money health weekly


Try Changing Your Reference Point

we tend to feel unhappy when we don't experience financial gratitude
❝The lucky never realize they are lucky until it's too late...People are never happy with what they have. They always want what they had, or what someone else has.❞ -"The Rabbi" in Lucky Number Slevin

I'm on my couch watching a movie that would become one of my favorite movies of all time, Lucky Number Slevin. If you're not familiar, this is a dark comedy/thriller about a case of mistaken identity.

One particular scene sticks out. The main character is brought to a mob boss who goes by The Rabbi (played by Ben Kinsley). The main character tries to explain to The Rabbi that he's unlucky because they've got the wrong guy. The Rabbi responds by telling him that he was better off yesterday, but it took today for him to realize it. The Rabbi's speech is a profound look into happiness and gratitude. We can manipulate our viewpoint by shifting where we focus. We can change our reference points.


Happiness is a hard word to define. Many people equate happiness with smiling and giggling. People can laugh and smile and not be satisfied with their lives, though. Another way to view happiness is to consider your life satisfaction. Viewed in this way, it's entirely possible to be happy without giggling and laughing.

As hard as happiness is to define, for our purposes here, I'm defining happiness as the difference between what we have and what we want. People who are never satisfied with what they have are always reaching for more. People who are always reaching for more tend to not be happy with what they have. What they have will never be enough.

Alternatively, there are happy people out there who have far less than what you have. In other words, some people are happy with what they already have.

The difference between these two opposing types of people is what they choose to focus on. They have different reference points. Are you happy today? You can't really answer that question without specifying what you're comparing today to. Are you happy today compared to how you were yesterday? Are you happy today compared to how you were five years ago? Are you happy today compared to how you think your life ought to be today?

Our choice of reference points matters for our happiness.