Is money really the root of all evil? It might be if we’re living life thinking it’s the root of all happiness.
That’s what came to mind after recently bumping into an old friend—let’s call him Kevin—who moved back to our hometown following a midlife crisis over money. Kevin’s story goes something like this:
Having had a fascination with numbers since he was a kid, Kevin eventually turned this into a skill that proved beneficial throughout his education and later on in the workforce. Though we all need cash to pay the rent, buy groceries, and support a family, Kevin eventually bought into the philosophy that money was the means to a more enriching lifestyle and took this way of thinking to a whole new level. After some bad advice—and still more bad advice—the bills for the car, memberships, subscriptions, and other expenses accumulated, until he was hoping for nothing more than a pot of gold to fall into his lap! The situation got so bad he decided to pay off all his debts, left the city he was in, and moved back home to start brand new.
“Money isn’t evil,” Kevin said as we were sitting in a coffee shop one day. “It’s like many things in the world that need to be dealt with in moderation. And like all those things, if we’re living life thinking it’s the root of all happiness, then there’s a problem.”
While Kevin is slowly starting to get back on his feet again, his story got me thinking about my own life and how what many of us are truly seeking when we’re focused on making money are the freedoms we associate with every new bill stuffed in our pocket. What do I mean?
We sometimes perceive a bigger cash flow as providing special freedoms and immunity to many of life’s pressures, such as debt and emotional stress, but this is rarely the case. The people we consider rich have many of the same problems as us, and even if they don’t, they have different ones that money can’t solve. It’s important to realize money is not the ultimate answer to freedom and that there are other paths towards enriching life and gaining fulfillment without all the riches.
There are three things in particular that have had tremendous positive influence on my daily flow and outlook, as follows:
Looking around your living space, take note of some of the rarely used or untouched items that ‘close in’ your home rather than open it up. Clutter can be a killer of creativity because instead of day to day life feeling light, we’re weighed down in our pursuit of trying to move forward and follow our dreams.
The answer, however, isn’t a bigger home or even putting it all in storage, but saying goodbye to as much of it as possible. The keyword here is downsize, and I’m not talking about parting with your favorite sweaters, stamp collection, or grandmother’s pearls and diamonds, but the piles of clothing you wear once in a blue moon, old school papers sitting in a box in the attic, and all those books on the shelves that have little significance for you at this point in life.
Downsizing not only renews our living space, but releases us from worrying about things like constantly cleaning everything up, figuring out what to do with it all in case there’s a need to move, or how to let others into our personal domain without feeling self-conscious.
It could take a few Sunday afternoons or more to sort through it all, but when you’re finished it will be an entirely new sense of freedom.
Live a minimalist lifestyle
Downsizing is one thing, living a minimalist lifestyle is something else because it helps slow the re-accumulation of stuff. Living a ‘less is more’ mindset also instills a revolutionary feeling that whether money is available or not, a person can still survive on very little and lead an enriching life.
That being the case, if you’re used to stocking up the cupboards or getting things in bulk when they are on sale, try taking a minimalist approach and reject the temptation for all the extras. This can be particularly hard for someone like me who loves a good bargain, but when considering a purchase ask yourself if it’s just about the great price and whether or not the item is truly necessary.
As for all other possessions and new things that may find their way into your home, do an annual ‘checking in’; putting everything in one of two categories, such as sentimental and non-sentimental. Try as hard as possible to let go of the latter, and since this is a process, don’t get down on yourself when making hard or surprising decisions. Less will be more.
Finally, having found a major part of enriching life being the letting go of things and living more simply, another side is taking care of and respecting one’s self so all the newfound freedoms that come with greater flexibility can be put to good use.
This may mean putting up certain boundaries like not staying out too late, or scheduling time for work and play so neither takes precedence over the other and we don’t stray too much off course.
It also includes doing things like eating well, exercising, getting back in touch with old friends and positive influences from the past, and improving current relationships.
The goal should be to live an overall healthier lifestyle because when looking back over the years you’ll want to know two important things:
- That you made the most of what you had, happy with your lot.
- That you’re healthy enough to carry on and enjoy the rest of your time.
If you can manage that, all the money in the world wouldn’t change the feeling of satisfaction.