What is wealth? I find myself asking this question over and over. Is it gaining more money? Is it getting more things? Is it having a nice house? Perhaps it’s a little bit of this and a little bit of that but I don’t think any of these things totally encompass what true wealth is.
As I write this it is midnight and I’m sitting in a hot tub in the middle of nowhere, literally a half hour from any civilization. My wife and I rented a small cabin on a remote late, my kids are finally asleep in bed, and I’m staring up at the beautiful stars. We don’t see stars like this where I’m from…it’s truly amazing to see.
At this very moment I feel like the richest person alive. I honestly don’t feel like an extra thousand dollars, hundred thousand dollars, or a million in my bank account would make me feel any happier, more complete, or richer than I feel at this very moment.
It’s strikes me as ironic that the very things that we chase in life (jobs, cars, retirement) isn’t at all the things that really make us feel fulfilled, successful or wealthy. Sometimes, it’s the small things in life that make the difference. It’s the peace and quiet. It’s being alone in the wilderness. It’s gazing up at a sky full of stars. It’s having the kids finally passed out from exhaustion.
I’m not really sure why we humans chase shiny things so much. Some people say that money buys happiness. But does it really? The cabin we are staying in was relatively inexpensive and quite frankly I could have spent five or ten times as much and not been any happier.
So does money really buy happiness?
I think that it can definitely help in certain circumstances. For example, if you are living in extreme poverty, as many people I met on a recent trip to Ethiopia are, adding some money certainly will add some happiness to your life. But for most people, at least ones that live in developing countries, we already have enough. I guess the real problem is that we don’t know how to really enjoy it. We don’t know how to experience real happiness, real joy, and real riches.
So here are a few thoughts and a few tips on how to live a rich and wealthy life without needing any more money than you already have.
1. Spend time with the people you love.
I guess this could seem overly obvious but sometimes we overlook the simple things. It is true that you can be in the most beautiful place in the world and still feel spiritually and socially poor. However, you can be in the middle of a desert with those that you love and feel wealthy, fulfilled and happy.
I heard a story about a magazine that had a contest to find the quickest cross-country route. Many people submitted various combinations of directions that would supposedly take you across the United States the fastest. The person that eventually won had only written two words: Good Company.
It really doesn’t matter where you go as long as you are doing it with someone you enjoy being around.
2. Learn how to relax.
This is a really difficult thing for me. I’m not really sure why, but it is. I’m the kind of person that feels like I always need to be on the go, or doing something, in order to feel fulfilled. But it can be like chasing a mirage because you never get to relax, you never feel fulfilled, and you certainly never feel rich.
Sometimes we just need to sit back and enjoy the simple things in life, like being near water, sitting in a hot tub, staring at the stars, going for a long walk in the woods, or doing something that you truly love.
What relaxes you? When is the last time you have taken a deep breath and just enjoyed life?
3. Borrow don’t buy.
It always amazes me at the things that we try to buy in life. We try to accumulate all sorts of toys and gadgets like homes and vehicles. For what reason? Just to impress someone or keep up with the neighbors?
At this very moment I have at my disposal multitudes of beautiful vacation homes in the most beautiful and exotic places in the world yet I don’t own any of them. That certainly doesn’t mean that I won’t choose to buy a vacation home someday, but at the moment I can enjoy these beautiful locations for just a fraction of the price, by borrowing them.
I thought about buying a couple of kayaks a few years ago, but then I realized that I would probably only use it a couple of times a year. I decided that instead of buying them I could just spend a few dollars to rent one. Now I can use it whenever I want, but without having to own it. I don’t have to store it. I don’t need to have life-jackets, paddles and all the accessories that go along with it. Plus when I rent one I can get the most current kayak on the market.
So by borrowing and not owning, I’m able to live a rich lifestyle without spending all the money. Sure, I don’t have all the toys in my possession but I get to enjoy them just as much as if I did.
Certainly there are things that you may want to own over time, but it might be a better idea to try it out first before you drop all the money on something that’s gonna rot away in your backyard. Maybe it’s a good idea to try renting a home for a few weeks in a place that you think you might like before dropping all the money on a place that maybe you will rarely use.
4. What do you want to own vs. What do you want to do.
Many times we spend our currency to get things. We hoard. We collect. We clutter. But do we enjoy those things? Not usually. I love watching American Pickers and see them wade through people’s junk looking for treasure. They will find these old rusty antiques and the owner is reluctant to sell it even though they haven’t used it in years and they probably never will.
Wouldn’t it be better to chase memories instead of chasing things? I would guess that most of our happiest memories are not ones where we got some new toy but when we created a lasting memory doing something exciting, daring or relaxing with someone we enjoyed being with.
The great thing is that these things often don’t cost very much! How much would it cost to make a picnic lunch and spend the day by the water? How much would it cost to go skydiving? How much does it cost to climb to the top of the highest mountain in your area?
Instead of having a new toy that will soon lose it’s “new” appeal you will have memories and photos that will last a lifetime. No one on their deathbed says that they wish they bought more things.
5. Redefine Enough.
I have known many people over the years that have lots of money but are not rich. They do not enjoy life. Their families are a mess. They are not fulfilled. It’s sad because they continue to strive for more even though what they have doesn’t make them happy.
These individuals have riches just as we say we “have a fever,” when really the fever has us. – Seneca (4 B.C. – A.D. 65)
It has been said that someone asked John D. Rockefeller how much money is enough. To that he replied, “Just a little bit more.” I don’t know if he really said that or not, but surely there are millions, if not billions, of people in the world that reflect that mentality.
Instead, we need to learn to be content with what we have. In Philippians 4:12 the Apostle Paul says that he learned the secret to contentment, happiness and ultimately wealth. What is this secret? He learned to be content with a little or with much.
Instead of continually trying to get more and more in life ask yourself this question: How can I feel rich and fulfilled now, without adding a penny to my net worth? This may not be an easy question to answer because most of us have so many years of negative programming built into us.
If you look at it long enough you may find that spending the evening painting the sun setting over a lake makes you feel richer than any new car would ever make you feel. You may discover that walking a well-worn path in the woods makes you feel more fulfilled than any promotion at work. As a result you may realize that you already have more than enough to be truly rich.