Why financial positivity matters.
By Jenny Hoff, Photo by Benigno Hoyuela
Financial success is a worthwhile goal. But much like reaching your “goal weight” or buying that “dream house,” there is only so much happiness reaching those milestones can bring. Chade-Meng Tan, early Google engineer and author of Joy on Demand and Search Inside Yourself, aims to help create universal happiness through teaching the simple steps to finding joy in every moment of your financial journey and life.
Happiness research has shown that your finances play a big role in your overall contentment—but only when you aren’t struggling to survive . “If you are no longer poor, you are in a different ballgame,” says Tan. “Once you are no longer poor, you should change your game and look for happiness in other places.”
That doesn’t mean you have to give up on your financial goals; it just means rather than focusing so much on the money in your future, you start focusing on the richness of your present.
Easing Into Joy
“A mind at ease is a joyful mind,” says Tan. When we worry, we’re thinking of the future. When we regret, we are thinking of the past. When we are at ease, we are living in the present. To start focusing on the present, Tan suggests a breathing exercise. Concentrate on inhaling for three seconds and exhaling for three seconds. You have accomplished six seconds of ease, thinking of nothing but your breath. Start there and work your way up, training your mind to seek ease instead of entertainment and stress.
Finding Joy in Small Things
Tan also suggests looking for the “slices of joy” in everyday life. “For instance, if I take a sip of water, I may not think about it,” he says. “But maybe I learn to pay attention and feel the water quench my thirst and feel grateful for that moment. That is one small way you can start looking for slices of joy throughout the day.”
While you could put your energy towards stressing over rising home prices in Austin or getting gifts for the holiday season, it’s healthier to instead focus your thoughts on appreciating the moments you are gifted throughout the day. Getting home safely, hugging your loved ones after a long day, noticing the absence of any physical pain or ailment, appreciating the food on your table are all slices of joy. By noticing them and focusing on them, you are training your brain to incline toward joy. Eventually, it will flow naturally.
Being Joyful for Others
One of the biggest causes of financial stress, once we feel secure in our survival, is comparing ourselves to others. Tan says cultivating a sense of happiness for others’ happiness will open a world that feels much more abundant. An exercise he recommends is to close your eyes, imagine someone you love and say to yourself, “I wish for this person to be happy.” It will likely bring an automatic smile to your face. “To be on the giving end of that kind of thought is intrinsically rewarding,” says Meng-Tan.
Living in a state of anxiety will not improve your quality of life. Rather, keeping your goals in mind while focusing on what you have now will help you appreciate the present as you work toward your future.