Tony Robbins: Money doesn't equal happiness — here's what does

Tony Robbins: Money isn't the source of happiness—here's what is
Tony Robbins: Money isn't the source of happiness—here's what is

Money alone isn't enough to make you happy.

But, helping other people can give you long-lasting joy and the feeling of true wealth, according to life coach and self-made millionaire Tony Robbins.

"Lots of people get a billion dollars and they're not wealthy, because wealth is emotion, it's psychology, it's spirit, it's soul," Robbins tells CNBC Make It.

One of the "biggest mistakes" that people make, Robbins adds, is to obsess only over making money instead of on improving quality of life for themselves and the people they care about. 

"You think, 'I've got to make this money so my family will stay together or I've got to make this money so there's enough food…" Robbins says. He adds that this way of thinking is often described as a "scarcity mentality," where people believe that there isn't enough money to go around, so they obsess over the goal of clinging to money and objects while ignoring other sources of happiness like personal growth and relationships.

"Really, quality of life comes by finding a way to add more value to other people's lives," Robbins tells CNBC Make It.

Robbins notes that there is research that explores "what stimulates and sustains wellbeing and happiness, and the thing that does the least is buying things." In other words, obsessing over money and buying material objects might give you momentary pleasure, Robbins says, but that good feeling typically does not stick around for long after you've made a purchase.

"The [material things you buy] don't last, you get used to them," Robbins says. "What's more valuable, if you want happiness, is clearly being able to have experiences. When you buy experiences, they linger. A trip, the experiences, the emotions, all that."

An experience like a vacation might produce lasting memories that provide longer-lasting happiness, but that feeling still doesn't compare to making other people happy, according to Robbins. "When you buy something for yourself, the pleasure almost never lasts that long. If it's something huge, it doesn't even last that long..." he says. "Giving money away actually gives more joy than almost anything else on the planet."

If you want to be happy, Robbins' advice is to do something for another person today — you don't even have to know the person. Just test it out, see if it's true or if I'm full of it. Do something really unique, and don't do it to get [something], do it because you just want to give."

"There have been times when I've had nothing and I gave that money away, and the level of freedom it created in me ... I can't even describe to you verbally."

The pleasure that you derive from helping others can be life-changing, Robbins says. "You're going to find a giant shift, and that shift will change the way you do business, it will change the way you approach your family, it will change the way you feel about yourself and it'll give you the experience of wealth," he says.

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