5 Investments in Happiness

Can of Paint, (c) Photo by Steve Kaye, in 5 Investments in Happiness

Your life is more than a gift.

It’s an opportunity.

These five investments in happiness will have a profound effect on how you use this opportunity.

Of course, you have to apply them before they work.

Otherwise these investments are like paint.

And you must know that paint becomes color only when you put it on the wall.

If it stays in the can, it’s just paint.

Each of the 5 investments in happiness depends upon the following statement.

Small choices made consistently over a lifetime become your legacy.

The above statement is the foundation for successful living.

Recognize that this applies both ways.

Good choices are investments. They lead to expanding richness in your life.

Bad choices are withdrawals. They lead to deepening poverty in your life.

By making small, consistent, good investments, you can accumulate a fortune in happiness.

Investments in Happiness #1: Wealth

Why Wealth Matters

Wealth gives you more options and more control over your options.

It gives you the freedom to live on your terms.

It gives you the power to influence others.

Anyone can be wealthy because true wealth is a matter of having enough.

For example, a farmer could be more wealthy than an executive.


The farmer has a modest amount of savings, eats healthy meals, lives with the family, has good friends, feels good about life, and sleeps well at night.

The executive is deep in debt, eats junk food meals, seldom sees the family, has more enemies than friends, feels stressed about life, and drinks to fall asleep.

So wealth is not about having a large income, a huge yacht, or a prestigious job.

Wealth is a matter of having enough to live as an independent person who enjoys life.

And of course, this example was created to show contrast. There are executives who live well, show compassion, and contribute to humanity.

✅ How to Invest in Wealth

1) Live within a realistic budget

The key to building wealth is: Spend less than you make.

Then save the rest.

If you’re employed, participate in your company’s profit sharing program. And if possible, contribute to an IRA.

And here’s a suggestion: Invest in socially responsible stocks and/or funds. These support companies that act like good citizens.

Plan your spending based on having Enough, instead of on having Everything.

When possible, buy durable, high quality necessities because these last longer.

And avoid buying luxuries because these sell at inflated prices.

2) Work with a professional financial planner

Choose this carefully.

First, choose your investment goals and your tolerance for risk.

Then select an established professional who is a certified fiduciary and has a history of success.

Avoid financial planners who have no experience or who are working to increase their income (instead of your wealth). And avoid planners who offer plans or “INCREDIBLE” investment products that seem too good to be true. These can be scams.

Also use caution with investments that require long-term commitments with surrender charges, such as annuities.

Then watch your investments and compare their progress with: 1) The Market (e.g., the DOW, NASDAQ, and S&P), and 2) What the planner claims is happening.

If you prefer to manage your own investments, conduct extensive research before investing.

3) Avoid Debt

Some debt is unavoidable, such as a home mortgage or an auto loan.

Other forms of debt are terrible because they increase the cost of your purchases.

The worst form of debt is credit card debt. This can increase your costs by 20 to more than 30%.

Thus, buy things only when you can afford to pay for them entirely.

And if you use credit cards, pay the entire bill each month.

One note of caution: The people who sell mortgages, loans, vehicles, and other expensive things, have been hired to close sales. They do not care about whether you can afford what you are buying. So make sure you have the ability to pay for these things, regardless of the hype offered by the salesperson. If you feel any doubt, walk out. And if the salesperson starts making threats (such as “This offer expires in five minutes.”), RUN!

4) Strive for Better

While wealth is important, people and ethics matter more.

Always consider the greater good when making decisions about money. In fact, decisions made based on money first, will always be bad decisions.

And so, instead of reaching for more, make choices based on what will be better.

5) Be smart

That is, spend  your money wisely.

This especially applies to buying entertainments, vacations, and luxuries.

And please, avoid gambling. Gambling is designed to take your money. It’s legal theft.

I’ve seen people sitting on the curb outside a casino, crying because they had lost so much money.

6) Be responsible

As you accumulate wealth, you will move from providing for basic needs, to affording comforts, to gaining financial security, to having more than you need.

Those who reach a point of having more than enough have a responsibility to share their wealth.

Note: I put Wealth at the top of the list because it’s essential for responsible, independent living.

Please recognize that money is just a tool.

So there is more to life than owing exotic luxuries. For example, someone who owns four mansions, will not be happier if they buy a fifth mansion.

Investments in Happiness #2: People

Why People Matter

Every success depends upon other people.

You need relationships to obtain approvals, to receive support, and to feel connected with society.

In addition, studies have shown that having good relationships leads to living longer.

How to Invest in People

1) Build a vast network of relationships

Build relationships by having conversations. Hold sincere, face-to-face conversations where you immerse yourself in exchanging ideas.

