Do You Know What The Real Secret To Happiness Is?
We talk a lot about money here. We talk about how to earn more, where you can save more, and what you can do when you have more, so what I’m about to say might surprise you.
Money isn’t everything.
And it’s not more money that enriches your life. No amount of cash can really make you happy. The real key to happiness is something else entirely.
The best news is that you already have some of this resource, and capitalizing on what you do have can lead you to your happiest life yet.
Allow me to explain.
Rory Sutherland knows how humans think. After all, he’s the Vice Chairman of Ogilvy, one of the largest marketing and communications firms in the world, and you don’t get to that position without understanding the needs, wants, and desires that drive us all.
When he sat down with me, Rory told me about an experiment originally described by Robert H. Frank. (You can read more about this in Frank’s book The Darwin Economy if you like.)
This experiment illustrates the value of this key to happiness perfectly. Here’s the first part:
What Would Be Your Preference?
Would you rather live in a world where you earn $50K and everyone else is making $30K, or a world where you make $80K but everyone else makes $100K?
Interestingly enough, most people choose to make $50K when faced with this question. It’s not because they don’t want to make more money – it’s because they recognize the relative value of what making more than anyone else could mean.
After all, in a world where everyone makes $30K and one guy makes much more, can’t he expect to have nicer home, a fancier car, and a better lifestyle because he makes well more than the average? Of course he can.
See, money does have a relative value. Feeling an imbalance in that relative value – your lack of funds, for example – is a sure cause of unhappiness.
What Could Be Possibly More Valuable Than Money?!
On the other hand, there’s something far more valuable than money, and it doesn’t suffer from an issue of relative value.
Here’s the next question to demonstrate.
Would you rather live in a world where you get 4 weeks paid vacation and everyone else gets 5, or a world where you get 6 weeks of paid vacation and everyone else gets 8 weeks?
You’d want the 6 weeks, wouldn’t you? You’re not alone, either. People invariably choose that option because more leisure time is better than less leisure time.
After all, when you have free time, you can connect with loved ones, enjoy your favorite activities,
Yes, having enough leisure time is the true secret to happiness.
Not only is making time for recreation fun, it’s a key component to health, too. It’s proven that leisure activities help to reduce stress and depression and improve self esteem. They can even lower blood pressure, enhance mental acuity, build up the immune system, and improve sleep quality.
How Do You Take Advantage of This?
After all, it’s not like you can afford to go to your boss and demand weeks of extra time for vacation.
There are a few things you can do.
First, take the time you do have. According to a study from Bankrate, only 28% of Americans plan to use all of their paid vacation this year.
That’s stunning, but it’s even more staggering when you consider the financial implications. In 2017, for example, Americans gave up 212 million days off – that translates to over $62 billion in lost benefits!
Don’t give that up – it’s supposed to be yours for the taking.
Additionally, spend the time that you do get wisely. Don’t take days off just to sleep in late and watch television. Use the time to explore somewhere new and different, or go a relish an old favorite, but get out of the house and actually do something with your time.
Leave the Office at the Office
A family trip to a beautiful destination or an afternoon at the baseball park is no fun if you’re constantly checking your emails or replying to texts from clients. Change your outgoing message, forward your calls to a teammate, and do what you have to do in order to keep your leisure time for yourself.
Next, focus on doing what you like to do in your off time. Hours spent at wandering around a furniture store or watching a sporting event you couldn’t care less about do very little to replenish your soul. If you have to do those things to please a significant other, so be it, but fit in time to do what you like, too.
Finally – and this is a big one – turn off the screens. No matter where you are, no matter what activity you’re doing, it’s not going to be enhanced by one more news article or one more game of Candy Crush.
Sure, those things are temporary distractions, but that’s all they are, and that’s ultimately worthless when it comes to really benefiting from your leisure time. If you find you’re in a long line or a boring conversation with your family, resist the urge to pull out the phone and start scrolling, and instead, do what it takes to make the time interesting and fun.
Oh, and one more thing? At your next performance review, there’s no harm in asking for more vacation as a form of compensation. Sure, your boss could say no, but if you’re a valuable enough asset to the team, they could also say yes. Wouldn’t having that extra time be great?
All of this is to say… don’t waste your leisure time. The time you spend around friends and family, the hours you take to enjoy yourself – that’s really what life’s about, so don’t waste another second.
Editor, Brian Rose Uncensored