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Generosity makes you happy. Happy people are more likely to be successful

An interesting message from Carl Richards –



Yesterday, things came to a screeching halt for me when I read this short post from Seth Godin:

Here’s conventional wisdom:

Success makes you happy. Happiness permits you to be generous.

In fact, it actually works like this:

Generosity makes you happy. Happy people are more likely to be successful.

In four lines, he captures what I believe might be one of the biggest stories we tell ourselves. We accept the conventional wisdom that success (or money or a big house or a nice car) is the driver of our happiness. As a result, we put a bunch of important stuff on the back burner and convince ourselves that success must come first. The rest can come later.

But what if we’ve got it backward? What if showing generosity and expressing gratitude were the real starting points for happiness? What else might we be missing?

Patience, for one. As you’ve probably heard me say more than once, you need plenty of patience if you’re going to make smart money decisions. A soon-to-be published study in Psychological Science weighed the impact of gratitude on willpower.

The setup was simple. Study participants were offered the option of getting cash on the spot or opting to receive a larger check in the mail later. Before they made their choice, researchers randomly assigned participants to write about an event. The event could be something that made them feel grateful, happy, or neutral.

People who wrote about grateful events were more likely to wait and pick the larger amount. As a result, researchers suggest there’s a connection between gratitude and long-term thinking. How much smarter could we be about money with a little more long-term thinking? How much dumber are we about money when we’re focused solely on ourselves and what we don’t have?  When we focus on success (e.g., financial, professional), we’re left with a very one-dimensional view of the world. It’s a view that makes it difficult to put our decisions in context. However, by being generous (it’s not just about money) and showing gratitude for what we have, we gain the context to help us figure out what matters most. Once we know the answer to that question, it becomes that much easier to make smart financial decisions.

I understand this all sounds very New Agey and so simple as to be pointless and a waste of time. But I challenge you to pick one day next week and focus on being generous and showing gratitude. How does it change your thought process? Do some decisions become easier to make?

Then, if you feel like sharing, send me your story. I want to know if it worked for you, because the more I learn, the more I think solving the behavior gap requires asking these kinds of questions.


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