Taylor Swift Summarized the Best Advice on How to Live Your Life in Four Easy Words

Twelve years ago, Taylor Swift shared her ultimate goal in life. It’s something any of us can achieve.

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At 22, Taylor Swift had already earned six Grammys and amassed millions of fans, accomplishments most singer-songwriters never achieve. So what did Swift tell Esquire magazine in 2012 about her true life’s intent?

I’d like to think you don’t stop being creative once you get happy. My ultimate goal is to end up being happy. Most of the time.

I imagine that if you were the most-streamed woman on Spotify and Apple Music, made the cover of Time Person of the Year, and were a billionaire, you’d be pretty happy, too.

The lesson here is found in four words: End up being happy.

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Swift didn’t discuss how she wanted to become a billionaire by the time she hit her thirties. She didn’t say, “I want to eventually become one of Rolling Stone‘s 100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time,” or get on Forbes‘ World’s 100 Most Powerful Women, which she has already accomplished.

She didn’t even tell Esquire, “Six Grammys are not enough. I want to win eight more,” which she has already won.

No. Swift’s ultimate goal was to “end up being happy.”  How does that work, exactly, for the rest of us who work to put food on the table and hopefully make something of ourselves?

Find your true purpose and serve others

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We must remind ourselves frequently that the purpose of our life is not to work 10 hours per day, five days per week for 30 years, and then retire to a golf course in Florida. Our true purpose should be to discover our calling in life, basking in the joy of the journey along the way, one step at a time. In the end, our legacy is left to two important questions:

  • What impact did I make on the lives of others?
  • Who did I serve and make better?

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Whether you make $50,000 or $5 million, giving back should be part of your happiness equation. Taylor Swift is known for her philanthropic work, which includes performing at charity relief events. She has also donated generously to various causes over the years. In 2010, Swift donated $500,000 in response to the devastating Tennessee floods. In 2016, she donated $1 million to Louisiana flood relief efforts and $100,000 to the Dolly Parton Fire Fund. More recently, in February 2024, she donated $100,000 to the family of a woman who died in a shooting at the Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl parade.

Have a mindset of giving

You may not be Taylor Swift, but don’t sell yourself short. Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once said, “The wise man does not lay up his own treasures. The more he gives to others, the more he has for his own.”

Before you declare the act of giving to increase your happiness ill-advised or unsuitable for your lifestyle, the practice of giving is solidly grounded in science.

In one 2008 study of more than 600 Americans, “Happiness was predicted by the amount of money they gave away: The more they invested in others, the happier they were.” This was the case regardless of the giver’s individual income.

Another survey conducted by the Gallup World Poll between 2006 and 2008 that found that in 120 out of 136 countries, people who donated to charity in the previous month reported greater satisfaction with life.

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The late entrepreneur Jim Rohn said, “Only by giving are you able to receive more than you already have.” In the leadership bestseller by Bob Burg and John David Mann, The Go-Giver (Portfolio Hardcover, 2007), the main character learns that changing his focus from getting to giving–putting others’ interests first and consistently adding value to their lives–ultimately leads to unexpected returns.

Considering that not everyone has the luxury of giving financially, there are other ways to give practically as a lifestyle, like helping or mentoring others, giving of your time, volunteering at a shelter, supporting a cause, sponsoring a child, fighting injustice, and having a pay-it-forward mindset.

Organizational psychologist and Wharton professor Adam Grant told CNBC Make It: “The most meaningful way to succeed is to help other people succeed.” Having studied thousands of leaders, Grant observed that great leaders think bigger than themselves. They advance a vision, idea, or project that’s “going to affect a lot of people.”

You give because it makes you happy

Ultimately, you give for the same reasons Taylor Swift does: because it makes you feel happy. According to the aforementioned 2008 study, giving money to someone else can increase our happiness more than spending it on ourselves. The study found that despite participants’ initial belief that spending on themselves would make them happier, giving to others actually lifted their mood more. This suggests that giving can have a positive impact on both our emotional and physical health. It’s not just limited to monetary donations or billionaire celebrities like Taylor Swift. If science is telling us that giving can make us happy and benefit our well-being, why wait to start giving back?

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