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Money Does Not Buy Better Habits

I’m not averse to earning money. That would be silly. I am, however, much more concerned with outcome than income.

A common mistake we tend to make is that we often assign money as our primary driver of happiness: If I make $X, then I’ll be happy.

Once this happens though—once we earn $X—we quickly discover that the equation is broken. There is, after all, a reason why most lottery winners end up broke: bad habits. Besides, there are plenty of miserable millionaires and countless happy poor folks.

A much better conductor of individual contentment, then, has little to do with money: our daily habits. Said another way, the outcome of better habits is more rewarding than your income will ever be.

You see, we have a much better chance of radically improving our happiness by just changing our habits—by forming new, empowering daily rituals. And we needn’t earn exorbitant amounts of cash to do so.

High income or no, we must avoid passivity in favor of active, engaged, deliberate tasks. We must acknowledge our mistakes, make the right direction-changing decisions, and then take incremental actions each day. Over time, as we move farther in the right direction, we’ll be able to wave at our bad habits in the rearview, happy and content, driving toward a more meaningful horizon.

This is all, of course, not as easy as it sounds. But, then again, it’s simpler than you may think.

Read this essay and 150 others in our new book, Essential.