More is not always more
We live in a society which constantly promotes the idea that more of everything is good for you. More money in the bank, more friends, more experiences and more possessions.
We are bombarded with advertising which constantly promotes the good life and what you need to get there.
We see and hear stories about celebrities, movie stars and self-made millionaires and we start to think this is the lifestyle that will allow us to live the life of our dreams.
So many of us chase after the illusion that if we work hard enough and smart enough we will eventually have the income and lifestyle we deserve.
Of course you want to be rich!
If someone asked you ‘Would you like to be rich?’, chances are you would most likely say, ‘Yes of course’. Who would not want to be rich?
Then, if I asked you, ‘How much do you need to be rich?’, I can guarantee that you would reply with some arbitrary figure like ten million dollars.
What if I added another question such as ‘At what point or income level would you feel rich?’
If you do not know how much is enough for you, then you will be spending your life constantly chasing more, never realizing that you may in fact already have enough, or worse, realise at the end of your life, that you have wasted a large proportion of your time on things that are not important or meaningful to you.
Being rich is relative
The fact is, being rich, or feeling rich, is relative and is not a constant. Everyone has a different idea of what it would feel like to be rich. I have met individuals who are relatively poor but feel grateful and rich because they have meaningful relationships and time to pursue their own interests.
I have also met many individuals who have an incredible amount of monetary wealth, but who still feel they do not have enough. The feeling of wealth eludes them, and they only feel lack.
Being rich does not just mean how much money we have in our bank accounts. What if we redefine the meaning of the word rich or wealthy to include:
- Relationship wealth (the amount of meaningful relationships you have)
- Health wealth (how healthy you are and how much health you will enjoy into the future)
- Location wealth (are you located in a natural beautiful location or do you have access to a place that promotes the feeling of wealth and wellbeing?)
- Mental wealth (is your mind clear and free from doubt; do you have control over your thoughts?)
- Time wealth do you have the time to think and work on activities that matter to you?)
- Work wealth (are you doing meaningful work which utilises your unique gifts and abilities?)
- Spiritual wealth (are you able to sense the innate intelligence which exists in everything around you? Are you aware of the abundant nature of the universe?)
Everyone’s enough is different
Not only is being wealthy subjective, mentally everyone will experience wealth differently. One individual’s purpose may be to be an oil painter and so they may only require a modest income to fulfil this desire while another individual may want to be an entrepreneur and may require a lot higher income to support this desire.
Add to this other factors, such as where you live, and if you have children to support, and it becomes very clear that everyone has different financial requirements to meet our meaningful desires.
Simplifying versus increasing your income
While I am not suggesting that we should all live in caves and reject material acquisitions, study after study has proven that after having obtained a certain level of wealth, more possessions do not make us happier. In fact, more stuff can actually impede our happiness.
The minimalist movement aims to address this issue by trying to reduce the stuff we own, so we can free up more time and be able to focus on what is important to us.
Doing meaningful work, having meaningful relationships, and having enough monetary income to pay all our expenses, is what fosters a happy and content life.
There are two ways we can do this:
- you can reduce your debt and expenses to create more disposable income, or,
- You can find a way to increase your income
I believe in a mixture of both simplifying your life (of possessions and expenses) and increasing your income.
Simplifying your life and reducing expenses is always a good idea because the less expenses you have the less work you will have to do to maintain your basic living costs. The less work you have to do, the more time you will have to focus on the things that are meaningful to you.
When you hate your work you tend to dream of escaping and being rich
Most of the ideas and many of the desires we have of being rich are simply fantasies of escaping unrewarding work or escaping the financial debt that we have accumulated over time.
If your work was rewarding and meaningful to you, and you weren’t burdened with financial debt, then it is unlikely you would be imagining escaping your life by becoming rich.
If you find work you love and foster deep and meaningful relationships you will not crave being rich
The Harvard 74-year long study into what constitutes happiness discovered, not surprisingly, that meaningful relationships top the list of what makes people happy.
