Several people have dubbed me “fearless,” but hardly ever “shocking.” I am, after all, a homebody and an introvert (or is that like saying an introvert and an introvert? Whatever).

But recently I decided to change my life in a subtle, but spectacular, way. And whenever I tell someone about it, it’s not uncommon to get a gaping mouth in response.

A little background: When my husband took over the cooking duties after the birth of our daughter, he started with the book A Man, a Can, a Plan. Turns out as a chemist he was a natural chef, and was soon whipping up gourmet meals that sent me swooning.

Now my husband has a long commute and gets home late. Since our neighborhood is full of cute little restaurants, we quickly found ourselves eating out 4-5 days a week.

The food was tasty and we chose places that were relatively inexpensive, but I prefer his home-cooked, healthier meals. I disliked going out so much, but I really didn’t want to start cooking.

It was a lose-lose proposition: either we went out and I felt guilty, or I cooked and felt cranky.

For months, I went back and forth between those two lousy alternatives. One night we were chatting about what we would do if we suddenly came into a bunch of money. Both of us blinked and had a hard time thinking of much we’d do differently–a great sign for lifestyle designers.

Then I said, “I’d get a personal chef. Not everyday, but enough to take the pressure off the eating out/cooking in issue.”

And my very wise husband said, “We don’t need to win the lottery for that. Why don’t you do it now?”

Why hadn’t I thought of that alternative, since the idea of a personal chef was clearly swirling around in the recesses of my mind?

There are a number of reasons, of course, but the real problem was putting a value on happiness.

In this post, I’ll explore how to discover the things that might be a happiness doubler (or tripler!) for you, and how to wisely invest in yourself.

Happiness: Doing the math

Usually the argument in your head goes something like this and because it’s all math, it seems completely justified:

It costs £50 a meal, plus ingredients, to have the personal chef cook for me. But if the family goes out to eat, the cost is only £25 on average and no grocery cost. Holy cow, that’s much more expensive! I’ll just cook for myself.

Now notice the assumptions at play here:

  • What is the happiness cost? In this valuation, it’s nothing.
  • What is the health cost? Most meals out, especially at that price point, aren’t terribly healthy. Again, the benefit to eating well isn’t considered.
  • What’s the quality of life cost? The personal chef delivers meals to your house. If you’re busy or just don’t want to interrupt family time, this is a huge benefit that’s not factored in.
  • Am I overly suspicious of new costs? Many of the people that looked at me with awe have housekeepers or nannies but viewed a “personal chef” as something only the independently wealthy can afford.

Is something like this a luxury? Absolutely. But many of us are living with luxuries we take for granted.  I’m a frugal person by nature. Ultimately, I decided I’d rather have a personal chef than a housekeeper (another luxury we’d indulged in back in the States). When I factored in the health and happiness costs, the expense seemed like a no-brainer. And yet it took some very conscious thinking to get to that decision.

Of course, many of us are strapped financially or even deeply in debt. For some this is due to the junk that comes along with a consumerist culture, for others, it’s the cost of an education or house that seemed like a reasonable (again, normal) expense at the time. One person told me how tight money was in their household, and in the same conversation, admitted they were shopping for an even larger flat screen TV.

I don’t mean to judge. For that particular family, a larger TV might very well have been their happiness doubler. But as Adam Baker from Man vs Debt notes, most people are living their lives according to a script they didn’t choose and that dictates how they spend their money.

I love the quote he includes from Nigel Marsh

There are thousands and thousands of people out there living lives of quiet, screaming desperation who work long, hard hours, at jobs they hate, to enable them to buy things they don’t need to impress people they don’t like

How many times have you invested in items that are fundamentally worthless, only to scrimp on the things that have the capacity to change the tenor of your life?

Moreover, are you even aware that you’re doing it?

Investing in happiness

What delivers happiness is different for everyone, but usually it comes down to the big three: relationships, work, or self-image.

Many times the three are interwoven. At the time I was considering what I’d do with an influx of cash, I was completely overwhelmed with work/life balance issues. Partially because I was working very hard on capitalizing on the momentum of my nascent business, and partially because I was at war with myself over who I wanted to be.

As I’ve admitted, there were times I thought the answer was quitting my business. I realized that would largely be choosing a life of drudgery, making time for chores I don’t enjoy (like grocery shopping and cooking). But my self-image requirements demanded a resolution on the healthy eating.

So you see, hiring the personal chef was a way to keep focused on the work I love while also maintaining the self-image I wanted. It’s not the typical way to solve the problem of feeling overwhelmed. You might be tempted to exercise more or focus on efficiency.

But also understand that this solution only worked because I’d already solved my career problems. Hiring a personal chef while working a job I’m not crazy about doesn’t help at all, because all it does is free up time for a job that doesn’t fulfill me.

So you not only have to understand what your happiness is worth, but you have to be strategic about it.

Imagine I had a genie who could magically double your happiness for the the right price. How much would you be willing to give him?

Then ask yourself: are you investing that much in your happiness today? And if not, why not?

The estimates of the number of people looking for new jobs varies, but whichever you believe, it’s a very big number.  Somewhere between 48 and 80% of all those employed are unhappy and are looking for the right opportunity.

If you’re still trying to turn your work from a negative into a positive multiplier in your life, let me help you find the clarity and courage you need to make that happen.

Because your happiness is worth something.

And this might just be the best thing you ever did for yourself.