How much money do you want? For most, the answer is more.
How much money we actually want is based on our expectations, desires and beliefs about how much money we should want. We create a story about what we need, what our minimum standard of living is and how much money we must have in order to be happy.
This story is not based on the laws of the universe. It’s based on the conditions we are accustomed to, the information we’ve been exposed to and the people we see around us.
For most of human history, almost everyone has lived on between $1 and $3 a day. That’s dire poverty by our standards. And yet people flourished, loved, explored, had adventures and muddled through. Since they didn’t have an affluent lifestyle to compare their experience with, their lives probably seemed just fine to them.
We don’t have that luxury. Everywhere we look, we see wealth and abundance. And when we compare our lives with these images of tremendous opulence, we find our circumstances lacking.
And then we feel bad.
And we want… more. Because we think that having more will make us feel better.
So we work harder, try to be more clever and burn the candle at both ends in order to increase our net worth so that we can be truly happy.
We may even sideline some of the truly important parts of our life – like our relationships, our health and our well-being – in the pursuit of more money. This is generally a disastrous choice.
But what if we didn’t do that? What if we could ignore social media, TV and the advertisements that entice us into wanting more?
Imagine looking at what you have through the eyes of our ancestors.
If you have a heater in your home, you’re better off than the Sun King himself, Louis XIV.
The same is true if you have indoor plumbing, double-paned windows, a flat-screen color TV… oh, or a computer or smartphone that allows you to access information anywhere on Earth and contact anyone you like anytime you like.
Research has shown that increases in wealth produce diminishing returns in happiness. The exact figure at which things start to level out depends on many factors, but it’s generally the point at which you’re no longer stressed about whether you can afford essentials.
Luxury items are fun, but they deliver a much smaller bang for your happiness buck.
So the bottom line here is this: “How much money do you want?” is a very personal question. And your answer will be unique to you.
Maybe you don’t need to make more money than you’re already making. Maybe your investments are working just fine, and the pace at which you’re adding to them will ensure you have more than enough money to afford anything you truly want or need.
How would recognizing that and accepting it feel?
If you’re used to feeling stressed out, anxious and driven to acquire more, it might feel pretty weird. Wrong, even.
But if doing something new doesn’t make you feel weird, you’re probably not actually doing something new. Feeling weird may be a necessary step on the path to serenity and satisfaction.
Think about how much money you really want. Let go of any external expectations. Take some time to think deeply about how much money it would take to bring you the life you genuinely want to live.
If you want more than you have, you can make plans to build your wealth.
If you want more than you could ever hope to make, you need to confront yourself on that. Striving toward an impossible goal is a path to depression and misery.
If you’re already making the kind of money you want… and you’re genuinely happy with the trajectory of your investments… allow yourself to enjoy your success. You’ve earned a bit of serenity. And in today’s world, that’s a remarkable achievement – one well worth savoring.
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