Joined: 31 August 2007
This post is inspired by a tweet that @libertygirl3 made last night on Twitter. She said "If you want to feel rich, count the things you have that money can't buy."
Immediately I was struck by the simple truth of this statement. This time, it didn't hit me as a cliche or adage at all. This is partly because lately I've become more aware of the impact of the non-material aspects of life on well-being, and I've also become more conscious of the limits of money in general. [But this is no an anti-money post! I'm an ambitious, entrepreneurial capitalist who believes in the empowerment that fiscal responsibility brings.]
But just think of it: We've all had some low moments of doubt and directionless in our lives, whatever form they may have taken. You've felt the blessing that certain things bring – maybe your children, your spouse, a best friend, great weather, the beauty of being in nature, spending time with your pets, etc.
There is an adage that says "the best things in life are free," and to be honest I've heard it so many times I've always glossed it over as something kinda true, but not something I ever directly felt. I think the problem is with the word "free." It's referring to the fact that some things may not cost money; this doesn't mean they don't nevertheless have a price. Even the best things in life come with a price – the more you put in, the more you get out, right?
So here are some thoughts on the things that can make you feel rich that really aren't related to money. And even if you had money, it wouldn't necessarily have much of an impact on these things. But they're not necessarily "free" – some of these things take work.
(1) Relationships. Isn't this the biggest one? Friendships, marriages, romance, acquaintances, creative partnerships, the people you play sports with, happy interactions with strangers or locals when you're on vacation, your children, your teachers, your role models. People are really the reason we're here, or at least the reason we keep on keeping on. And you can only do so much as an individual. You need people to help you along, inspire you, show you shortcuts; friends will give you gifts and be your alter ego when you're lost. There are numerous studies showing the benefits of close relationships on mental and emotional health and well-being. Sure, money might play some role in some relationships, but I'd argue the best relationships happen on their own without regard to material or circumstantial concerns.
(2) Health. We all start out with some degree of full health (for the most part), and as we age we make choices that change it. Our bodies will always age, but this doesn't inherently imply that we must become less healthy. Take a look at some centenarians who are still in good health and even active. I know one 80-something woman who is an active gardener, globe traveller and socialite – the 80's don't really seem all that old to me now at all. Age is largely in our heads. This woman has a heart condition that she can't do much to change at this point, but she compensates by changing her diet. She has one of the healthiest diets of anyone I know now. She stops eating around 5pm and keeps her last meal light.
(3) Enjoying natural beauty. Camping, hiking, swimming in our lakes, jogging through the woods, running marathons, biking new trails – how expensive are any of these things? Sure, they can *get* expensive if we buy the latest swag to go along with them, but inherently none of these things cost anything. Sitting at the edge of the Grand Canyon? Amazing. I believe that communing with nature also has great healing effects. You don't even have to go very far to get this – your nearest lake or even a forest.
(4) Your youth and your experience. We're all at different stages in our lives. But each of us has a certain amount of youthful vigor and hope as well as a certain amount of experience under our belts. We can appreciate the positions we're in – what we've done, and what we still hope to do. There's a richness to each moment along our journeys that is sometimes really hard to appreciate while we're in that moment. As much as we need to be in the habit of going after our dreams, we can be grateful for what we've already achieved. In fact, if we're not, how great was that dream, if we only rushed through it on the way to the next purchase from the "gift-shop of life experiences"? Once I turned 22 or so I remember starting to feel the feeling of "I'm starting to feel old." But that is so relative. I've heard now from people in their 60's discussing how young 30 actually is. So let's appreciate where we are.
We've all seen the stories of celebrities and other rich fanatics who have squandered their wealth and even seem to be unhappy as people, having messed up their lives. We know money can bring problems – it just compounds whatever state of life you're already in. If you've got problems, your money issues will hold a mirror to them.
Free Money Finance has a great post on the celebrities who are "poorer" than us. I think it's a great reminder of how relative "wealth" is and how when it really comes down to it, it's not going to be our money that we remember at the ends of our lives, or indeed at any time in our lives. Consider a few of these priceless moments in this article on the "30 Most Satisfying Pleasures Life Has to Offer." How many involve money, or have to?
[Of course; there's a certain level beneath which money really does become desperately important just for survival, and I don't want to diminish the reality of impoverished situations. I admit that it is some degree of a luxury to be able to say that "money can't buy everything." Remember Maslow's hierarchy of needs?]
I'd love to hear your thoughts. What are you grateful for, what do you have that even the richest people on the planet can't buy? I've probably overlooked some things too, but I tried to keep these categories broad.
Any thoughts? Reactions?
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