5 Strategies to Incorporate Joy into Your New Year's Goals
By Jeff Bernier
Happy New Year from the TandemGrowth team!
I hope you enjoyed a break during the holidays and were able to spend time with family and friends. After 2020, we were all looking forward to a more “normal” holiday season. With the current Covid Omicron spike, I know many plans were changed.
In a previous blog post and in my most recent podcast, I discussed our year-end process. It seemed this December was especially busy with potential tax law changes, portfolios that need re-balancing (as equity markets rewarded investors) as well as our customary financial planning processes. Once this process was complete, I was happy to take significant time off and head to South Georgia to spend time with my father who turns 91 this year!
As is my usual practice, I use the end of the year to reflect back and to think strategically about what’s next – both personally and professionally. Since my wife and grandchildren needed to come back home earlier than me, we took separate cars to South Georgia. While I was disappointed that I did not get to enjoy the drive with two dogs and two young grandchildren (this is meant to be a bit sarcastic if you did not catch it), I was able to use the time to catch up on partially completed audio books and podcasts.
One podcast that was especially timely was the December 27 episode of What’s Essential hosted by Greg McKeown with behavioral social scientist and professor Arthur Brooks. The topic was Living a Better and Happier Life. Greg is the author of Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, a book I’ve quoted frequently and recommend. Arthur Brooks is a Harvard professor, PhD social scientist, bestselling author, and columnist at The Atlantic who specializes in using innovative science and philosophy to provide people with real-life strategies to lift people up and improve happiness.
In this 33-minute episode, Brooks shares five research-based ways to live a happier life today. He begins with the idea that happiness is made up of three components: enjoyment, satisfaction, and purpose. While I encourage you to listen to the full episode, I will share, but certainly not do justice to, the five strategies Brooks presented:
- Make peace with your unhappiness. The mistake that some people make is they seek happiness without purpose. To pursue a meaningful purpose, you must recognize that some measure of unhappiness is how you find purpose – how you grow. To make peace with your unhappiness is to take it out of feelings and make it conscious – become aware of it, so that you can use it as raw material for growth. Make your negative emotions cognitive so that you can evaluate what you can learn from the pain, suffering, unhappiness that you experience.
- Recognize that a large part of our disposition for happiness is in our genetic makeup. If you are a particularly optimistic or happy individual or if you are generally pessimistic and unhappy, some portion of this is just who you are. There is nothing wrong with this. Strategy number two is to relax and be you! You are created with unique strengths, gifts, and abilities. Just knowing this can make you happier. Life can be full of needless effort if you don’t know what your unique talents are. Living out of your authentic self is a great source of happiness. You can learn more about this using the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS)—one of the most widely used scales to measure mood and emotion.
- Love others more. Happiness is love. If you want to be happier today, love more today. Even in little ways. Have good relationships and a lot of love in your life. We have control over this. While this may sound mushy, there is tons of research on this subject.
- Express Gratitude. You will immediately be more aware of the world around you and have a better outlook on life.
- Stop managing your haves and start managing your wants. Satisfaction is often defined as having what you want. However, it’s really a function of what you have divided by your wants. If you have five things but wanted 500, you are likely to feel unhappy. If you have five things but wanted six, you are likely to be much happier. Learn to want what you have and detach from your wants. Employ “wants” management. While this one seems quite simple, it’s also one of the more difficult to implement.
Since 1986, I have been a “goal setter.” At TandemGrowth, we describe our wealth management process as goal focused and planning driven. Goals are important as they help motivate you by quantifying your dreams into something measurable that you can pursue with actions. I still set goals and encourage you to do the same. However, in this new year, I am trying to focus more on the daily activities that bring me joy – congruent with my values and goals. I hope you will consider doing the same.
The TandemGrowth team looks forward to being a resource to you 2022! If we can assist in any way, please do not hesitate to reach out to us.
Please plan to join us on Tuesday, January 25th at 5:15pm EST for our Year-End Investment Review Web Conference. Details to follow!