December 13, 2019

10 ways to improve your long term happiness

More and more, I have been thinking about things in the long term rather than the short term. When Jeff Bezos spent $42 million to create the clock that ticks once a year, he was thinking very long term. Similarly, when he built Amazon, he had a long term vision for what kind of company Amazon would become so he was okay with Amazon losing money year after year as the company built out their infrastructure and operations to become leaders in the market today.

Long term thinking is one of the reasons that I enjoy books so much. In the short term, books can be boring, a grind to get through sometimes (you might think to quit these books but I can say that some of the books are worth reading through), or take a significant investment of time, focus and energy to really analyze and think about the concepts that the book is sharing.

On another note, I also see that there are articles on how to improve your happiness in different ways and I wanted to combine these two concepts together. Sure, you can probably find many, many articles on how to improve your happiness in 5 minutes but I wanted to think long term – what are the things that you can do now that will improve your happiness and mood in 10 years?

10 years you might be wondering! How can I think ahead that far? Well, you don’t have to – you just have to take a look at the list below to get some ideas:

Invest

Does money = happiness? Probably not but having enough money cannot hurt – whatever that ‘enough’ amount is for you, it pays (heh) to invest your money. What kind of investments? I would recommend index funds. While building a portfolio is a bit more complicated, a good rule of thumb is to invest in index funds and bonds, with your age being the % of bonds (or a conservative investment) you want to have in your portfolio. Therefore, the older you get, the more bonds you have, while the younger you are, the more risk and growth you have in your portfolio.

Learn a new skill

I suppose if I was a better writer, I would have defined what I think happiness is. For me, happiness is growth and what better way to learn than to learn a new skill. Learning a new skill does a few things:

  • It makes you humble – you are going to fail a lot when you learn something new
  • It teaches you grit – are you going to go back to what is easy or what makes you uncomfortable?
  • It may push you into new opportunities – new skills, combined with other skills you have make you more marketable whatever you are doing

Build or maintain a relationship

Here, I’m not defining relationship in the romantic sense – it can be with good friends that you have not seen in a while (contact them to catch up!) or with family that you inevitably lose touch with if they move away or if life gets busy for either of you. I certainly think you will be happier keeping in touch with your parents rather than trying to get in touch with them 10 years later.

Create a side hustle

Somewhat related to the first point, I think side hustles are great in that they can create another outlet for your skills and experience and help you to diversify your income. Would you invest all of your money into one stock or bond for the rest of your life? Probably not – so why do the same with your job or career? Here, it does not matter whether you love your job or not, it is about giving you other options for income so that if something happens, you know that you have income coming from other places.

Exercise and eat healthy

I thought that when I was younger, I was invincible. I would sprain my ankle playing floor hockey one day and be completely fine the next day. And I’d eat fried chicken and other junk on a regular basis and see my weight stay about the same from month to month.

Now that I’m older, I mentally feel invincible, but physically, I can see that I’m not. I don’t recover as quickly any more from injuries (and my body aches in certain places that I definitely did not have before). If I eat junk food, I can see it on my body (or rather, I physically do not feel healthy).

I heard some great advice around exercise and eating healthy – for once in your life, you should get into the best shape of your life. Then you will always know what to aim for if you let yourself go.

Build a home

I’m not going to tell you to buy or rent a home or whether you should move every few years to a new place. But I believe finding or building a place you can call home can help improve your happiness in 10 years.

One of my favourite things to do is to stay in my study room and to look at all the books that I have on my shelf. Many times, I’m inspired to pick up and read a book. Other times, looking at the titles inspires me to explore new areas of my life.

Develop a reading habit

Will it take 10 years? Probably not. But building a reading habit and then reading, whatever your habit is, over the course of 10 years will significantly improve your knowledge. For me, I have a great ability to connect different concepts together from the number of books that I have read. Sure, knowing something does not make me smarter but it does help me analyze problems and come up with solutions knowing the different things that I know.

Travel

How much to travel? Where to travel? I can’t answer these questions for you, but I have found traveling to help me learn something new about myself, experience new food and cultures, and appreciate the things that I have in my home country. For example, when I was in London, I was looking for the washroom and ventured into a public, underground bathroom but realized that I had to pay for the luxury of the public washroom. Luckily, I probably looked like a tourist and the bathroom attendant let me through but looking back on it, it makes a lot of sense.

Take pictures

Google Photos has an interesting feature – they have a timeline where you can view pictures and identify when and where you took them. I thought the feature was an invasion of my privacy (well, I still think so) but it was extremely helpful in helping me realize where I’ve gone, what I experienced and what I came from. Sometimes, when I’m a bit lost on where I want to go in the future, I like to look at the past to see where I have come from and what I have done. It helps give me direction on where to go next. Plus, it’s great getting that extra bit of motivation to lose the love handles for that younger, physically fit body you used to have.

Build a collection

Is collecting things still a thing? I’m not sure but I collect coins, while my girlfriend collects Starbucks mugs from different places. Over the course of 10 years, I look back at the coins I have and the mugs that my girlfriend has collected and I realize two things: it is an impressive collection and we spent a ton of money (in this case literally) to build the collection. It is a ton of fun though and while buying experiences is much better than buying things to improve your happiness, this can be a bit of both: buying things that turns into a greater experience.

Focus on experiences

That brings me to my last point – over the course of 10 years, you are going to buy a lot of things but how many of those items will still be around? On the other hand, if you buy experiences (skydiving, bungee jumping, weekend hiking trips, camping experiences, etc.), you will look back fondly at those memories. Material things will give you a temporary boost in happiness but over the long term, experiences will bring you an overall greater satisfaction. One of my favourite things to do is to ask friends for every single detail whenever they travel or experience something new. I like to live vicariously through them but I also help them relive the moment too.


What do you think? What are some long term ways of improving your happiness?

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