Success, What Is Your Definition?

It’s More Important To Be Happy Than To Be Rich By

This article is the final installment of a 14-part series that explored the core tenets of Get Rich Slowly.

Here’s the opening paragraph from my forthcoming book, Financial Fertility: Your Missing Money Link. It’s the sum of everything I’ve learned during my five year journey to get rich slowly:


You don’t want to be rich; you want what you believe the money will buy you to make you happy. Many people mistakenly believe that the former leads to the latter. While it’s certainly true that money can help you achieve your goals, provide for your future, and make life more enjoyable, merely having money doesn’t guarantee happiness.

Many of us (including me) get wrapped up in the belief that having more money is the key to a better life. It’s not, the key to a better life is increased happiness. For some people, that does mean more money. But according to the research Tal Ben-Shahar shares in his book Happier, most of us would be better served by:

Creating rituals around the things we love to do.

Expressing gratitude for the good things in our lives.

Setting meaningful goals that reflect our values and interests.

Playing to our strengths instead of dwelling on weaknesses.

Simplifying our lives, not just the Stuff, the time.

We’re more likely to lead happy lives by putting these principles into practice than by getting another raise at work, especially if the increased income would only lead to increased spending. When we focus on monetary goals, we run the risk of becoming trapped on the “hedonic treadmill” (also known as lifestyle inflation), working harder and harder to make more and more money. This does not lead to happiness.

Sometimes money can buy happiness

Wealth and happiness aren’t mutually exclusive, of course. According to financial writer Jonathan Clements, financial stability improves your well-being in three ways:

If you have money, you don’t have to worry about it. By living below your means, you can obtain a degree of financial control even if you aren’t rich. Avoiding debt gives you options.

Money can give you the freedom to pursue your passions. What is it you want out of life? What gives you a sense of purpose? These are the sorts of things you want to pursue in retirement. Better yet, try to structure your career around something you love to do.

Money can buy you time with friends and family. In fact, Clements says, true wealth comes from relationships, not from dollars and cents. Social capital is worth more than financial capital.

Money is a tool. As with any tool, a skilled craftsman can use it to build something amazing: a meaningful life filled with family and friends. If you’re not careful, if you don’t have a plan, the life you construct with your money can be a tenuous thing, even dangerous.

Lessons learned

Studies show that the pursuit of money is less likely to bring personal fulfillment than focusing on self-improvement and, especially, close relationships with others. Here are a handful of lessons I’ve learned during my research into the connection between money and wealth. I didn’t come up with any of these ideas; they’re products of actual research into what makes us happy:

People who are materialistic tend to be less happy than those who aren’t. If your aim is to have more money and more Stuff, you’ll be less content than others whose goals are built around relationships or mental/spiritual fulfillment. (Life will pay you what you ask of it.)

Over saving does not lead to happiness. While it’s important to save for the future (and to cope with current emergencies), research shows that over saving can actually have a negative impact on your quality of life. If you’re meeting your goals for saving, it’s okay to spend some on the things that make you happy.

Experiences tend to make us happier than material things. We have different reactions to the money we spend on experiences and the money we spend on Stuff: When we spend on experiences, our perceptions are magnified (meaning we feel happier or sadder than when we spend on Stuff), and the feelings tend to linger longer. And since most of our experiences are positive, spending on activities instead of material goods generally makes us happier.

When we lower our expectations, our happiness increases. High expectations come when we compare ourselves to others or when advertising bombards us. We come to accept the things we see on TV as “normal”, and because we don’t have these things, we feel inadequate.

Our expectations rise, and before long we’re caught up in lifestyle inflation. If we can consciously manage our expectations, both financial and otherwise we increase our sense of well-being.

Really, there’s only one-way to ever be satisfied with how much money you have: You must define how much is enough. True happiness comes when you learn to be content with what you have. If you don’t take the time to figure out what enough means to you, you’ll always be unhappy with your financial situation.

How much is enough?

Enough looks different to each of us. It’s not just different amounts of money, but different types of wealth. For me, enough is being debt free with the time freedom to travel the world to participate in the many bicycle events and to train in different environments to enrich my experience of cycling. For you, enough may mean living in a small apartment but owning a boat and having the freedom to sail for months at a time.

To find enough, you have to set goals. You have to look inside to find your morals, values and beliefs that make up your blueprint. It can take months or years to get clear on what makes a meaningful life for you, or it can take a moment to find clarity, once you’ve done this, you can make choices that reflect your priorities.

After all, that’s why you’re doing this. You’re not building wealth just so you can bathe in buckets of cash. You’re building wealth so you don’t have to worry about money, so you can pursue your passions, and so you can spend time with your family and friends.

