What does prosperity mean to you? And has your definition changed since the recession began? In today’s guest post, Ethan Willis and Randy Garn share their secrets for aligning money and happiness to achieve real, lasting prosperity.

The Great Recession—the worst economic downturn since the 1930s—remains unrelenting for ordinary working Americans. As a result, many people are rebooting, reinventing, and retooling. They’re also rethinking what it means to be prosperous.

Prosperity, to be sure, is personal and multidimensional. Still, in universal terms, it’s possible to define it. How? By one simple yet significant equation.

A prosperous equation

Prosperity has three pillars that together create the “Prosperity Equation”: Money + Happiness + Sustainability = Prosperity.

Money isn’t everything, but it is an undeniable part of prosperity. Yet, what’s most important about money is how it interacts with your life and how you spend your energy and effort earning it.

The big question, then, is this: How much money is “enough”? If you want to achieve real, lasting prosperity, you need enough money to support your financial goals and honor your values and principles, but not so much that money serves to distract or alienate you from those very values and principles.

Happiness has been discussed and debated for centuries. At heart, however, it embodies four key elements: health and well-being (supporting a healthy mind, body, and spirit); values (committing to what you cherish, such as family, faith, and friendships); authenticity (living aligned with your personal principles and passions);

and state of mind (having positive feelings about yourself and the world around you).

Sustainability can be more fluid than constant. Still, if you can answer “Yes” to three basic questions, the prosperity you seek is probably sustainable: 1) do I feel good about it? (it aligns income and happiness); 2) will I be able to maintain the effort required? (you can keep at it over the long term); and 3) is it ethical, environmentally responsible, and beneficial to others? (it can, and will, be measured by more than profits alone).

Six practices to follow for prosperity

There are no shortcuts to attaining true prosperity. Yet, with a smart, specific action plan, along with hard work and perseverance, you can do more than dream about prosperity—you can achieve it.

Based on thousands of student success stories at Prosper, our one-to-one distance education company, we recommend applying the Six Prosperity Practices™:

1. Find your personal Polaris Point™. In astronomy, there is but one Polaris, or North Star. It stays fixed in the heavens, and by its very essence, reveals true north, a phenomenon guiding travelers since the dawn of history. Your personal “Polaris Point,” then, is your true north, or envisioned future: what you aspire to become, to achieve, to contribute, to create. It is uniquely yours, and as a unifying focal point, helps ensure you’re moving in the right direction.

2. Balance money and happiness. As Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak once said, “My goal wasn’t to make a ton of money. It was to build good computers.” When your earnings and your Polaris Point are in balance, you’re living in your “Prosperity Zone.” Your prosperity will continue not as your income or happiness increases but as a function of the difference between your income and happiness.

3. Earn from the inside out. Passions and profits really do mix. Think about your core values, strengths, and desires. The more that you “earn from your core”—tapping into a deeper kind of energy and passion—the greater your competitive advantage and earning potential.

4. Focus on what you already have. Whether they start with a little or a lot, people who emphasize what they already have—abilities, work and life experiences, contacts, and more—usually end up with the most. Be acutely aware of your own abundance, not your lack, and your “glass half-full” can become even fuller.

5. Create and commit to a plan. Something powerful happens when you “decide to decide” to live the life you really want. In creating a prosperity road map, you can plan your work—and work your plan. Also, be sure to write it down. Only then can you really visualize your goals, pinpoint your targets, and mark your milestones.

6. Take profound, continuous action. A plan is meaningless if it’s left to collect dust. Take profound action and persist, persist, persist. No “if only…” or “woulda coulda shoulda.” Akin to that old saying, “Play the hand you’re dealt,” the road to prosperity begins when you realize that you’re the dealer.

Ethan Willis and Randy Garn are co-founders of Prosper, a one-to-one distance education company specializing in entrepreneurship, e-commerce, personal finance, real estate and stock market investing, and career and personal development. Their new book is Prosper: Create the Life You Really Want (Berrett-Koehler, 2011). For more information, visit prospering.com and prosperbook.com.