6 Random Thoughts on Finding Happiness

I celebrated my 36th birthday last week. And since I was a lazy mofo and launched my blog on my birthday — it’s also mr-stingy’s 6th anniversary. Time for a quick reflection.

People know me for my money and (to a lesser extent) career articles. This isn’t one of them. This one is about the end game — what you really wanna use your money and career for. The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Here’s what I know about finding happiness.

1. Don’t Play Status Games

Status games are where we compete with others for achievements. Common status games are wealth (how much money do you have?), power (what’s your title?), and influence (how many followers do you have?)

It’s hard to avoid status games, because competition and comparison seems to be natural human behavior.

But the less you compare with others, and the more you do things for yourself — internal motivation instead of external motivation — the happier you will be.

2. Learn When to Say NO

When you’re young, it’s great to explore many things. Have broad experiences, which gives you a good baseline to build success on.

But as you get older, you realize time is the most valuable thing. If you want an excellent life, you’ve gotta be clear about what really matters to you and what doesn’t. Say NO to stuff that doesn’t matter, so you can devote time to things that DO matter.

Even with stuff that matters, don’t let it consume your entire life. I’ve experienced burnout multiple times because I was tryna pack my schedule with as many meaningful things as possible. I wasn’t getting enough sleep, feeling anxious, and getting sick. What’s the benefit if you win the whole world, but lose your health?

Sometimes the best thing to do is just chill.

3. There Is NO Best Answer

An optimal decision for someone else might not make sense for you.

I used to spend tons of time reading “Top 10 Best” articles. Best this, best that. Because I wanted to win, and because I was looking for someone to tell me how.

It’s okay to start off your journey following things like “10 Money Rules Every Young Person MUST FOLLOW.”

But understand these are just general guidelines written by some smart marketer. Over time, you develop knowledge, experience and wisdom that’s special to you. Break the rules if it makes sense — chart your own course in life.

Because there is no best answer. But there’s a right answer for you.

4. Optimize for Happiness

You can guess where the name “mr-stingy” comes from. I used to optimize for money: save costs in every way possible.

But I’ve learned it’s often better to pay for happiness. This could be paying for time and convenience, or health, or quality, or even at times, luxury.

(Granted, this works better when you’re financially stable. And exactly how much you can afford is a topic for another day.)

The 25-year-old me used to sit in traffic jams because I was trying to save RM 2 on tolls.

How valuable is 20 minutes stuck in a jam? How much is that 20 minutes worth if you could spend it on a relaxed dinner with someone you love? For me: definitely a lot more than RM 2.

5. Gratitude Is a Superpower

One way of summing up happiness is the equation below:

Satisfaction = What you have / What you want

A middle-class person who’s satisfied with her simple family home is happier than a multi-millionaire who’s jealous of Mark Zuckerberg’s mansions.

Count your blessings, not what’s lacking in your life.

6. Happiness Is Not the Best Goal. Meaning Is

I started with finding happiness. But there’s a better life goal: meaning.

Because happiness is about creating good feelings and avoiding pain. But in life you’ll eventually face painful bad feelings. If you’re just about being happy, ironically you’ll end up sad.

Final example: If we’re being calculative, marriage kinda sucks. It’s freaking expensive, you have to put up with one person for the rest of your life (even on their crazy days), and there’s always a risk of something going horribly wrong like ungrateful kids or divorce. In terms of pure pleasure, hands down a single person wins.

But if you put on the “finding meaning” lens, everything changes. Committing to someone (or something) gives you meaning — even if it’s an up-and-down journey of happy moments and disappointments.

The most meaningful things in life all require some level of suffering and sacrifice. Don’t avoid these.

Choose something worth suffering for.

– – –

Pic from Pexels: Agung Pandit Wiguna

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  • Happy birthday mr stingy! Good article this one. Like your point on not comparing life with others. Always love your writing. Full of wisdom. Pls keep writing for many many years to come 🙂

  • Do you mind to elaborate on the “finding meaning” lens ? how to find meaning in life ? commiting to someone or something ?

    great article btw

    • Thanks Alvin,

      Appreciate your kind words. I think the best way to find meaning in life is an iterative process:
      1. Experiment doing things or making changes to your life
      2. Reflect on how those changes have made you feel and whether they’re good for you (Writing things down on a monthly / yearly schedule is a good idea here)
      3. Do more of the things that are working, and reduce things that don’t work
      4. Repeat for many years and cycles

      Also, you can look at research and studies of things that bring meaning to most people. For most of us it will be:
      1. Having good relationships with family and friends
      2. Having a fulfilling career
      3. Getting to financial stability

  • Happy Birthday Mr. Stingy.

    I came to know your blog when I was researching for LLP, but I enjoy reading your post like this one.

    For some reason, I feel like you are an old guy who write to share his wisdom.

    Thank you for continuing writing this blog.

  • Happy belated birthday Mr-Stingy! Love your post. Especially no. 6; I’ve always thought that being happy is the most important thing, but now I think otherwise.

  • Happy Birthday! May your blog continue to grow from strength to strength.

  • Happy Belated 36th Birthday, Mr. Stingy! 🙂

    “Satisfaction = What you have / What you want”

    When you want something more, you can’t enjoy what you already have ~ Ajahn Brahm

  • Happy birthday mr-stingy! 🎉🎉

    I can conclude no. 1 with this quote “comparison is the thief of joy” and also no. 6 is my favorite, it is true, when you find meaning, you live with purpose and become more motivated in anything you do.

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