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12 Big Ideas for Balancing Work, Money, and Happiness in 2012

12/20/2011 5:02:28 PM

12 Big Ideas for Balancing Work, Money, and Happiness in 2012

The economy may be weak but you can still start the New Year strong. Here’s how to set off on your path to true prosperity.

By Ethan Willis and Randy Garn
Authors of NY Times best seller Prosper: Create the Life You Really Want

Today’s economic slump is no secret. In fact, according to a recent Gallup poll, most Americans feel that the Great Recession never ended or, even worse, that the economy is in a “depression.”

Still, just because the economy is weak doesn’t mean that you can’t start the New Year strong. To become truly prosperous, we suggest bypassing standard, short-lived New Year’s resolutions and, instead, being resolute in balancing work, money, and happiness for keeps.

Here, for 2012, are 12 big ideas to start on your path to real, lasting prosperity:

    1. Look for your personal Polaris Point™. Just as the North Star, or Polaris, can be used as a navigational tool, you need to envision what you aspire to become, to achieve, to contribute, and to create—and how all of that relates to money and satisfaction. Once you find that fixed point on the horizon, you can stay on course.

    2. Be optimistic. Winston Churchill said, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” By and large, the difference between success and failure comes down to one thing: attitude.

    3. Believe in yourself. It’s not who you are that holds you back; it’s who you think you are. Know your strengths. Recognize your value. And instead of being consumed by what you haven’t done, concentrate on—and celebrate—what you have done.

    4. Do what you love—and love what you do. “The only way to do great work is to love what you do,” avowed Steve Jobs in his well-known commencement address at Stanford University in 2005. “If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.” To be sure, you can do more than dream about finding what you love; if you plan and persevere, you can achieve it.

    5. Be keen on money. Money isn’t everything, but it is an undeniable part of prosperity. It’s okay—more than okay—to value it. Be sure, though, to mind how money actually interacts with your life and how you spend your energy and effort earning it.

    6. Weigh wealth and happiness. “Anybody who thinks money will make you happy, hasn’t got money,” declared music and movie mogul David Geffen. True prosperity is realized not as income or happiness increases but as a function of the difference between income and happiness.

    7. Stay off the hedonic treadmill. To feel free from money worries, most people say that their income would have to double. But when that happens, the security and satisfaction they anticipated doesn’t materialize. In response, many double down and keep chasing a moving target. Researchers call this tendency the “hedonic treadmill.”

    8. Start with what you already have. People who emphasize what they already have usually end up with the most. Be aware of your own abundance—your core abilities, experiences, and contacts, for starters—and put it all to work.

    9. Find role models. Connect with people in your life who have achieved true prosperity. When you’re with them, watch, look, and listen or, better yet, ask for advice.

    10. Formulate your brand. Reflect on what sets you apart, what really energizes and engages you, and what draws others to you. Those types of ahas, among others, will help you express your personal brand.

    11. Create a plan—and write it down. "You were born to win, but to be a winner, you must plan to win,” affirmed author and motivational speaker Zig Ziglar. When you create a plan, something powerful happens. Take time to write it down by hand, using a narrative form instead of bullet points. You’ll infuse your plan with a kinesthetic physicality and really bring it alive.

    12. Avoid the boom-crash syndrome. True prosperity is sustainable for the longer haul. Without staying power, you’ll go through booms—and crashes. Ask yourself if you feel good about what you’re doing (or want to do), if you can maintain the effort required, and if it’s ethical, beneficial to others, and socially conscious.

Finally, there’s a certain joy that only comes from helping others. As you strive to balance work, money, and happiness, be sure to give back, too. That’s the paycheck of the heart.

About the Authors

Ethan Willis and Randy Garn are co-founders of Prosper, a one-to-one distance education company specializing in entrepreneurship, e-commerce, personal finance, real estate and stock market investing, and career and personal development. They are co-authors of the New York Times best seller Prosper: Create the Life You Really Want (Berrett-Koehler, 2011). For more information, visit and

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