7 Secrets of Happiness from the World’s Most Prosperous Families
Volume XV, Number 4 Winter 2018
"How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard."
-- A.A. Milne. Winnie the Pooh
You can have this! In all of the studies of happiness, one quality consistently rises to the top:
relationships. For the surest path to happiness, take care of your relationships, and include the difficult ones. Consider how each of the following seven secrets is working in your life. You may be a happy wealthy person, or you may have learned that money can’t buy happiness, but consider the power you have to nurture, increase and improve your relationships, and thus your positive outlook and experience of life.
The Seven Secrets:
1. Relationships. Strengthen connections. Gather your courage to heal family ties. Get help with
this if you need it.
2. Grow. Turn over a new leaf. Progress. Let go of past failures. This calls for new attitudes and
behaviors from you.
3. Meaningful lives. Encourage your young family members to make meaningful lives, to find
work they are excited about. Whatever it takes. Educate your young family members about the
proper support role of financial capital. Family wealth counselors are good resources for this.
4. Tell your stories. Tell the family stories. Show your family values through your stories.
5. Encourage. Praise success and genuine effort. Be patient.
6. Strengthen your spiritual practice. Given the many choices we all have for how to prioritize
our time, you can count on the time you devote to your spiritual journey to contribute to your
7. Give. The happiest people I know are the ones who have discovered the joy of giving.
In prosperous families the resources are often available to make these seven secrets resonate deeply. Yet it is still work to prioritize and develop them. In some ways, it can be more work because of the abundant resources. It is easy to distract ourselves and stay busy. Everyone can do this to some extent, it’s just that where there are financial resources, it is that much easier to occupy our time with all kinds of things other than taking care of our most important relationships.
In his book Family Wealth Continuity, on pages 56-57, David Lansky includes a wonderful exercise which he calls “How to Jump-start Intimacy.” In it he offers a list of questions to inspire and facilitate intimacy in your close relationships. Gather your courage and start by asking one of these questions of someone central or difficult in your life. Use these questions with individuals or when the family is together.
1. What is something about you that no one else knows that would help us get to know you better?
2. What keeps you up at night?
3. What is one question that you would like to ask someone else in the room? Ask it to that person now.
4. What is the most important gift you can give your children?
5. What is your best quality?
6. What issues have not been talked about openly, that should be talked about at some point?
7. What gets you up in the morning?
8. Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
9. Would you like to be famous? In what way?
10. If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
11. If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?
12. Is there something that you’ve dreamed of for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?
13. What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?
14. What is your most treasured memory?
15. What is the most important achievement of your life?
16. What do you want your children to have that you didn’t have?
17. What role did you play growing up relative to your siblings?
18. What is the single most important role you play in your family presently?
19. For what are you most grateful?
20. What is the most important gift you received from your parents?
Ironic as it may seem, it is actually work to build happiness in your life. To create it, you must take action. The reward outweighs the effort and investment many times over. The first step is the idea that you could make changes; then the next step is to gather the courage and take the chance.
There are plenty of resources on finding happiness. Here are a few of my favorites:
• The secret to happiness? Here's some advice from the longest running study on happiness
• 6 Secrets You Can Learn From the Happiest People on Earth