Do you have more than enough for yourself and for others? There’s no way to know from the bottom line of your balance sheet. More than enough is a mindset that can be found at every rung of the socioeconomic ladder. If you want to be wealthy, then it’s time to try this mindset on for size.
In response to last week’s Provision on Redeeming Wealth, one reader replied (and I’m paraphrasing), “Why struggle so hard to redeem wealth? Why don’t you just say that wealth, like fat, is bad? Wealth is not the same as health. Health represents optimal well-being; wealth represents excess resources. Just as too many calories interfere with health, so do too many resources interfere with life. Please allow for the possibility that some of us may have concerns about the dynamics of wealth from other motivations than fear.”
Ironically enough, therein lies the critique of many people over the war in Iraq. The United States, with all its wealth and excess resources, has interfered with life in a blatant grab for oil and even more resources, or so the argument goes. As the world’s lone military and economic superpower, with a voracious and insatiable appetite for petrochemicals and the lifestyle they produce, we simply could not bear to wait regardless of the many opposing voices. That’s the way wealth works, such people conclude. The more you have, the more you want and the less you care about the consequences.
Therein lies the answer, if there is one, to our reader’s provocative reply. Why struggle so hard to redeem wealth? Because unredeemed wealth has the power to destroy us all. If wealth represents excess resources, then one can never have enough and the acquisition of more resources becomes a paramount concern. This is, in fact, the meaning of wealth in common parlance. According to one dictionary definition, “wealth” is “having a plentiful supply of material goods and money,” “large possessions,” and “a comparative abundance of things which are objects of human desire.”
Given the widespread acceptance of wealth as a desirable condition, save for those few who reject wealth on principle, I have chosen instead to move in a different direction. Instead of rejecting wealth, I have chosen to redefine wealth in terms of optimal financial well-being. And as we discovered with health, or optimal physical well-being, this understanding of wealth requires significant shifts in attitudes, habits, boundaries, and environments. Once these shifts are made, however, I believe that most people can become both healthy and wealthy far more quickly and easily than they may, at first, imagine.
This is the slant I will give to our discussion of wealth over the next several months. Some may argue that I’m playing a semantic game by choosing to use the word in an unconventional way. When Jesus said that “you cannot serve both God and wealth,” or again that “having wealth makes it hard for people to enter the presence of God,” he was speaking of wealth in the conventional way. He was cautioning against having excess money and possessions because of how they get in the way of healthy living • the more we have, the more we want and the less we care about the consequences.
But that is precisely why I think it’s time for a new definition of wealth. I see Jesus’ point; I see the dangers of having and desiring excess resources. Not only do they make it difficult to have a satisfied mind, they also make it easy to leave a debilitating trail in the world. As long as we think of wealth in terms of having and desiring, we are forever condemned to coming up short. Either we have too little or too much, but we never have enough. And too often we’ll do whatever it takes to get enough, until the vicious cycle of having and desiring starts all over again. Just witness the fiasco of Enron and other recent scandals.
Once we think of wealth in terms of optimal financial well-being, however, we are instantly granted the opportunity of a lifetime. Instead of focusing on having all that we can possibly desire, our focus shifts to having enough for the maintenance and enjoyment of life. Our reader is right that consuming too many resources can be as bad for you as consuming too many calories. Scientists tell us that maximum life extension is achieved on the lowest calorie diet. There may be an analogy here when it comes to wealth. Perhaps wealth, in the sense of optimal financial well-being, is also best achieved through the lowest consumption diet.
This possibility hints at why I think of wealth, properly understood, as instantly granting us the opportunity of a lifetime. We may already be wealthy, without even realizing it. We may already have more than enough. We may, in the twinkling of an eye, go from a sense of impoverishment and entitlement to a sense of abundance and gratitude. We may only have to tweak our appetite for spending and waste.
From this vantage point, I have known wealthy people at all rungs of the socio-economic ladder. And it’s such a joy to be around them. It shows when people feel blessed to be who they are, do what they do, and have what they have. They radiate an attractive energy that turns them into magnets for goodness and light. They always seem to have more than enough, both for themselves and for others.
I remember Oshie and Jack Clark, a mountaineer couple, married 62 years, who lived their entire lives in the hills of southeast Kentucky with no electricity, no plumbing, and no paycheck. They were wealthy people, aware of beauty and pleased to draw water from a natural spring that ran “clear as crystal.” They were always happy to share what little they had, never worrying about whether they’d have enough.
A few weeks before my wife and I were to be married, some 27 years ago, we asked Oshie to share with us the secret of a long and happy marriage. Oshie came over and gave us a big hug, tighter than you’d expect possible from this little bit of a woman, at which point she said, with a twinkle in her eye, “Never be jealous of one another.”
That wasn’t just the secret of a long and happy marriage. That was the secret of wealth, as we have come to understand and appreciate. There will always be people who have more or less than others. But if we can avoid being jealous, then we can accept them for who they are and enjoy being in their presence. There’s no reason to pump up or to put down. We can live and let live, sharing in many good things and times together.
I know another couple, with a far stronger balance sheet than Jack and Oshie Clark, including multiple properties, investments, and amusements. Contrary to those who would protect their possessions with a fortress mentality, this couple seeks to share their possessions from an abundance mentality. There’s nothing they enjoy more than entertaining guests, whether for a meal, a party, or an extended stay. Friends and family are encouraged to call and stop by, even on short notice. And, of course, they maintain a strong habit of philanthropy. They believe that good things come to those who give.
They too are wealthy people, but it’s not because of how much they have. It’s because of who they are, what they do, and how they carry themselves in the world. Their attitude of gratitude, rather than of arrogance or entitlement, is what makes them rich. They are “blessed to be a blessing,” to borrow a phrase, and that makes all the difference. They think of themselves as having more than enough, which enables them to both share generously and to attract profusely.
These are just two examples of what it means to be wealthy. They reflect the condition of optimal financial well-being, which derives not from a certain amount of liquid assets or investments but from a certain approach to life. When we focus on getting all we can get, we can never have more than enough. We can never be wealthy. But when we focus on being in the world as a gift to others, it won’t be long before we find ourselves rich beyond measure.
To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form on the Web for a complimentary coaching session.
Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob.
I saw a quote posted on the side of a church in my old neighborhood that I won’t ever forget. It was by Annie Dillard, and it read, “How you spend your days is, of course, how you spend your life.” Each day adds up to all the days. And Sheryl Crow now sings (though I’m pretty sure that she’s not the original author), “It’s not having what you want, it’s wanting what you have.”
I was wondering if there are any spots left in your April weekend retreat in Ohio. It would be a wonderful gift for my wife if the space might be available. (Ed. Note: The weekend has been rescheduled to November 21-23 and there are plenty of spaces available. Click for More Information.)
Thank you for your time in bringing this to me. I find that all that you have written is wonderful and needed!
As Paul Harvey often says, “You have hit the nail with your head.” I wish everyone could read this and understand it. God bless you and what you are doing.
Just a note to let you know I love the new format. Great job. Keep up the good work.
Hello, LifeTrek! I am one of your handheld subscribers. I absolutely love your information of inspiration, motivation, and wisdom. It’s quite uplifting. Thanks a lot!
May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC
LifeTrek Coaching International
121 Will Scarlet Lane
Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043