Want to know how you can be wealthy in an instant? It starts the minute you choose to have more than enough. It doesn’t matter how much you actually have; what matters is your relationship to how much you actually have. Deciding that you have more than enough to spend, save, and share is not just a mind game. It’s the secret of wealth itself.
Finally, I want to summarize the territory we’ve covered in the past two weeks and acknowledge some of the many long and thoughtful replies to last week’s issue.
Two weeks ago, we shifted our focus from health to wealth. In so doing, our reader replies increased dramatically. Perhaps that’s because wealth is a much more touchy and controversial subject than health. Whereas health can be studied in clinically controlled, double-blind tests, producing a scientifically validated conclusion, most people are unwilling to be guinea pigs when it comes to their money. In addition, there’s a genuine difference of opinion when it comes to the value of wealth in the first place. Hardly anyone, however, argues with the value of health.
For better or for worse, I have accepted wealth, properly understood, as a positive good. This is, no doubt, self-serving. As an American, I am a wealthy world-citizen by any definition of the word. Instead of rejecting this reality, I have chosen to accept and make the best of it. The rich and poor we may always have with us, but that does not mean we must always suffer from injustice and oppression. There really is a better way.
My approach starts with defining wealth as optimal financial well-being rather than as excess financial resources. There are many problems with defining wealth in terms of excess resources, not the least of which is the inability to ever have enough. By definition, excess (“an amount or quantity beyond what is considered normal or sufficient”) has no limits. If that’s what it means to be wealthy, then wealth is indeed a dangerous pursuit. It interferes with happiness and is not healthy for the well-being of our planet.
Unfortunately, our culture thinks of wealth in just these terms. Personal consumption now accounts for about 70 percent of America’s gross national product and 80 percent of its jobs. We no longer make things; we buy things. We no longer save things; we use things. And the vast majority of us can never get enough. There’s always something new and different to get our hands on.
Perhaps that’s why one reader cautions that “our wealth is destroying us. As a nation,” he writes, “we would be much better off without it. A recent issue of the Atlantic Monthly reports a study in which the countries of the world are ranked on a ‘happiness index.’ Many of the happiest countries are quite poor. Wealthy countries, such as the US, were not at the bottom (eastern Europe was) but they weren’t as happy as countries in Central America, for example. Just some thoughts.”
That’s what happens when we define wealth in terms of excess resources: it’s impossible to ever have a satisfied mind. It’s also impossible to ever have a sound economy. Without production, the only way to get more and more is to go deeper and deeper in debt. And that’s exactly what has happened, as America has gone from being the largest creditor to the largest debtor nation in the world. There’s no way for that to continue indefinitely; a day of reckoning will come and it may be quite painful.
That’s why I commented last week on those who critique the war in Iraq as nothing but a blatant grab for oil. My point was not to agree or disagree with the critique, but to recognize how the critique follows from understanding wealth in terms of excess. Two readers took umbrage with my even mentioning this critique. One wrote that America is not fighting in Iraq “to take their assets or occupy their country.” It’s fighting to make sure those assets don’t benefit an “evil regime,” which oppresses and suppresses its people. From this reader’s vantage point, the war in Iraq “is about sharing our wealth, not taking theirs to be our own.”
Time will tell as to how much fair trade and liberation stem from the war in Iraq. Virtually no one disagrees that the Iraqi regime, along with many others in the world, has committed great atrocities against its people. For our purposes here, however, we consider the critique because of its intrinsic connection to the perception that the appetite of America cannot be restrained and will do whatever it takes to make sure it has a nonstop supply of goods and services to consume.
Do you see how our motives for this war become suspect against the backdrop of a consumer society? That, on a macro level, is why I think it’s time to redefine and redeem wealth in terms of optimal financial well-being. We cannot be the leader of the free world in both democracy and debt. One will always compromise the other.
Fortunately, it’s not impossible to make a change. And just as fortunately, the change can take place at the micro level in order to shift the macro level. We don’t have to wait for new political or economic policies. We can make the shift in ourselves and start living from a very different place. To paraphrase a slogan from the 1960s, “we must learn to live more simply, so we can simply live.”
