business, other people’s business, and God’s business.” Unhappiness always occurs when I stray from my business. I have no right being in God’s business because I don’t know the big picture, and anytime I’m in other people’s business I’m in judgment which makes me unhappy. My business is where my happiness is. Everything else creates unhappiness.
  • WE CANNOT CHOOSE THE EVENTS AROUND US, BUT WE CAN CHOOSE OUR REACTION TO THEM.


Be Present

  • UNHAPPINESS DOES NOT EXIST IN THE PRESENT MOMENT. IT ONLY EXISTS AS A REGRET ABOUT THE PAST OR WORRY TOWARD THE FUTURE.


Be Grateful

“Happiness isn’t something you experience; it’s something you remember.”

Oscar Levant

  • MY LIFE IS FILLED WITH ENDLESS WONDERS EVERY HOUR OF EVERY DAY. THE ONLY TIME I AM UNHAPPY IS WHEN I TAKE THESE THINGS FOR GRANTED.
  • Gratitude isn’t just about enjoying and appreciating, but it’s a bigger idea about living in the blessing and wonder of an experience.
  • Train yourself to become sensitive and appreciative for all the miracles that occur for daily life to just happen.
  • Notice how much time today is spent on thoughts of gratitude as opposed to thoughts about problems.
  • Happiness doesn’t mean you have more to be grateful for: it means you spend more time being grateful for what you already have.
  • Say or do something to make your gratitude visible and real.
  • Begin and end each day in active gratitude. As you lay down to sleep think of five things from the day to be grateful for, and before you get out of bed in the morning think of five things to be grateful for.
  • Gratitude is simply a choice to become aware of the good things that are already true in any given situation and become consciously thankful for them.


Create Strong Social Connection

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”

Mahatma Gandhi

  • The risk we associate with authenticity is illusory. The more we nurture our true selves, remove our masks, and allow uncensored expression, the more our relationships and surroundings will support our true selves.
  • Personal authenticity creates inner-outer harmony and greater connection with others.
  • Simplify your life and greet every person and situation with one face.
  • Quality relationships nurture – quantity distracts.


Live With Contribution

“The only true happiness comes from squandering ourselves for a purpose.”

William Cowper

  • Find at least one way, each day to make another person happy. It could be as simple as a kind word, a personal acknowledgement, giving anonymously, or allowing someone in a rush to get ahead.
  • SERVE A PURPOSE GREATER THAN YOURSELF.
  • By giving happiness you experience happiness.


My suggestion is to print this article out (the checklist part) and review the list daily for at least three months. Try to put these thoughts into practice as you go through your day. This will force the thoughts into your brain so that you live them rather than just intellectualize them. They will become part of your daily existence. On days when you don’t have enough time or need a quick refresher just scan for the bold and capitalized items on the list – they are the key principles.

Here is a link to an MS-Word file containing just the checklist. You can print it, edit it, and tinker with it to suit your needs. I know this checklist has made a big difference in my life and hopefully it will do the same for you.

“Happiness is not a station you arrive at, but a manner of traveling.”

Margaret Lee Runbeck

Remember, happiness is found in the journey – not the destination. Don’t make the same mistake I did and wait until you achieve financial freedom to realize the importance and value of these ideas. Learn them now and begin enjoying the benefits today while you work toward financial freedom.

Finally, let me know what quotes or sayings you find particularly valuable in your own practice that I failed to include in this list by adding them to the comments section below. There is always room for more wisdom so please share some of your favorites…

Here’s to your happiness!

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30 comments
shantashil
shantashil

Thanks Todd,

You reminded me to choose to be Happy....again. 

Life is Sum of moments , To be happy in NOW would make the life happy....

"Learning is reminding one self that you know as well"....

Thanks for directing me home again.


I would like to be a regular visitor to your blogs.

Marc DM
Marc DM

Great read, thanks for sharing Todd

Cytoman
Cytoman

I discovered your site a couple days ago.  After reading a couple pages I realized that your advice and perspective was different than most - I'm hooked.  I've spent the better part of today combing through much of your site/blog.  I rarely dwell on personal finance pages but this one really "spoke" to me.  I have some soul searching to do.  Thanks for sharing!

Jeremy (Cytoman)

NateFancher
NateFancher

Love the live the contribution part! Great insights.

Derek
Derek

This is nothing short of "eye-opening" to me, great post. I have been thinking along the same lines, and really money is only needed for continuing our lifestyle. It has nothing to do with happiness, and sometimes makes it harder to be fulfilled if we chase it too hard. Love your writing style and philosophy of life, thanks again (I shared on facebook, too)

nana
nana

Being Happy, Does this really work ? does reading such positive inspirational thoughts make a change for lifetime ?

I keep on reading so many such quotations regularly and especially on Sunday, it helps me to start my monday with +ve set up of mind but i am not sure whether it changes my overall outlook all the time,

btw, I liked your posts, really good.

