by John Markham
I recently came across a technique to double your salary in just 5 minutes a day. Well, it might not make you literally double your salary, but it will make you feel like you have. Okay, that’s a big claim, but I make no apologies for the clickbait title!
Have you ever worked hard toward a goal thinking it would make you happy? Maybe it was a qualification, paying off your mortgage or a work promotion. When you achieved the goal, how long did that initial feeling of ‘happiness’ last, if at all?
In recent years I’ve struggled with the concept of goal setting as it’s commonly presented: suffer now, enjoy later. Working all hours for most of your life to be able to enjoy the fruits of your labour in 30 years’ time? Is this success? What if you never get there? What if you are miserable the whole journey? Are we looking at achieving goals the wrong way, and is there an alternative?
This concept of goal chasing is culturally ingrained in us all from a very young age. Pass this test, get good grades, get into that good university, get that good job, get that next promotion. But guess what happens as soon as we achieve any of these? We move our goal post and are onto the next one. We are forever chasing the next goal, thinking ‘it’, whatever ‘it’ is, will bring us happiness. We are deferring happiness.
I recently read The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor, professor of positive psychology at Harvard. The book challenges the concept of delayed gratification. The book states, ‘If you work hard, you will become successful, and once you become successful, then you’ll be happy is a broken formula.’
His research, along with many other studies, suggests success does not bring happiness, but happiness can (and does) bring success.
Defining Happiness And Its Value
Happiness is subjective, but Achor describes it in the book as ‘the happiness we feel striving after our potential’. He also notes that happiness is a choice or a work ethic and by taking action a negative person can become a positive one in as little as 21 days!
Achor writes, ‘If you put happiness first, success will follow.’ I’ll admit when I first read that, I thought, yeah right, but stay with me.
Achor’s research shows that happiness and a positive mindset is the key ingredient to maximising our own potential. According the book, various studies on happiness and psychology have shown that happiness leads to success in many different domains. Waiting to be happy limits our brains’ potential for success. However, cultivating positive brains makes us more motivated, efficient, resilient, creative and productive – all driving performance upwards.
So, What Can We Do?
Achor includes some basic actions we can all take to improve our moods and raise happiness each day, including meditation, committing conscious acts of kindness, and exercise. Another interesting idea is to find something to look forward to. In some cases the actual anticipation of the ‘thing’ can lead to greater happiness than the thing itself! I’m personally a big fan of exercise and notice my mood changes if I haven’t done some exercise for a couple of days.
How Is This Relevant to Financial Planners?
To some extent we all have to put ourselves first. This may sound selfish initially, but what good are you going to be to you clients (not to mention your family) if you are unhappy, unproductive and unhealthy? Not much. And as Achor’s book argues, the happier you are, the more productive, resilient efficient you will be in all aspects of life.
We have duty to understand this for our clients. To best position ourselves to ask clients the right questions we must get them thinking about more than just the next goal. We can help them through a journey of ongoing progress and incorporate some of these behaviours for their benefit along the way.
Finally – How To Double Your Salary
How does any of this relate to doubling my salary, I hear you cry! Here is the magic ingredient: gratitude.
Gratitude may be one of the most overlooked things when increasing happiness. By writing down 3 things for which you are grateful for every day, you’ll be forced to consciously look for the positive things in your daily life.
In fact, research* has shown that by practicing 5 minutes of gratitude each day, writing down a few things for which you are grateful, can increase your long-term well-being and happiness by 10%. That’s the same impact as doubling your salary! **
There you have it. Enjoy your pay raise!
*- Positive Psychology Progress (2005, Seligman, M. P., Steen, T. A., Park, N., & Peterson, C.), Thanks: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make you Happier (Dr. Robert Emmons)
**- The New Stylized Facts About Income and Subjective Well-Being (J.Wolfers, D.Sacks & B.Stevenson)
John Markham is a Certified Financial Planner, Chartered Wealth Manager and Managing Director of Future Financial Planning.