That’s why I called redefining wealth in terms of “optimal financial well-being” the opportunity of a lifetime. We become wealthy the instant we get the distinction. It’s the only authentic “get-rich-quick” scheme. As soon as we decide that we have more than enough, we become wealthy regardless of the bottom line on our balance sheet. Wealthy people know they have more than enough to live on, to save, and to share with others, regardless of how much they actually have.
So a reader from the United Arab Emirates wrote last week about his career change and his desire to “go out of the comfort zone, to select an area where I could be happier, and to make more money.” This decision “brought certain discomforts” until he was able to “change my jealous and petty mind” and “assume responsibility for whatever I am today.”
This is one way to describe the shift I recommend and work with when it comes to wealth. Instead of just trying to “make more money” (excess financial resources), I encourage people to set aside their “jealous and petty mind” in order to embrace whatever they are today as being more than enough (optimal financial resources).
Notice the subtle language distinction in our reader’s reply around embracing “whatever I am today.” As Kate indicates in this week’s Career Pathway, Go There, it’s in the “being” part of life • not the “doing” or the “having” • that we discover the essence of what it means to have more than enough. Having optimal financial resources is a point of view which comes from within and which, ironically enough, becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy from without. The more we think of ourselves as being wealthy, the more wealth we attract. No wonder the rich become richer! They’re on to something that everyone desires.
So another reader from New Zealand, having caught on to this distinction, writes that he feels as though “the fire of desire (for an extraordinary life) has been truly relit,” generating “encouragement, comfort, and changes in my action plan for life.” This reader has discovered for himself what Nelson Mandela captures in his observation that, “there is no passion to be found in playing small • in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”
That is what wealth, in terms of optimal financial resources, is all about: being passionate about who you are and what you have to share with the world. It starts with a sense of giftedness. Or, as David Whyte writes, with the recognition that “we are not troubled guests on this earth, that we are not accidents amidst other accidents,” but rather that we are “invited here from another and greater night than the one from which we emerge” each morning. It moves on to a sense of stewardship, as we take those gifts and share them with the world.
I hope this doesn’t sound too esoteric or removed from the hard-core economic realities of life. In my experience they are intrinsically and inextricably intertwined. When we know, in our being, that who we are is sufficient in plenty and in want, everything else follows suit. We suddenly lose all need to dominate and control, and we’re certainly no longer content to simply share a little bit more with those who are “less fortunate than ourselves.”
Once we embrace being wealthy, properly understood, we become the energy centers and catalysts for a new way of being in the world. Instead of looking out for number one, we look out for one and all. We act from the position that everyone can have more than enough, because we approach wealth from the energetic level of abundance rather than the economic level of scarcity.
This approach keeps wealth from leading to greedy passion, environmental exploitation, and war. Instead, it promotes the vision of a peaceable realm where all God’s children wear those dancing shoes. I hope you will join me in this exploration of healthy wealth over the next several months. Hopefully we can stay on top of our newsletter distribution problems so that all our readers can participate actively in the conversation.
LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)
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.
Your last Provision generated good thought and reassures the mind that it’s not wealth alone that rules this world. Being wealthy in terms of luxury cars, apartments or even real estate is not the indicator. They can come and go in our lives. We have so many examples of it. In a moment our life can change from luxury to disaster. However the mind and attitude can survive the worst of situations. A person with the right attitude and state of mind that expresses gratitude for whatever he or she has can be said to be wealthy. Being jealous and complaining of your circumstances can only drive away wealth. It all start with your state of mind or feeling of abundance.
I have recently picked up a classic book by Zig Ziglar, which I last read about 17 years ago, ” See You At The”, and am receiving great encouragement and comfort from the words of one who, like yourself, truly practice what he preaches. To paraphrase both Ziglar and your last Provision, “You can have enough of what you want and need in life for an optimal lifestyle, if you help enough other people to get enough of what they want and need to enable them to live an optimal lifestyle.” Thanks for the encouragement.
No sooner do I re-subscribe to your weekly musings than you leap back into the murky world of wealth, money and personal finances. This time I plan to stick with you • I am optimistic that your messages will expose the futility and destructiveness of an acquisitive lifestyle. Thanks for your insightful work.
Thanks for recalling Jack and Oshie Clark in your last Provision. As a matter of fact, Jack was a retired railroad worker, so they got a railroad pension check — though I don’t imagine it amounted to much.
May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
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