What does happiness and life beyond money look like to you? Have you really ever considered it? Do you believe there will be a time in your life when you will rarely think about money?
Life beyond money starts with the idea that you must, at some point, stop worrying and thinking about money. In order to do that you need to get specific about how much you have and how much you need. Figuring out how much you have isn’t usually a problem. The confusion comes with figuring out how much you need. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; assuming the goal is to be happy, it’s probably much less than you think. Many, many people have enough already, but don’t realize it and suffer with unhappiness as a result.
Getting comfortable with the idea that you really don’t need much money to be happy isn’t something that comes instantly, or perhaps easily. It takes some reflection and some adjustments to your thinking.
Via cultural conditioning, we’ve come to have certain expectations about what material things are reasonable to expect in life. Cars, homes, watches, phones, closets brimming with clothes, and shoes, TV’s and cablevision, plenty of furniture, lots of books, loads of tools, computers, art, exercise and sports equipment, stereos, music, jewelry, and toys for the kids. The list is almost endless.
If this doesn’t put enough pressure on you to earn loads of money, reflect for a moment on the words of Victor Lebow:
“Our enormously productive economy demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfactions, our ego satisfactions, in consumption. The measure of social status, of social acceptance, of prestige, is now to be found in our consumptive patterns. The very meaning and significance of our lives today expressed in consumptive terms. The greater the pressures upon the individual to conform to safe and accepted social standards, the more does he tend to express his aspirations and his individuality in terms of what he wears, drives, eats, his home, his car, his pattern of food serving, his hobbies”.
-Victor Lebow, 20th century economist
Chilling. Not how I want to live.
If you choose to accept societies typical viewpoint as your way of life, that is up to you, but I’ve come to believe there’s a better way.
What if you got up every morning and just did what you wanted to do. No job. No overwhelming financial obligations to meet. You just enjoyed the day.
You can do this. But you need to shake the idea that everything depends on having lots and lots of money. You need to accept that happiness doesn’t depend on a huge bank account. (Someday I’ll write an article about one of the happiest and most contented people I’ve ever known. He lives in a park.) I know this seems hard, but it really is possible. First you have to begin. Let me suggest how you do that.
First, and critically, don’t try to do it overnight. Change happens gradually over time. As I advocate with many things, like becoming healthier and accumulating sufficient financial resources, slow and steady wins the race. Attempts at instant gratifications are nearly always doomed to failure.
Action Step: Start by getting rid of something. Just one thing. Do it today. Do it again tomorrow. Make it a habit.
(By the way, I can’t recommend enough that you use the habit methods of Leo Babauta at Zen Habits. I highly recommend you support Leo by purchasing his books and courses. He is a unique and authentic individual. We need more like him.)
Getting rid of stuff is an interesting process. It brings with it so many good side effects that you can’t begin to appreciate until you’ve experienced it. I’ll talk in great detail about this process over time in other articles, but today I want to briefly point out one of those side effects, that will contribute to the happiness and decreasing dependency on money that we all seek.
As we begin to get rid of excess stuff, many of us find an interesting phenomenon occurs. We start buying less. Shopping gradually becomes less appealing. Naturally, this results in a lot of good things happening, but one of them is that our expenses go down and our disposable income goes up. Yes, I know. “What is disposable income.” It’s something you get when you shop less.
First steps. Just start with that. We’ll talk more. If greater happiness is what you seek, then you’re looking for a life beyond money. I’m on this journey and I like it. A lot. Join me.
So get up now. And go get rid of something…