The following is a guest post from Brian at Get Money, Got Money.
Money and happiness are funny things. Two abstract ideas, one of which we spend most of our life chasing, while ignoring the other. Many times we pick one to focus on because it’s impossible to envision a scenario in which we have both. You’re either rich or your happy, with no ground in between.
We live in a world of dangerous consumerism and overabundance that we take advantage of to artificially fill the voids in our lives. If we can’t earn first place, we buy it. If we feel lonely we manifest friends through the people we see on tv and listen to on the radio. In a society where anything you could ever want is just a click away, we have become accustomed to taking the easy way out.
For the Love of Money
Money, next to sex, is one of the most powerful forces on Earth. The influence it has on people and its ability to change the lives of anyone it touches is nothing short of miraculous. Where people get things wrong is when they start to equate money with being happy. It’s been said millions of times before, but no amount of money can buy you your happiness. Happiness is a fundamental, intrinsic attitude. Money is an object, and a made up one at that. Saying money can make you happy is like saying that owning a Bentley can cure cancer. It’s a bunch of bullshit.
What money can do however is unlock options that may not have been available before.
Autonomy, Connectedness, and Fulfillment
Fundamentally, there are three things we need to make us happy: autonomy, connectedness, and fulfillment. If we have an abundance of those three things in our lives, happiness will be available in spades. And at that point the rest of our problems tend to take care of themselves, or they now appear so insignificant they’re not worth worrying about at all. How do we get there? Well ironically enough, having a couple bucks isn’t a bad place to start.
Money can be detrimental to our overall well being when our understanding of it becomes distorted. We get short euphoric moments after a big purchase or see the material things around us as security blankets. We are later disappointed by them so we go out and repeat the process again and again. The good moments where we made the purchase or drove the new car for the first time become ingrained in our head and we get addicted to the dopamine rush it brings us, so we seek more never realizing what is truly important. But, when money comes easy and we focus on the things that actually matter our lives can improve dramatically.
Let’s imagine just for a moment a world where you had an unlimited supply of money. What would you do?
Well for one, you probably wouldn’t be working at your same job. If you worked at all, you’d be doing something that you are truly passionate and care about. Maybe that’s painting, or taking care of kids, or rescuing animals. And what if you hated the boss you had for that job? You’d probably just quit and either do it on your own or work for someone else, right? And who would you choose to associate with? You don’t really have to spend all your time working so you’d probably be inclined to spend more time with friends, or neighbors, or the family that you love.
Image Credit: Joshua Earle | Unsplash
That world right there hits on the big three. You have the freedom to be where you want when you want (autonomy), the fulfillment from doing work that means something to you, and the connectedness to the people you cherish the most. To me, that sounds like a utopia. The only thing stopping it is that not all of us have the unlimited money. But, what if we did?
The thing about money is that when you really think about it, it’s one of the easiest concepts in the world to understand and master. In order to get rich all you need to do is spend less than you earn. The part you save, you should invest. That’s all there is to it. But I think people don’t realize the options that they would have available to them if they bothered to save. They spend all of what they have now because they can or they just don’t see the use of waiting for the future. We also have a mental budget in mind based on our current income and we naturally tend to fill that budget in its entirety. So even if we don’t need a fancier car, we go out and get it because it makes us look cool and if we have the extra space in the budget, why not? In turn, we don’t save enough and never give ourselves the chance to live in that perfect world.
But if we just decided to make a few small changes that don’t drastically affect our lives, like purchasing a smaller house or biking to work instead of driving, we suddenly end up with a couple bucks at the end of every month. Ten years later, not having to worry about money is a lot closer than you could have imagined. And when you turn to your 6 year old kid who wants to have a catch in the backyard, you feel the overwhelming sense of being truly happy and that perfect world falling into place.