'Zen Millionaire' Ken Honda: This mindset shift can help you feel better about money

"Happy Money" author Ken Honda
Alfie Goodrich

Best-selling author Ken Honda, known as the "Zen Millionaire" in his native Japan, has sold more than 7 million copies of his books on how your mindset and attitude can affect your wealth. His new book, "Happy Money: The Japanese Art of Making Peace with Your Money," aims to help readers develop, and benefit from, a better relationship to their finances.

Honda tells Grow that your core beliefs about money—and in particular, whether those attitudes tend to be positive or negative—can have a real impact on how you handle money and, in turn, your bottom line. "If you can change the energy of your money, you find yourself in a different flow," he says.

How, though? One tactic Honda suggests in "Happy Money" is to remember the good that money can do. Instead of getting frustrated by having to pay bills, he writes, remind yourself that what you put toward expenses like rent, auto loans, and groceries are helping you meet you or your family's essential needs. And discretionary spending, if you're mindful about it, can boost your well-being.

Thinking that way can help you feel more gratitude around being able to buy, and less regret and anxiety about what you spend.

Honda writes that it's also essential to explore your beliefs around money, and the people and experiences that shaped them. Becoming aware of those influences can help you move past them and make financial decisions that lead to better outcomes and less stress. If your family struggled when you were growing up after a parent lost a job, that might be a reason you're staying at a job you hate—and missing out on a booming job market that could lead to more fulfilling opportunities.

So if you realize you're only sticking with a job because your dad once lost his, that could free you up to make the right move for you.

We talked with Honda about developing a more positive relationship to money, and how that can also help you get ahead.

Grow: This all started when a stranger asked for your wallet—what happened, exactly?

Honda: I was approached by a woman in Japan who asked to look inside my wallet, and then took out all the bills and started counting. I had no idea what she was doing. Then she said, "I can see things that other people don't see, and your money is smiling." At first I was confused, but then I [understood]. …If my money had feelings, would it be happy or upset?

So what does that mean?

If you are doing what you love, if you are going to work with a smile on your face, if you are spending it on things you like or are making other people's lives easier, then your money is happy. But if you hate your job, or are taking advantage of people, or are always frustrated or worried about money, then it is unhappy.

How can people change their relationship with money and make it happier?

The first step is gratitude: Thank [money] when it comes in, and thank it when it goes out. That's something I learned from my mentor Wahei Takeda, who was often called the Warren Buffett of Japan: The secret to wealth is to appreciate it. Because when you really started to appreciate your clients, your boss, and all the relationships in your life, that opens people's hearts—and you start to get raises, promotions, referrals.

"Happy Money" author Ken Honda
Alfie Goodrich

What else did the Warren Buffett of Japan teach you?

He said that money is to be enjoyed, not something to be scared or worried about. Most of us are slaves to money, doing what we don't like, and running away from it. But money can work wonders in your life. So make friends with it.

What lessons have you learned from interacting with so many millionaires over the years?

I have met so many wealthy people who don't even feel wealthy at all. …There is no limit, and you will never find happiness that way.

So you don't have to be wealthy to experience "happy money." Even with a modest income, you can still be satisfied and appreciative.

Do you have any practical tips for what people should do with their money?

I recommend that people invest in companies you think are doing good for the world. It's also good to invest in your own learning, spending on yourself to become more talented and efficient.

You also need to have a healthy outlet to let money go, such as donating it to charity. Even if it's just a dollar or two, that's a good feeling.

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