During these conversations:

a) Pay careful, complete attention while the other person talks. (Thus, never multi-task during a conversation. It’s rude. And it can make you appear mentally absent.)

b) Let the other person be the star in your conversation.

c) Explore differences by asking questions and then listening to the answers.

d) Ask friendly questions to clarify, understand, or explore.

e) Acknowledge achievements and feelings.

f) Accept others for who they are.

A relationship is actually a conversation. So develop good relationships by having good conversations.

2) Build a foundation of trust

Trust grows from consistent good behavior.

Each encounter you have with someone shows that person what to expect from you in the future.

If you are consistently positive, helpful, honest, and kind, then people will trust you.

If however, you are negative, hostile, dishonest, or mean, people will avoid you.

Let’s recognize that life contains disappointments. All of us experience upsets, breakdowns, and obstacles.

Accept these as tests of your character. Recognize that acting with courage, kindness, and maturity is a choice. So choose to invest in relationships by acting in ways that you (and others) would admire.

3) Build a legacy of kindness

Kindness comes from compassion.

So treat others the way they (and you) would want to be treated.

Strive to be the most emotionally mature person in every situation.

Recognize that everyone is doing the best they can with what they have.

And – (This is very important) – realize there is always more to know about every situation. So never make accusations about someone’s actions, motives, or values.

Recognize that accusations are actually insults. And thus they can ruin a relationship.

Investments in Happiness #3: Self

Why You Matter

Your effectiveness depends upon how well you care for every dimension of yourself.

How to Invest in Yourself

1) Care for your mind

a) Your Thoughts

Your thoughts become your choices. And your choices become your life.

So fill your mind with positive, constructive thoughts.

This matters because your beliefs about yourself become your life.

b) Your Story

Everyone creates a story about themself. It’s their personal identity. Their role in life.

Then they seek and even cause evidence to affirm that story.

For example, if you believe that you deserve to be successful, then you will act in ways that make you more successful. And similarly, if you believe that you deserve to be unsuccessful, you will act in ways that make you unsuccessful.

Thus, challenge your story.

Ask yourself: What is it?

Then ask: Where did it come from? Is that story really true? Does it support you? Could there be a different, more constructive story? What story would you like to have?

c) Your Peers

Stay with positive people who like and support you. Stay with people who are doing what you hope to achieve. And stay with people whom you respect and admire.


One popular interview question is: What are your friends like?

This question is powerful because your answer tells who you are.

d) Your Mental Food

Spend your time with books, programs, and activities that nourish your mind.

Similarly, avoid negative media and organizations that teach fear. These poison your mind and lure you into making bad choices.

Avoid violent TV shows, violent movies, and violent video games. These immerse you in violence. And then that violence lingers as nightmares, distorted values, bad ideas, and regrettable choices.

2) Build your self esteem

Your self esteem gives you the confidence to work at your best.

Do this by making choices that lift your sense of who you are.

For example, when you practice kindness, you feel good about yourself.

When you make ethical choices, you feel safe.

When you behave well, you feel valuable.

When you act with compassion, you feel authentic.

When you dress well, you feel connected with society.

People who do otherwise, live in fear that others will treat them the way that they behave.

3) Continue learning

Knowledge makes you more valuable at work and more successful in life.

Thus, read books, attend seminars, take courses, and join professional organizations that advance your career.

4) Know yourself

You must know who you are.

Take the time to write your life mission, values, purpose, and intentions. Then review and revise these periodically.

Make plans, which consist of actions that you can take to accomplish your goals.

Write in a journal. Use this to reflect on the questions in your life.

Recognize that thinking is the process of asking yourself questions and then answering them. So ask yourself questions. In fact, ask your self tough questions because these lead to growth.

5) Care for your health

Your health determines how well you think, interact with others, and perform.

Thus, eat wisely, exercise, and get enough sleep.

For example, each meal is an investment in your physical well being. So eat healthy foods that nourish your body.

Healthy foods include organic foods, fruits, and vegetables. And so avoid GMOs, soft drinks, high sugar snacks, and all junk “foods.”

6) Associate with successful people

You become the environment that you create for yourself, which includes the society that you choose to live in.

So spend time with people who have achieved what you hope to achieve.

Study what they do and how they live. Ask for their advice. And then apply those ideas that help you the most.

7) Avoid toxic activities

Drugs and alcohol will ruin your life.

Cigarettes will ruin your health.

Gambling will ruin your finances.

So stay away from these toxic activities.

8) Be honest with yourself.

Some people will invent amazing justifications for toxic behavior.

In such cases, these people are protecting an evil that is destroying their life.

So be fiercely honest with yourself. About everything.

