Contentment & Letting Go

For me to find true wealth I needed to give up some things:

  • I gave up a very secure job with great pay.
  • I gave up excess clothing.
  • I gave up saying yes to everything my parents or friends were getting rid of and offered to me.
  • I gave up my entire 2000 + CD collection, once my pride and joy.

Now I am giving up most of my musical instruments and recording equipment which has been sitting around collecting dust, taking up room, and hardly ever used.  In a sense I am giving up a dream as well.

However, I am of the firm belief that dreams can be reborn if they are meant to be.  Sometimes we have to clear away our past attempts to force our dreams to happen, and start back again with the simple dream. This is part of the path to contentment.

Contentment is partly about being able to let go of everything and partly finding joy in what you have. Holding everything you have loosely, but not carelessly, and letting go of what does not add joy.

If we hold on too tightly we risk loosing ourselves in the thing we are holding onto whether it be a house, a car, or a relationship. We also run the risk of losing the very thing we are trying so hard to hold onto, or losing everything else in our obsession with this one thing.

In relationships we run the risk of driving the other person away.

If we hold things carelessly, we do not assign proper value to them.  In this case we run the risk of losing them to neglect, or being weighed down by what we cannot get rid of because its value to anyone else has decreased due to our neglect.  In the case of a house, boat or car, we purchase it at a certain value, don’t take proper care of it, its value drops and we find ourselves stuck with an eyesore that now we owe more on than people are willing to pay.

If we hold relationships carelessly they will disappear, leaving holes in our lives that we try to fill with other relationships and other things. Continuing in this pattern we spiral downward into a state of despair.

But it doesn’t have to be that way, and there are ways to recover our sense of contentment, through setting boundaries in relationships, decluttering or tidying our homes, turning off the incessant voices that tell us what we need, need, need in order to be something better, and carving out time for stillness and silence every day.

Sometimes I find contentment in simply being alive.

“Be content with what you have;
rejoice in the way things are.
When you realize there is nothing lacking,
the whole world belongs to you.”
― Lao Tzu

How Do YOU Define Wealth?

As we have seen over the past few months, wealth can be defined in many ways.  Unfortunately, if we are not consciously grappling with what wealth means for ourselves, most of us take the path of least resistance and define wealth on the basis of how much money someone has.

  • A billionaire is wealthy.
  • A trust fund kid’s parents are wealthy.
  • Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are wealthy.
  • Our neighbor with the shiny new BMW must be wealthy.

And we are generally correct from the standpoint of money or assets. Except when we are fooled by appearances.

People can look wealthy and actually be quite poor (the BMW is leased and the payments are so high that he or she is living in an apartment with no furniture and eating rice and beans or tuna from a can), while others may appear to be poor or just average, and actually be quite wealthy (your neighbor who owns a landscape company and always buys used cars and lives in a modest but nice home might be sitting on a nest egg that would blow your mind).

Most of us want to be wealthy, which is not a bad thing to want, but we tend to focus only on the financial aspect, so much so that we often try to “fake it ’til we make it,” or sacrifice other areas of wealth in the pursuit of this one.

How else can we define wealth?

Would you consider the Dali Lama to be wealthy? In a spiritual sense I would think him extraordinarily wealthy. He is also much happier than many who are financially wealthy.  Our spiritual wealth is just as important as our financial wealth.

What about relationships? Strong bonds between friends and partners are worth more than gold, and as Proverbs says, the right spouse or partner is more valuable than rubies.  Like financial wealth, relationships take work and are built over time.  They can also be lost in an instant when we make poor choices.  Sadly we tend to discount the true wealth of our relationships as we pursue the incomplete image we have of wealth.

Are you taking care of yourself, your body?  Are you making healthy choices for yourself regardless of your actual state of health?  Someone fighting to survive a long term health issue might see someone who is poor but in great health, as wealthy, or they might actually consider themselves more wealthy because of the challenges they have had to overcome.  It may come down to a matter of perspective – what is yours?

Discover your Definition of Wealth

What is your definition of wealth for your life?  Is it out of balance? Are you pursuing financial wealth at the cost of your relationships, spirituality, or health?  How do you know?

The first thing to do is to face it head on and ask yourself what wealth means to you.  What wealth looks like in your mind, what wealth feels like in your heart.

You can do this on your own, but if you have a spouse or partner, I highly recommend you also do it together – you might be surprised how different your ideas of wealth are.  The trick is then to define what wealth means to you as a couple or partnership.

