It’s the choices we make that define our happiness

It’s the choices we make that define our happiness
02 September 2013

We live in a time of complexity – often complexity formed by our own desires to have everything now. We are increasingly concerned about status, social comparison and the desire to have the best of everything. These desires put extra pressure on us, increase our expectations of ourselves and often end up burdening us with debt and no savings.

Wanting the best of something is not a bad thing, after all who wants to settle? But wanting it when we cannot afford it, and getting into debt to buy things we think will make us happy, actually causes the opposite effect in the long run, especially when we spend everything we have earned this month or enter into loan arrangements, which in fact frequently cause us unhappiness.

We get what we say or think we want, only to find what we thought we wanted does not satisfy us to the extent we thought it would.

Life comes down to choices and how well we choose what to have and what not to have can determine how happy we are. I believe there are steps we can take to improve our choices, not to settle and live a more fulfilled life.

Get clear on your goals and stick to them

Get clear on what you want out of life over the next 1, 2 and 3 years and stick with a plan. This is especially true with financial planning, we never know what is around the corner, things happen in life when we least expect them but having a plan in place to mitigate events smooth’s the inevitable bumps on the road.

Do not follow the herd

Herd mentality has caused significant financial losses over the centuries, from the south sea bubble to the dot-com crash. Bubbles happen because people get greedy, chasing the latest fads and then the walls come tumbling down. Don’t let herd mentality steer you away from your well thought out plan – and don’t believe you are not susceptible to it… very few people have the ability to think and march to the beat of their own drum.

What will you give up?

When you are about to make a choice it is always good to think about the alternatives, what will you give up on if you choose this path, or buy this item? Often it is impossible to consider how good something is until we consider the opposites, however many of us spend at least 20% of our salary on impulse buying, wouldn’t it make us happier if we put at least half of that into a savings or retirement plan? Always think about the opportunity costs. 

Experiences can be either good or bad, it is important we learn from them and to appreciate the choices we make. We may find we actually want less and less ‘things’ if we practice an attitude of gratitude. Being grateful for what we already have in our life can greatly lessen our need to overspend and over-consume.  How do you practice gratitude in your life and improve the choices you make?


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Head of Behavioral Finance
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