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Risk vs. Reward: Peyton Manning's Quest for Happiness

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In my line of work as a financial adviser, I'm often asked about risk. Primarily, the questions are around the risk of choosing one path or one investment over another. Very few of my decisions have to do with life or death. That's why I have followed the Peyton Manning situation so closely. Manning will literally be putting his health (and possibly life) on the line when he takes his first snap this week as the new quarterback for the Denver Broncos.

The past year didn't go according to plan for Manning. After 14 years with the Indianapolis Colts, a Super Bowl Championship and millions of dollars, he was cut. It all started with a serious neck injury that kept him sidelined last season. Now he has signed a new contract with the Broncos that will keep him on the playing field through 2016. But why take the risk?

We all take risks because we think they are worth it. Why would Manning, who probably has all the money he will ever need, risk his health to play football? It's simple. He believes he will be happier playing the game than sitting at home or even serving as a commentator on Sunday.

For most of us, happiness requires a stable lifestyle that includes decent housing, the ability to feed and clothe our family, reliable transportation, and access to quality health care. If we have enough money for those necessities and a little left over for fun, we have all the lifestyle we need to be happy. With the millions he has already earned, it is hard to imagine Manning needs to play another season to cover his basic lifestyle needs.

Once we have a stable lifestyle, there are Three Keys to Happiness.

Relationships - Football is a team sport, and working with others towards a common goal ("winning the Super Bowl") offers the real possibility of building close relationships. Manning has been part of a football team for a very long time. The prospect of not being part of a team and losing the ability to form those close relationships could be a huge motivator in driving him back to football. If most of Manning closest friends are his teammates, returning to the game may make him happier.

Engagement - Athletes call this "being in the zone," and academics call it "flow." It is a high challenge and high skill activity that completely grabs your attention. When you check the time, it feels like it has been only 30 minutes but you realize several hours have passed. Football offers Manning enormous opportunities to be engaged. He is definitely in the zone as he leads his team down the field for another game winning drive. It is an intoxicating feeling, something Manning has a hard time imagining he will find off the football field.

Making A Positive Difference - Manning has enormous opportunities to make a difference in the lives of others. He has personal prestige and a stellar reputation as a leader. This can easily be translated to promoting any number of worthwhile causes. Even the small things make a difference. Every time he signs an autograph for a child, he puts a smile on the child's face. Manning's personal prestige comes from his reputation as a football player. Did he need to play another season to make a difference in the lives of others? Probably not.

Manning is risking his health to play another season of football. He loves his job as a NFL quarterback because it gives him the opportunity to form close relationships, to become fully engaged, and to make a difference in the lives of others. Does your job provide you the same opportunities?

If not, maybe it's time for you to change teams too.

David Geller is the author of Wealth & Happiness: Using Your Wealth to Create a Better Life. He also serves as a motivational speaker and the CEO of Atlanta-based GV Financial Advisors. His new book is available through www.amazon.com or at www.gvfinancial.com.

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