Remember, my friends: True wealth isn’t about money. True wealth is about relationships, about good health, and about continued self-improvement. True wealth is about happiness. Ultimately, it’s more important to be happy than it is to be rich because success without fulfillment is failure.

About lisachristiansencompanies

A U T H O R • I N N O V A T O R • E X P E R T Dr. Lisa Christiansen is one of the most sought-after motivational speakers, life coaches, and business consultants worldwide, building an impeccable record of client satisfaction in the process. A best selling author as well, Dr. Lisa Christiansen has written such inspirational titles as My Name Is Lisa; The Two Millimeter Shift; White Sheep, Blue Skies, Green Grass; 101 Great Ways To Enhance Your Career; and others, in which she sheds light on some of the biggest questions of self-empowerment and fulfillment. Among her most recent publications, Dr. Lisa Christiansen contributed to the book 100 Ways to Enhance Your Career, which features wisdom from other well-known figures in the self-help world, including Jack Canfield, John Gray, and Richard Carlson. In 100 Ways to Enhance Your Career, Dr. Lisa Christiansen shares a step-by-step process for increasing job satisfaction, gaining more from one’s career, building wealth, and taking control of one’s destiny. Aside from her numerous books, Dr. Lisa Christiansen hosts a wide variety of seminars and retreats, where she teaches her students the secret to unlocking their inner potential and living their dreams. Some of the popular events held by Dr. Lisa Christiansen include Mastering Your Wealth, Claim Your Future, and Design Your Destiny, all of which feature her intensive coaching and unique strategies of personal transformation. Her website has a wealth of additional information on her conferences, retreats, books, and other endeavors. Join the millions of people who have already revolutionized the quality of their lives. “You already know how to survive global changes in the economy, environment and political arena, now it's time to thrive and prosper at a level beyond what you ever thought was possible,” Christiansen said. “My seminar is about seizing the power within today. Press Summary: Creator of extraordinary lives, Lisa Christiansen has served as an advisor to leaders around the world for the last two decades. A recognized authority on the psychology of leadership, organizational turnaround and peak performance, Lisa has consulted Olympic athletes, world renowned musicians, Fortune 500 CEOs, psychologists, and world-class entertainers. Lisa’s strategies for achieving lasting results and fulfillment are regarded as the platinum standard in the coaching industry. Lisa captured the attention of heads of state and the U.S. Army. Christiansen has impacted the lives of millions of people from 30 countries. Lisa has been honored by Cambridge Society of Who’s Who as one of the Top Business Intellectuals in the World. Lisa has helped millions of people create extraordinary lives globally. Her expertise and guidance has enriched the lives of icons such as pop superstar Kelly Clarkson, Olympian Dara Torres, and superstar Patrick Dempsey.

Posted on August 30, 2012, in Wealth Creation and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Greetings Dr. Lisa:

    My definition of success is this… The progressive realization of worthwhile, pre-determined personal goals.


  2. Nebiyu Hailemichael

    Indeed this article opened my eyes to see my personal life from new insight. My knowledge about wealth was wrong and I have realized that wealth doesn’t mean merely money and properties under our possession. Many people consider success ends with mustering money through lucrative business. Wealth goes beyond this as Dr. Lisa vividly articulate inside this article. It’s imperative to note that having planned life and pursuing a life which could bring true wealth and the desired success from it should be our ultimate goal. It’s wonderful article which has real power to change our life. Heartfelt thanks for sharing this great thought!


  3. “Success is the progressive realization of a worthy–and wanted ideal.” Earl Nightingale
    “. . . success without fulfillment is failure.” Linda Christensen

    In many cultures around the World, the words–wealth, treasure etc . . . take-on different meanings than just dollars, and money, which is the main definition to people in America. Growing-up I used to hear phrases like “Your professor has a wealth of knowledge.” or “Your Mom is a treasure.” In a Philosophy group, consisting of mainly Europeans–except for me–I was reminded many times during the discussion–how Americans are so money-hungry, that they forget to live life! I must admit, there is some merit to that statement. However, it’s important to realize that in our society, money also brings us shelter, food, clothing and education. I see and hear many envious, and jealous poor people who have developed a negativity against wealth, and the finer things in life, because they–in their minds–have no chance of attaining it.

    No matter what a persons definition of success may be . . . it’s important to remember that we become what we think about all day long. If you plant corn seeds in the fertile soil of Iowa, water it, and nurture it . . . over time you’ll get beautiful, healthy corn. Our minds are much more fertile and powerful than the soil of Iowa–so if we plant the negative seeds of doubt, fear, anger and hatred in the fertile soil of our minds–and nurture it–we will reap the negative results. However, if we plant the positive seeds of knowledge, courage, kindness, love and respect, in our minds and nurture it–we will receive positive results beyond our wildest dreams.


This inspired me to share my thought in this comment,

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: