Here’s what I’m thinking: continue with yesterday’s stream because there’s a whole lot more to say on this issue of money and happiness.
So, I left off posing the question, is happiness a pipe dream? I’m going to hedge here and say ‘maybe’. Really, it depends on you. It depends on whether or not you understand that money is a tool meant to serve you, not an object to which you become a servant.
If you are a servant to money, if your wants are insatiable, then the best that consumption may provide is fleeting fulfillment. Backing me up on this is Michael Argyle, Oxford University psychologist, who claims that it isn’t possible for consumer society to deliver on a promise of fulfillment through material comforts. Argyle states that, “… lasting sources of happiness are to be found in social relations, work and leisure.”
But, but, but … if money and the material comforts it brings are not fulfilling, then why do endorphins fire on all cylinders when we buy that new pair of shoes, exotic cotton sheets with the ever higher thread count, shiny bar-b-q that costs more than a small car, new set of power tools even though the old ones work just fine … and on and on?
Because we’re on this crazy kind of illusory running wheel; one that repeatedly deludes us into believing satisfaction is gained through acquisition and consumption. And if we don’t have the means to acquire whatever we want, or if we don’t buy what the crowd tells us to buy, then we are unworthy.
Jump Off the Wheel
Some of us adopt this way of thinking, this perspective. Thinking that net worth equals self-worth. And it’s harmful. To our self, to the people we love, to the community at large. Fact is, net worth is nothing more than an external measure of your monetary asset balance. Self-worth, however, is an internal measure of how you feel about yourself. While self-worth may help to build your net worth, it doesn’t work the other way around.
I will say that it’s understandable how the line between self-worth and net worth may become blurred. I mean, take a look around. Most of us live in a place where we’re surrounded, and at times intoxicated, by 24/7 self-promoting media trumpeting business/entertainment headlines where value is by and large measured by dollars earned and account balance size. If we’re not sufficiently grounded, the toxic nonsense may take root without our even noticing.
Perspective is Reality
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying money isn’t important. It is. Money allows us to care for our needs, live a certain lifestyle and, yes, satisfy our wants. But keeping the role of money in perspective is equally important to our whole well-being.
Consider Tom Shadyac, Hollywood director. Around age 50, he takes a nasty spill on his bicycle and suffers severe injuries. During the healing process, Shadyac wakes up to what matters to him. He sells his 17,000 square foot home, gives away millions of dollars, and moves into a trailer park. A trailer park? Did he suffer a brain injury that wrecked his judgment? Um, no. Instead, his injuries clarified his judgment, his perspective. In an interview, Shadyac said, “I’m much happier in this little place than I’ve ever been in all my fancy houses. I definitely was not as happy as I am now.”
I’m guessing Shadyac understands that money should not be given the power to make you feel good or bad, happy or sad, success or failure; that human value cannot be measured by the concept of money; that our worth is determined by our kindness, generosity, compassion, morality, patience, honesty, integrity, industriousness and energy. And I’ll go out on a limb here and say that Shadyac even has some BuddhaMoney in him.
If we’re talking money, if the purpose of this blog is everything you always wanted to know about money, and your relationship with money, but were afraid to ask, then what’s with Buddha?
Well, first off, have you seen his smile? Talk about lighting up a room! I figure that some guy formerly known as Siddhartha (meaning: ‘he who achieves his aim’) Gautama who voluntarily exchanged a life of luxury (he was a prince, born into a royal family, so the story goes) for that of an ascetic; who encouraged a path of balance rather than extremism (‘The Middle Way’); and who welcomed everyone (regardless of class, race, gender, religion, culture or other background) to reach enlightenment (through banishing suffering and spiritual emptiness), well, he knows a few things.
Okay, flippancy aside, The Buddha was about sharing knowledge and I think he would be okay with me relying on some of his teachings now and then to better inform myself, and you, about navigating the world of money. That said, and this is really excellent, he didn’t want to be followed. That’s right, he wasn’t looking for disciples, believing instead that no one should follow a leader. Empower your self. That’s the message. I love that. And this is what I will try to do for you through BuddhaMoney, empower you to manage your money and your relationship with money in ways that work best for you.