After a certain point money did not increase general wellbeing. In fact there is some evidence that after a certain point more money actually detracts from our happiness.
The other contributing factor to happiness was being outwardly focused and not inwardly focused. This means that your focus is on helping others and thinking of others not just yourself. One of the key indicators in finding work you love is the fact that the work is almost always outwardly focused. Meaning that the work is concerned with serving an individual or group either through a service or a product.
When we find work we love and when we build meaningful relationships, then the desire for financial freedom and to become rich will lesson, because we are already living a rewarding and rich life.
Working out what your enough is
Stop chasing after more income for the sake of more. This is a crazy way to live. I did this for a long time and eventually realised that it was not only a crazy way to live but it was also affecting my health and my relationships.
Here are a few suggestions to work how how much is ‘enough’ for you:
- What is the minimum income required to pay for all your basic expenses and allow you to live in a location that you enjoy?
- What work will bring meaning to your life and how much income would be required to support this income?
- Can you downsize, get rid of debt or reduce your debt to reduce your financial requirements even more?
- What type of housing do you require to love comfortably (not extravagantly)?
- What transportation do you require to maintain a ‘meaningful lifestyle’?
Instead of trying to emulate the lifestyles of the rich and famous, I would recommend you start thinking about what your own ‘meaningful lifestyle’ would look like. A meaningful lifestyle is a lifestyle that allows you to foster meaningful relationships, meaningful work and control over your time.
You need to do some deep thinking and imagine what your perfect week, perfect month and ideal year would look like.
- How much work you would like to do?
- how much time with family and friends you would like?
- What other meaningful activities would you like to accomplish ?
I have worked out over a long period of time what the optimal income is for me to be able to best look after my large family while still fulfilling my own unique purpose. The figure is within a range and is based on a list of priorities (listed below). I suggest you list your own set of priorities to help you better understand what you optimal income is.
- Almost complete control over my time
- More time with my partner, family and friends to build and strengthen relationships
- The ability to work on creative projects that inspire me and follow my purpose
- Be able to support all my four children and their future studies
- Time to read
- Time to mediate
- Time to exercise
- Live in a location which is convenient to schools and shops and close to the ocean
- Live in a house that is modern yet simple
- Be able to pay all bills and expenses as they become due without delaying payment
- Be able to go on one local and one international holiday every year
- Be able to spend time assisting others and help them discover who they are
I am currently about 70% of the way to achieving the entire list. I have almost achieved my desired optimal income range and materially I now have everything I need.
Whenever I feel the urge to buy more, I ask myself: will this bring more meaning or time into my life, and/or or will this item serve an important function in my life?
This makes it a lot easier to decide to say no to some things. (Of course, living with a partner and four children, it’s hard to monitor what they bring into the house. My partner blames the children for all the pool toys but I suspect it is her who buys them.)
Living a meaningful lifestyle usually takes less income than you think
If you give up the idea of being a millionaire and just have a goal to increase your income to what is required to maintain your meaningful lifestyle, you will not only eliminate a lot of stress but you will discover that your life feels more focused and energised as a result. Stop comparing yourselves to your friends and family in relation to income; remember your path and goals are unique to you, and all that matters is that you create your own meaningful lifestyle.
If you’re in a partnership I suggest you work through this together so you can make sure you are both on the same page with what your optimal income will be for the both of you. Knowing what your ‘enough’ is, allows you to work out a plan and lets you start focusing on what is important to you.
Finally I would like you to imagine sitting in hospital at the ripe old age of 100. You are slowly dying and you have been thinking back over your life and what you have achieved.
What will you miss when you depart this world?
Will it be all the stuff you accumulated?
All the money your stored away?
The meaningful relationships with family and friends you developed?
The meaningful work you completed that helped other individuals?
While this scenario may be a little depressing, it highlights the importance that our time here is limited, so why waste your valuable limited time chasing more of everything?
For the sake of your own happiness, your friends and family and society as a whole, the best thing you can do is to know what your enough is before you run out of time.