It is also helpful to have someone prompting you with questions and providing feedback to really get at the heart of your definition.  A coach perhaps.  Contact me below if you are interested in discovering your definition of wealth.

How We Prosper and Thrive

“We” do not exist as isolated individuals. We, as individuals, are inhabitants of networks; we are relationships. That is how we prosper and thrive.

-David Byrne, Eliminating the Human

Community Connectedness and Social Capital

“Community connectedness is not just about warm fuzzy tales of civic triumph.  In measurable and well-documented ways, social capital makes an enormous difference in our lives…Social capital makes us smarter, healthier, safer, richer, and better able to govern a just and stable democracy.”

– Robert D. Putnam

Wealth, Relationships and Community

Wealth is difficult to achieve on any level apart from healthy relationships.  Likewise community is difficult to achieve apart from healthy relationships.  Thus, it might be posited that real wealth can only be achieved in the context of real community.

What do I mean by that?   Let’s take a look at relationships and community first, then wrap up with how real wealth is found within the context of healthy community.

Relationships

Relationships for our purposes here are defined as close, personal, individual connections.

Each of us, hopefully, have several of these kinds of connections  – with our family members, our friends, our teammates, teachers, mentors, coworkers, etc.  (You are probably starting to see how relationships lead to community – but we’ll discuss that more in a moment).

In these relationships, some closer than others, transactions are always occurring.  Maybe you’ve never thought about it that way.  Some even call it social capital.

When we interact with each other we are giving and taking.  Sometimes it is tangible, like a sales transaction, but much of the time it is intangible, like trust, love, commitment, security, and on and on.

If I do something that violates trust in a relationship, like gossiping about something shared in confidence, I have taken trust away from the relationship and will need to take action to repair or repay that trust if I want to restore the relationship.  I might do this through a sincere apology, and if I had enough trust built up in the relationship (social capital), that is all it might take to restore it.  If the relationship was just starting, the apology, even if accepted, may not be enough to keep the relationship from ending.

We must be careful in how we handle our relationships.  Unfortunately, our societal obsession with credit and borrowing has infiltrated our relationships, causing us to take, take, take and seldom give.  Constant taking in relationships leaves us devoid of relationship in the end, and makes it nearly impossible for us to be part of a community.

If we learn to give in our relationships, we find that we receive back what we need without having to take at all.  When enough of us do this well in our relationships, communities are created.

Now let’s take a closer look at community.

Community

Like relationships above, communities operate on social capital.  When one community violates the trust of another community, mistrust and division arise.  Not only between communities but within them as well.

Communities can be based on many different types of relationships: geographical, social, religious, political, and even things like sports teams, causes, and crime.

Some communities, like geographical ones, are made up of smaller communities that are made up of relationships between individuals. These smaller communities transact with others within the larger community, and may even fight or dislike each other, but when dealing with another larger community from a different geographic area, they tend to put aside differences and put on the unified face of the larger community.

For example, Boston and New York City are rivals in many ways – each thinks it’s city is nicer, it’s sports teams are better, and even make and sell merchandise that say things like Yankees Suck.  While these rivalries may sometimes get a bit out of hand, they also tend to serve as a way to glue each community together.

But rivalries are set aside in a moment when a larger threat appears, like the attacks on 9/11.  Rescue workers from Boston mobilized without hesitation to go to the aid of their brothers and sisters in New York, temporarily setting aside rivalries, and acting as part of a larger community as even more rescue workers and support poured in from across the country, and even the globe.

Those rivalries still exist today, but they have been forever altered by these events, solidifying the bonds of the larger community, which creates a safe place for healthy rivalries to exist.

Unfortunately communities can also tear apart and destroy, both the relationships that make them up, and the bonds of larger communities they are a part of.

Think of the violence erupting during recent protests across our nation.  Geographical communities suffer collateral damage when outside communities show up to wage war in their streets.  These outside communities even manage to divide the host geographical community when it ought to be bonding together to protect itself from harm.

The thought that there are individuals within or outside these communities who use relationships to agitate these communities to violence against each other is reprehensible, and left unchecked will rob our nation blind of the wealth of community we have worked so long to build.

Wealth

There is a simple truth in the saying, “a house divided against itself cannot stand.”  From relationships to communities, division within will eventually lead to destruction.

