"Using the British Household Panel Survey, I find that an increase in the level of social involvements is worth up to an extra 85,000 (pounds) a year in terms of life satisfaction. Actual changes in income, on the other hand, buy very little happiness."
The last line is especially telling: "Actual changes in income, on the other hand, buy very little happiness."
We could increase our income by hundreds of thousands of dollars a year... and still not be as happy as we will be if we increase the strength of our social relationships.
The same thing happens when we fall prey to thinking that happiness comes from having a bigger house, a nicer car, or a bigger income.
The happiest people I know focus mostly on what they do -- and who they do it with -- and not on what they have. They see success as an awesome by-product of a shared journey, not as the primary goal.
And so can you -- if you think about your life the right way.
How do happier people think?
1. They love to share success with others.
Solo success is rewarding. Achieving something with another person or a team is awesome.
Not only do you feel good about yourself, you feel great about other people--and you create a connection that can last a lifetime.
And if you do fail, you fail together, which makes that failure a lot easier to take and provides the support to help you try again.
2. They love seeing other people succeed.
Don't wish someone else had gotten the recognition they deserved. Don't someday regret not having let people know how you felt, how you cared, or how much you appreciated them.
The act of recognition is just as fulfilling as the receipt. Make someone else feel good and you instantly feel good, too.
Best of all, you can do something good for someone else -- and the joy you feel will never, ever diminish.
3. They love comparing themselves to themselves.
No matter how successful you are, there will always be someone who is more successful. No matter how big your business gets, there will always be a bigger business. There will always someone better or smarter or richer.
To be happy, only compare yourself to the person you were yesterday -- and to the person you hope to someday become. You may never be the best, but you will gain incredible satisfaction from being the best you that you can possibly be.
Besides, that's all you can control. Which means that's that really matters.
4. They love disregarding luck.
Luck is great, but the things you earn are infinitely more gratifying.
If you work and hustle and scrimp and finally save enough to buy your first car, you appreciate it. You take care of it. It's yours, both practically and emotionally.
If you are given a car, that's pretty cool... but you didn't really feel anything. (Except possibly gratitude.)
If you want to hope for something, hope for the strength and perseverance to earn the things you want. Don't wait for luck to bring you your first client; work your butt off to land your first client.
That way you'll not only enjoy the destination, you'll both appreciate and be fulfilled by the journey.
5. They love facing their fears.
Nothing beats how you feel immediately after you put a fear aside and take a plunge. And that feeling lingers for a long time. Think about the presentation you dreaded giving; immediately after, even if you bombed, you felt a sense of relief and even exhilaration. You did it!
Facing a fear makes you feel alive. The more alive you feel, the happier you will be.
Pick a small fear and stare it down. I promise you'll feel awesome afterward. Keep doing it, and in time you'll open yourself up to new experiences, new sensations, new friends -- and a richer, more fulfilling life.
6. They love putting their time and money behind their values.
Few things create greater trauma and stress than your actions not matching your values.
Pick three things you value most. You might value pride, sincerity, faith, family, cooperation, adventure, camaraderie, humility, independence--the list is endless. Pick three.
Then determine how much of your time--and money--is spent on those values. The more time you spend fostering and honoring your values, the happier you will be.
Live your values and you can't help but be happy and more joyful--because in those moments, you are exactly who you truly wish to be.
7. They love being vulnerable, because vulnerability is liberating -- and empowering.
Everyone wears armor: armor that protects but in time also destroys.
The armor we wear is primarily forged by success. Every accomplishment adds an additional layer of protection from vulnerability. In fact, when we feel particularly insecure we unconsciously strap on more armor so we feel less vulnerable.
Armor is the guy joining a pickup basketball game with younger, better players who feels compelled to say, "Hi, I'm Joe--I'm the CEO of ACME Industries." Armor is driving your Mercedes to a reunion even though taking your other car would be much more practical. Armor is saying, at the start of a presentation, "Look, I'm not very good at speaking to groups. I spend all day running my huge factory."
Armor protects us when we're unsure, tentative, or at a perceived disadvantage. Armor says, "That's OK. I may not be good at this, but I'm really good at that. So there."
Over time, armor also encourages us to narrow our focus to our strengths so we can stay safe. The more armor we build up, the more we can hide our weaknesses and failings--from others and from ourselves.
Take off your armor. Sure, it's scary. But it's also liberating, because then you get to be the person you really are and, in time, start to really like the person you really are.
Which is the surest road to happiness.