Many people think of wealth as being free to never work again, if that’s what they want to do. But this idea reflects an unhappy understanding of both wealth and work. True wealth is not about having so much that we never have to work again; it’s about having the courage to accept work as an opportunity for self-expression, learning, and enjoyment.
Last weekend I had the pleasure of traveling to New Jersey in order to go on a 20-mile “walkabout” with one of my clients. The walk celebrated his birthday and the accomplishment of other significant milestones. Over the course of more than five hours, we enjoyed the sites and sounds of the New Jersey wilderness (yes, there really is some left) around Lake Valhalla • barely 30 miles from New York City. The time away from the media, in perfect “walkabout” weather, was a welcome relief from the stress and strains of war.
The time was also a welcome opportunity to converse at a leisurely pace about a wide range of topics, including the focus of my new book, “Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise: Coaching and Profound Provisions for the Trek of Life.” At one point my client observed, “Financial planners talk about the principles of a sound wealth portfolio in terms of investments, debt, risk and return. It seems your book will explore those principles, along with the principles of a sound health portfolio, in order to enhance the performance of both.”
Bingo! I could not have said it better myself. The book will make a unique contribution to our understanding of health and wealth by weaving them together in a cross-disciplinary exploration of the two portfolios. As a braided cord is stronger than any one strand, so will our understanding of health and wealth increase and deepen by considering them together rather than in isolation. That wisdom impacts the approach and conclusions of my research and reflects the orientation of our work through LifeTrek Coaching International.
Those who have been reading Provisions since the start of the year will know that we began our exploration of these subjects by articulating the principles of a sound health portfolio. This led to a redefinition of wealth in terms of optimum financial well-being instead of excess financial resources. If disease is to health as poverty is to wealth, then wealth has to take on completely new overtones from the ones most commonly used in the media and popular culture. Just as excess calories undermine health, so do excess resources undermine wealth.
One perceptive reader of LifeTrek Provisions took note of this discussion and pointed me in the direction of “Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic,” a relatively new book which grew out of a Public Broadcasting Series by the same name. He wrote that my treatment of wealth was using different language to make much the same point.
In this challenging and thought-provoking book, “affluenza” is defined by the authors as “a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety, and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more.” In their chapter on “the stress of excess,” they describe how the never-ending pursuit of more takes a toll on our quality of life. It results in possession overload, time famine, and a harried existence that robs us of our ability to care for ourselves and others. It stresses our relationships and our health as we try to keep up with the ever-changing picture and demands of “the good life.”
If that’s what it means to be wealthy, then wealthy is no way to be. Who wants to live like that! Unfortunately, most of us live this way whether we want to our not. We have been seduced by the sirens of excess, which will sink our ships today just as surely as in generations past.
This can be seen clearly when we look at our relationship to the world of work. What does “work” mean to you? Most people think of it as an exchange of time for money. We give up our precious time, time that we would probably choose to spend in a very different way if we could, because of the money that our expenditure of time generates. The more money it generates, the more time we are willing to sacrifice to the cause.
From this vantage point, it’s easy to see why the pursuit of wealth • understood in terms of excess financial resources • has such devastating impacts on our health and well-being. The more we want, the more money we require, and the less time we have for anything else. We sacrifice sleep, exercise, nutrition, and healthy daily habits as well as our relationships in pursuit of money and the things money can buy. We push ourselves to the limit, and beyond, until the ship crashes and sinks through illness, disease, depression and death.
Fortunately, there is another way. The pursuit of wealth • understood in terms of optimum financial well-being • puts us on a very different course. It is, I believe, the course described by Tim Gallwey in his excellent book, “The Inner Game of Work.” “I have embarked on a quest to work free,” Gallwey writes at the outset of his book. I do not want to be bound by “the chains of fear and external pressures.” I want “to accept work as an opportunity for making a meaningful contribution while receiving in return learning, satisfaction, and financial compensation.”
Do you sense the freedom in Gallwey’s definition of work? Work is apparently something he accepts • or not • based on whether or not it affords him the opportunity to make a meaningful contribution, to learn, and to enjoy himself. The issue of financial compensation comes last, almost as an afterthought. Indeed, Gallwey notes there are times when “the intrinsic benefits of work can absolve the need for financial gain.” In other words, when work becomes it’s own reward.
I submit that this understanding of work requires an understanding of wealth in terms of optimum financial well-being. Instead of being driven to make as much money as possible, Gallwey is driven to make as much of a contribution as possible and he trusts that the money will follow.
That’s what it means to be truly wealthy. Instead of having so many resources that they never have to work again, truly wealthy people have learned how to trust the process and to be content in any circumstance as long as they can use their gifts to make a contribution to the world, to grow as human beings, and to take pleasure in their days.
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.
I was just referred to your website by a good friend. I like very much what I saw and what I read in the referenced Provision. It is nice to read from one who’s ideas about wealth and the relationship between the individual and our country’s international politics make sense and connect with the wisdoms of spiritual leaders across time. I know I will be pleased with my subscription and look forward to being involved in your financial group (for which I have also just requested additional information and registration materials).
Just a line to tell you how much I value LifeTrek. Having been in some of your classes at Coach U, I know you to be quick and smart. Having been one of your subscribers for years, I know you to be thoughtful and generous in your thinking. Combined as those attributes are in your letters, they offer food for the soul, exercise for the mind, and good nutrition for being positively human. Thanks.
Check out NPR’s The Connection: Money Can Buy Happiness, Click, a radio show about what really makes people happy. A few other thoughts: I remember a study (touched on in the NPR program) about people’s choice given the following options: 10 widgets when others have 13 widgets, or 5 widgets when others have 3 widgets. Most people choose the latter • fewer overall but more than their neighbors. Another thought is Dale Carnegie’s idea that people are happy by what they think about, not what they do or have or are.
This war is not about oil. It is about the cruel treatment of the people.
May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
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