The Truth about Wealth
Is wealth about money, or having goals, or achieving milestones, or something completely different?
Wealth means many different things to different people. You can’t want money for the sake of having money. It is only a means to an end, and serves no purpose in and of itself. A big pile of cash in the middle of your living room isn’t going to do you a fat lot of good if you don’t know what to do with it in order to make your life what you want it to be.
You have to know exactly what you want that money will enable you to have or do. Do you want a lifestyle of vacationing twice a year, or a better house closer to work? Do you want a brand new car, or to provide completely for your children’s education? No goal is right or wrong. What is important is that you have a goal to begin with – then you will be rich…whatever that means.
I believe the above mantra quite strongly. However as with so many things, goal setting can be taken to extremes. A wise friend suggested to me that the true definition of wealth has much less to do with money or goals than what we may suspect. It seems that in our society, what we have is never enough. When we move out to live on our own for the first time, we must get set up with all the accoutrements necessary for a comfortable life: furniture, kitchen supplies, linens, etc. Then we need some luxuries like audio/video equipment, toys, hobby equipment, and other paraphernalia. As we become established in our careers, we must get nicer furniture and a nicer home, maybe a newer car. And even as we continue through our careers, we must get the higher-paid, more respected jobs as we move up the ladder.
Then as we marry and have children, we need a whole new set of things to aim for: a bigger house again (this time near schools), a bigger car, and maybe a new wardrobe to go with our new job which we got to pay for all these new things we need.
This pattern of constantly “needing” things continues throughout our lives; the needs just change as we age. It seems that we must always be climbing the next mountain, keeping up with the Jonses, or reaching the newest fastest prettiest goal in order to be happy.
What my wise friend suggested was that we reach a true state of wealth when we no longer need to look beyond what we have in order to be happy. Let the next mountain be climbed by somebody else who is searching for what they think wealth will give them. When you can be content with the life you have and not need for anything else, you are wealthy.
Personally I wonder what life would be like without goals. I am a goal and achievement-oriented person. A life without aiming for something might impede my sense of self and contribute towards general apathy (which is bad news). But what I can draw and use from my wise friend’s words is that I do not need to live a life shooting for material possessions. Setting career and financial goals to attain a life that requires constant consumption is not vital for happiness.
Where I am currently living, I am off the grid and quite remote, and I have to work for everything I used to take for granted. All of a sudden doing the laundry, cooking, and even going to the bathroom are very different and often difficult tasks. But it is all still very possible (and sometimes even enjoyable) without the luxuries I was so used to in recent times.
And in living this life (which is albeit a temporary arrangement), I too, am coming to understand some of what my wise friend says. How to harmonize a simple life like what I have with a more goal-oriented life in the rat race is the next step, and quite possibly a battle that many people fight every day.
Maybe, just maybe, if we re-define our role in the rat race we can get out of the traps that cause us to constantly seek out the next mountain to climb in order to reach that pinnacle of wealth that forever seems to be a mountain away.