Marriage offers a good example of how relationships interact with wealth, both positively and negatively.  Proverbs 31 paints a picture of a prosperous relationship, and while written from the perspective of a husband and his wife, it can easily be read from any relationship perspective, including business partners:

A wife of noble character who can find?
    She is worth far more than rubies.
Her husband has full confidence in her
    and lacks nothing of value. (vs. 10-11)

This relationship is built on trust  – did you see it?  “Has full confidence…and lacks nothing of value.”  A relationship like this will last through thick and thin, and will ultimately achieve the wealthy they seek, however they might define it for themselves.  It is a good indication that they will achieve at least some level of financial wealth as well.

On the other hand, without this trust, marriages and partnerships soon fall apart.  Two of the leading causes for divorce in the United States are lack of communication and fights over money.

Lack of communication robs a relationship of trust, and eventually leads to money fights and other problems.  Remember the house divided?  Without good communication a relationship will become divided and eventually fall.  Without good communication a relationship cannot build wealth, as there is a lack of confidence in each other.

Likewise, when communities come together and communicate well,working together they will prosper and build wealth in multiple ways.  And when communities refuse to listen to each other and resort to violence, all suffer, and wealth begins to erode along with the bonds that hold us together.

Conclusion

Choose to invest in relationships and in community, and wealth will seek you out;  choose to invest in wealth alone, and you will find yourself at last, alone.

Wealth and Health

Wealth and health is a huge topic – something I realized after writing several variations of this post.

There is so much to delve into here, wherever you might be on the wealth/health matrix, and I hope I can offer something of value to each.

Full disclosure: although I have had some health issues in my life, they have been temporary, and at the time, thankfully, easily treatable with few if any lasting side effects due in part to excellent health care and living in a country with access to some of the best surgeons and medical practitioners in the world.

All told, I have been blessed all my life with extraordinary health, and I have learned to not take that lightly.

God has allowed me to suffer just enough to empathize with others who are suffering.  It is hard to understand a few days of pain, let alone a lifetime, without experiencing pain oneself.  I also realized that my attitude toward both health and wealth have a tremendous impact on my overall contentment.

I have encountered people who use ill health as an excuse as well as those who, though suffering, exude great joy and empathy.  Some of them struggle with finances while others have more than sufficient financial resources, and not necessarily in the same order.

The Health/Wealth Matrix

So what does health have to do with wealth?   Let’s take a look at the four quadrants of the health/wealth matrix below, where wealth in this instance represents financial wealth.

 

Quadrant 1: High Health Low Wealth

Be grateful you are healthy.  Learn to be content just being healthy.  Use your good health to your advantage and work hard.  In this way you can grow your wealth, but take care not to sacrifice your health to get there.

Your main focus in this quadrant is to be content with just being healthy, doing what you need to do to maintain your health and working consistently to improve your wealth.

Quadrant 2: Low Health Low Wealth

This is not a fun place to be for sure.  However, I do have something to offer.  Be grateful for what you do have and stop worrying about what you don’t have.  Practice gratitude.  Anxiety unchecked only exacerbates poor health.

Your main focus in this quadrant is to improve your health by consistently practicing gratitude and following the directives of your health care providers while learning to be content with the wealth you do have.  Focus on health first, then when health moves from low to high move to the quadrant above.

Quadrant 3: Low Health High Wealth

While this is not a fun place to be either, wealth can certainly make it more comfortable.  Like the quadrant above, those in this quadrant also benefit from practicing gratitude, and checking anxiety levels.  Whereas anxiety above may have been caused by not having enough, anxiety in this quadrant may come from fear of losing it all.

Your main focus in this quadrant again is to improve your health by practicing gratitude and following the advice of health care providers while holding your wealth loosely.  Be grateful you have the wealth to pay for the care you are receiving and be content to lose wealth to gain health.  You can always build wealth again.

Quadrant 4: High Health High Wealth

Congratulations.  You are in a small percentile of people on this earth who are in an enjoyable but precarious position.  One, you are the target of envy of many people in the other three quadrants.  Two, you are highly susceptible to lose your wealth out of greed or ambition, or your health from lack of self control or feeling of invincibility.  If not careful you could quickly and easily lose it all.  You also have a great responsibility.

