One of the hardest things to put your finger on in life is how to manufacture happiness, right? There's a lot of products and advertising we're surrounded with that are supposed to make us all happier, but the unfortunate reality is that most of those things are purely designed for profit.
Going on an all-inclusive vacation won't inherently make you happy (on a day to day basis), just like a supplement from the grocery store won't do it either.
When you're young and trying to find your way in life, I think it's a good exercise to think about what you're doing, where you're going, and why you're doing both. That was one of the things that I was able to do before I left my teaching job for this site, and I think it directly resulted in my happiness level now (which is at an all time high).
Here's how you can find happiness as a young person:
Understand that happiness isn't linear. It's complicated as hell sometimes
One of the biggest misconceptions out there is that there is some type of switch you can flip to be happy. In my experience, it doesn't work that way at all.
Happiness isn't just a feeling. It's a way of life, and you have to learn how to cultivate it with everything that you do. You have to constantly balance relationships, work, life, money, and experiences to make it all work.
Even if you're really good at that, there will still be times when you're not happy. That's just life, but if you recognize that happiness is a long-term process it will be much easier to find. Also, the times that you're unhappy make it much easier to recognize when you are happy.
Money isn't the silver bullet
I know this is a weird thing coming from a person that is literally obsessed with talking about $$$, but it's such a small part of what actually makes you happy. We've all heard this before – but money is just a tool.
Research shows that higher salaries only make you happy up until $75,000/year. As someone who will pass that up this year, I can tell you that it just starts to turn into numbers after that (for me at least). Not that I'm complaining, but there's also more issues in life that pop up when you start to have more money.
Absolutely try to make more if it, but don't convince yourself that it's all you need.
It's not about stuff, unless you really really like stuff
I'm not a minimalist by any stretch, even though I think it's a cool movement that's happening right now. I like to think that I'm just a normal guy that wants a lot of what the average person wants.
We always hear that stuff isn't important, but I'm not so sure that is 100% true. One of my favorite things is being out on the water. If I didn't have a boat, I wouldn't be able to experience that nearly as much. It truly makes me and my wife happy.
If stuff provides an experience you love, then it's totally valid to want it. You just have to understand if you can truly afford it or not (We wrote a check for the boat if you were wondering).
Related: Afford: A Dangerous Word
Who you surround yourself with matters
I know for a fact that I wouldn't be where I am today if I hadn't surrounded myself with people that were:
- Smarter than me
- Wiser than me
- Knew more about money than me
That decision to find mentors and associate with good people drove me to take chances I never would have (aka this site), and find the thing that I love doing the most. If your friends suck and/or bring you down, you need to crop them out of the picture.
Passion drives everything
This is huge. I get that not all of us are fortunate enough to have a job that truly brings us passion. I actually think that's OK, as long as you are filling your time away from work with something that drives you to be a better person.
An easy way to figure out what you're passionate about: If it doesn't feel like work or a chore while you're doing it, you're probably pretty passionate about it.
Perspective makes happiness easier to find
I talk about this often on this site (for a lot of reasons), but my wife and I lost her father last year. It sucked a lot, but something cool that came from it was that my outlook on life and what it's supposed to be completely changed.
You have to understand that life is long, and very short at the same time. If you wake up truly understanding that it could be your last day, and you make that a habit every damn day….you'll appreciate everything around you infinitely more.
And, you'll be happier.