Nana

Visiting-Venice.com
Visiting-Venice.com

Hello Todd,

I like your article - thanks for it. The quotes are inspiring as well.

Kind regards

Value Indexer
Value Indexer

Great post, and I hope many people read it! I believe that if you can't find happiness at any time in any condition, financial freedom won't change that. In a way people who do unexpectedly reach financial freedom without figuring this out are lucky but not because of the freedom. It's because they're suddenly forced to see the harm they do to themselves and they have a chance to correct it earlier (or they can just start doing increasingly strange and unnatural things to hide from the truth). They're lucky in the same way as someone who gets fired from a job they couldn't stand. In the end no one has to give you permission to open your eyes and wake up though :)

Jeffrey Trull
Jeffrey Trull

Hi Todd,

Great meeting you at the Financial Bloggers Conference! I found this post really insightful, and I'm glad to hear it's based off your real-life experience. This is the type of things that I know I've needed to concentrate on for some time now, but I've never really followed through. I think that by writing how it's related to wealth has made me realize how important this is.

I've printed out the sheets and I'm going to give it my best effort.

sus
sus

Thanks for the excellent post. I agree that we should strive for a balance in everything we do. Personal freedom is what i am aiming for now and i too believe that to achieve financial freedom is not the ultimate goal after all. We all should ponder about this since our life on earth is not going to be that long. Thanks so much for sharing. I love it.....

Franck
Franck

Hi Todd,
Thank you for sharing these good words full of wisdom, much appreciated.
My favorite is the fact that financial freedom only removes all excuses that can be used to justify unhappiness. It's obvious now but I had to read it to really understand this reality.
Happiness is really independant of everything else. It only depends on the way we think and behave, and can happen as early as now if we decide so.

Thanks again and I wish you all the best.

Lauryn Doll
Lauryn Doll

This was a great read. The part that hit me the most was "In a nutshell, when you have the financial ability to arrange your life in any way you want, the one thing you lose is excuses for any aspect of your life that doesn't measure up. Financial freedom removes the facade by eliminating the excuses."

This is so true. Even when you're working, it's easy to sit at work and think that you're only unhappy because you had to get up and go to work that day. Then on your day off, you're still grumbling and unhappy... but this time it's because you have to remind yourself you've got work tomorrow.

Move the obstacles that make you unhappy, or accept that unhappiness.... is your happiness.

Jordan
Jordan

Hi Todd,

I really appreciate you sharing your experience with me. I too have to remind myself that when I am just grateful and happy and doing what I know I should do, the rest of life will just flow easier. I guess the hang ups I get is when things don't go my way and I feel like I am taking 2 steps backwards for every one step forward.

Have you ever felt like that?

Shivaswamy
Shivaswamy

This is one of the best I have read on your site so far Todd. Liked it very much. Thanks.

Iboro
Iboro

Thanks for this article and many others you've published. I truly know that following them will lead me to financial freedom, and becoming a sucessful private investor.

Ravi C. Narayan
Ravi C. Narayan

Always knew that "Happiness" is a state of mind, not being just wealthy or obtaining a material item.
Mr. Tresidder, through his terrific "how-to" checklist, showed me the process.
Thanks a bunch and I plan to pass it forward to others.
God Bless !

Edel Ramilo
Edel Ramilo

Thank you so much for the awesome article!

I've shared it with my friends in my Facebook account and put a link to this article in my blog.

It's really something that everybody has to read. God bless!

Bridget
Bridget

Todd,

This is great! Thanks for sharing. This is the "balanced" part in my recommended phrase of "Coaching Your Way To A Balanced Early Retirement".

Steve
Steve

Thanks for sharing some very important truths. Great article!

Todd Tresidder
Todd Tresidder

Glad you liked it and thank you for sharing with your friends. It is a great way to support this message (and site). Much appreciated...

shantashil
shantashil

@nana

I trust Todd's suggestion would work only if we could hold the process for a continuous substantial period of time.

Your Post itself suggests that Sunday practice affects Monday so why not practice Monday, Tuesday..... this week , next week...... and make happiness a habit?

Todd Tresidder
Todd Tresidder

@Sus - Thanks for your feedback. Please share the message with others and spread the word. I appreciate your support.

Todd Tresidder
Todd Tresidder

@Jordan - Yes, of course. Everyone has down moments. We are all human. It is a process - not perfection. It is a journey - not a destination.

Todd Tresidder
Todd Tresidder

@ Iboro - You're welcome, and thank you for your participation in this community.

Todd Tresidder
Todd Tresidder

@Edel - Your "passing it forward" is the ultimate acknowledgment and deeply appreciated. Thank you for your support and spreading the word. I hope your friends enjoy it as well.

Todd Tresidder
Todd Tresidder

Good to hear from you, Darlene. Glad you liked the article.

Todd Tresidder
Todd Tresidder

@Steve - Thanks for the feedback. It's good to hear from you again.