Redefining Wealth & Happiness in a Post Pandemic World

Do you want a million dollars?

Sure, but what’s the catch?

The catch is you must work for 90-hours a week for 10-years, and pay for; petrol to get to work, clothes to wear at work, and taxes for the privilege of working.

This deal doesn’t sound so good now, does it?

Gross income is not really a measure of wealth, just as health is not a measure of wellness.

Health is the absence of disease, whereas wellness can be described as an abundance of energy and purpose. Likewise, income might be the absence of poverty, but not the abundance of choices.

Counterintuitive as it might be, research clearly shows that money beyond a certain threshold does not make you any happier. Let me illustrate; imagine you were lost alone in the woods, cold, wet, and hungry. You stumble across a cottage with an open door and the glow of a warm fire and the smell of stew and fresh bread. A friendly person welcomes you in, wraps you in a blanket, sits you by the fire, and feeds you. Your happiness would increase significantly from the 30-minutes before and being given a large amount of money wouldn’t even register on the happiness scale.

So, if money beyond a certain threshold doesn’t make a difference - what does?

Choices, well more specifically, the right choices.

Making the right choices for Wealth & Happiness

"What is this think that has happened to us? It's a virus, yes. In and of itself it holds no moral belief, but it is definitely more than a virus... It has made the mighty kneel and brought the world halt like nothing else could."
- Arundhati Roy

The pandemic has been a giant wake-up call to what we call normal. Happiness might now be measured in freedom of movement, like being released from a lockdown, or being able to visit friends and family.

Wealth is now measured in access to health care, or just living in a place with low transmission rates.

Even work has changed. Companies who resisted work-from-home arrangements were forced to arrange for their employees to work from home. And the prediction is that we will never fully return to the office.

Significant life events often force us to review our choices. If you wake up in a hospital with tubes coming out of you and are told that your condition is due to your choices, you will likely make new ones.

Lose your job or lose your spouse, and you will be forced to face a new reality.

I was recently chatting online to a friend I hadn’t heard from in a few years. He confessed that he disappeared down a 'hole of parenthood and work', and then was knocked off course by losing his job, and hurting his back, at the beginning of the pandemic.

He noted that I seemed happy and at peace and that he had never prioritized these things as he had been driven by ambition.

“Ah”, I quipped, “You were chasing the American dream, based on an illusion of meritocracy, with a false narrative about what really matters.”

“So true”, he responded, “I am the child of Amway parents, after all!”

A New Paradigm of Success

I fully understood his conundrum, as I too had been raised to work hard and achieve. I started working every Saturday and School Holiday from 10-years old in my father’s hardware store. I too had read Think and Grow Rich and The Magic of Thinking Big and have been a motivational speaker for over 20-years.

But something has changed, and I don’t think it’s just turning 60 - although it has added some perspective.

I was recently enjoying a delicious pizza with friends in Portugal. We had spent the afternoon on the beach and were now relaxing on a sofa with a magnificent view of rolling hills and the ocean. The topic of business and money came up. Somebody started talking about how much better life would be if we were rich, and I offered an alternative view.

“We are already wealthy”, I said. “We are able to order food and enjoy it with this amazing view, in the company of friends, with full health and people who love us.”

Perhaps, this is why I appear to be at peace. I have reconciled my place in the world, I have improved my lot in life, and I am enjoying the fruits of my labor. Do I still have goals to grow, of course, I do? But my goals are more holistic.

Here are some self-leadership questions I ask myself and share with my coaching clients:

  1. What kind of work gives you the most satisfaction?
  2. What kind of work that you can do gives the most contribution?
  3. What are you doing for self-care?
  4. What are you doing to grow as a person?
  5. What will be your legacy at work and for your family and community?
  6. What is the minimum amount of money for you to live a fulfilled life?
  7. What is your plan to integrate the previous six points?

I’m not prescribing this list; I’m just sharing it as a thought provoker. I don’t have a problem with high goals and making lots of money, what I do caution about is having narrow goals.

The pandemic has flushed out some of the worst kinds of selfishness and stupidity, and people in fear have forgotten the benefits of community and contribution. Who was happier, in my story about getting lost in the woods – you or the person providing shelter?

When you understand this question, and the answer, you will appreciate the perspective I’m sharing here.

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