Your main focus in this quadrant is to be grateful everyday for the gifts you have been given, and to give consistently of your wealth and self to help others:

  • Give time as mentors to those in Quadrant 1 to raise them up to Quadrant 4 so they can then follow in your footsteps
  • Give of your time and wealth to those in Quadrant 2 to encourage them and provide a greater level of comfort and care to boost them into Quadrant 1
  • Give of your time to those in Quadrant 3 to not only encourage them but help them preserve as much wealth as possible, protecting them from those who would take advantage of their poor health to rob them blind.

Conclusion

Health is more important than financial wealth.  Whether you are currently healthy or suffering from temporary or chronic poor health, be grateful that you are alive, practice gratitude for what you have and kindness toward each other, remembering there are others out there who are also suffering, and no matter what state you are in, you always have the power to encourage and bless others.  That is wealth.

Godliness and Contentment

Godliness with contentment is great gain.  For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.  But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.  Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction… Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.  

1 Timothy 6:6-9;18

 

Wealth and Emotions

Out of curiosity I often type the titles of my posts into Google search just to see what pops up.  Type “wealth and emotions,” into Google Search or click the link for a glimpse of the wide range of posts published on this topic.

Whether you like it or not your emotions – and how well you understand and account for them – have a huge impact on your capacity to build wealth.

Investing Your Emotions

Most great investors would tell you when they keep their emotions in check they almost never lose and almost always lose when they allow their emotions to rule the day.

It gets even better – all of us deal with emotions differently and are more prone to certain types of emotions than others.  For some of us anger is the dominant emotion while for others it is fear, shame, or even happiness and joy.  How we interact with these emotions – whether from a place of stress or a place of stability – can either hinder us or help us in our efforts to build wealth.

Consider the recession induced by the sub prime mortgage crisis of 2008.  Or the the dot com bubble bursting in 2000-2001.  The markets declined rapidly and left many investors watching their portfolios slide down the seemingly endless slope.  Individual investors as well as seasoned fund managers panicked and let fear spur them on to sell, sell, sell!

At exactly the wrong time.

When the market is going down you want to buy, not sell.  Selling on the way down is how you lose wealth.

The fear incited by watching stock indexes plummet causes normally rational people to forget everything they know about how the market works.

Seasoned investors and most savvy individual investors understand the market will eventually start climbing again and in relatively short time surpass market levels prior to the crash or recession.  Over the history of the stock market, the market has always grown.

The key is to diversify your investments, stick to a process for selecting, buying and selling, and sit tight during the storm, possible looking for opportunities to buy more shares of solid mutual funds or index funds at a discount price.  Remember when the market is down, shares are generally cheaper, and thus you can purchase more shares for your investment dollars and benefit from the returns when the market swings back up.

If you invested in one or two risky single stocks and the companies are about to implode, you probably want to sell as quickly as possible and contemplate the lessons to be learned while licking your wounds.  If this is you, I almost guarantee you bought those stock based on emotions and not on solid research with evidence of long term growth potential.

Emotional Wealth

I tend to be methodical and rational in my investment choices and leave things pretty much alone.  My advantage here is that I am a highly rational person who by nature does not tend to make big decisions based on emotions.  I tend to do the opposite in an emotional state; I simply make no decisions at all.  This is not necessarily a good thing.

When I am in a place of stress, I tend to withdraw from relationships and hold on tightly to liquid funds and possessions.  I make choices based on a fear of not having enough or being seen as cheap by my friends when I ask for a separate check.  If I don’t think I have enough to split the bill evenly, I will avoid the outing altogether.

The crazy thing is that this fear is often irrational and dare I say selfish.  Oh, and then pride steps in and refuses to accept charity when all my friends want is to be gracious and generous out of the love in their hearts.

Earlier this year I started new daily practice of short meditation followed by a brief daily journal right after my daily scripture reading.  The meditation allows me to practice awareness and clear my thoughts, and the morning journal exercise gives me an opportunity to set the course of my day.

In my journal I include the scripture I have read, three things I am grateful for, location, weather and emotional state, concluding with random thoughts such as what I need to do that day, things that I am wrestling with, or that kept creeping into my meditation.

Starting the day being grateful and taking time to take stock of where I am emotionally has had a huge impact on my ability to stay balanced.

No matter what we do, we all fall prey to our emotions and all become overwhelmed at times.  The idea is not to avoid our emotions, but to learn how to embrace them well and give them space to take their course without bankrupting us financially or emotionally.

Hey, ever heard the phrase “emotionally bankrupt?”  Google it.