9) Find help

Everyone encounters difficult situations.

So, when appropriate, find help. Work with coaches, advisors, and therapists. They can help you find solutions and achieve serenity.

10) Obey the law

This is so obvious that I saved it for last.

Sadly, there are people who attempt to profit from crime. Or they disregard rules.

First, committing crimes is not sustainable. Eventually, consequences arrive that ruin the person’s life.

Second, people who commit crimes live in fear of being caught. That represents  an on-going punishment of stress and worry.

Investments in Happiness #4: Career

Why Your Career Matters

Your career determines the world that you live in.

It determines your income, your social group, and your purpose. It can also determine where you live and how you spend your free time.

And of course, this implies that you have a career, either as an employee or as an entrepreneur.

If you are an adult, you must have a career.

Recognize that your career can change from being a job into being a purpose when you reach your senior years.

And a purpose is essential for living fully.

Recognize also that you are responsible for your career, which means you can make changes at any time.

For example, my career changed from being a research engineer to being an administrative assistant to being a project coordinator to being a professional speaker to being a photographer (and an environmental advocate).

In any case, imagine that you are working as an independent contractor, even if you work as an employee.

So think like an entrepreneur, which means that you accept responsibility for everything. This includes choosing your assignments, marketing your value, and improving your performance.

Of course, the key is to be logical, honest, deliberate, and appropriate.

And this is important: Always test your choices. Are they appropriate? Are they logically helpful? Are they based on a realistic plan? Do the lead to benefits for everyone.

How to Invest in Your Career

1) Excel where you are

Regardless of your current job, make the most of it while you are there.

Even if you dislike your job, do your best to be a valued and respected employee. This puts you in control of your future. That’s because cranky, negative, unproductive people lose control when they are fired.

If you want to change jobs, use your current job to learn skills and build a good reputation. This will help you perform better in your next job.

2) Plan what you want

Write out a business plan for your career. This would include answers to:

a) What is your ultimate purpose?

b) What is your personal mission?

c) What are your expectations and intentions?

d) What are your goals?

e) What actions can you take to achieve these goals?

Note that plans consist of realistic actions that you will take to make progress to achieve goals.

Resource: See my business plan here: Business Plan. It provides a sample plus definitions that can help you prepare your plan.

3) Ask for help

If appropriate, consult a career coach. These professionals can help you select a career that fits your interests and then plan ways to obtain it. They can also help you plan actions that you can take to improve your career.

4) Be part of the solution

Every job has challenges. These can include difficult assignments, offensive people, and bad systems.

In all cases, find ways to do your best with what you have. Find ways to get along with everybody. And find ways to work within the systems that exist.

Of course, when possible and appropriate, strive for improvements. When doing so, realize that you’ll accomplish more when you seek changes that benefit others.

5) Be wary of procrastination

There are two types of procrastination.

At a basic level, people delay taking important actions, such as working on tasks or making decisions.

Such waiting can prove useful (sometimes) when it’s used to to consider consequences plus options.

Otherwise, basic procrastination prevents a person from progress that leads to results then need.

Then there is advanced procrastination, which is especially destructive.

In this case, someone assigns themself pointless, useless activities, that prevent them from working on essential tasks.

This can take the form of volunteering for committees that are unrelated to their job, attending meetings either as a spectator or a clown, creating complicated routines for simple tasks, working on projects that they should assign to members of their staff, and so on.

In general, always work with courageous, deliberate purpose toward results that benefit everyone.

Investments in Happiness #5: Legacy

Why your legacy matters.

Your legacy is measured by: 1) How you feel about yourself, and 2) How others feel about you.

It represents the total evaluation of how you lived.

How to Invest in your Legacy

1) Recognize that each day is an investment in your legacy.

So the guiding questions for each day are:

“What can I do so that I’ll admire who I am?”

“Will this help me or will it harm me?”

“How can I invest my time in ways that create the most benefit?”

Use each day to live an ethical, positive, respectful life. Be productive in useful, positive endeavors.

2) Make tough choices.

Specifically, make choices based on being honest, kind, and respectful.

Often the most difficult choices are: a) Deciding to take the first step toward a goal, b) Asking for help, c) Taking the time to analyze a result, and d) Confronting your fears.

What’s next?

The next step is up to you.

I encourage you to find ideas in this article that fit your style. Start with easy actions, and then add others as you make progress.

By the way, did you notice that each of these investments involves making choices?

That’s because your life becomes the sum of the choices that you make.

And you are responsible for every choice that you make.

Much success.

Here’s more info on how to build relationships:

27 Ways to Show Kindness

Why Kindness

Why You?

3 Gifts Everyone Wants

Kindness for the Holidays