Why does no one feel rich or even happy? That’s what Jeff Haden wants to know, given that the mega rich he knows complain about their situation. His examples of wealth are eye watering and yet each person in his examples feels that they still don’t have enough. If the very wealthy amongst us feel like this, where does that leave the rest of us? “Rich” it seems is a very elusive feeling.
But what is rich? Is it owning a mansion in a trendy suburb? Going on 5 star overseas holidays each year? Maybe it’s owning a yacht. Or having a net worth of at least $5 million as one survey suggests. Perhaps it’s never having to work again.
Jeff alludes to how impossible it is to feel rich, since us humans have a tendency to focus on what we don’t have. You can have a high income, but focus on how much you lose to tax. You can have a yacht and worry about how much it costs to run. You can have a Porsche and wish you had a Bugatti. Whatever that is…
While us mere mortals might convince ourselves that if we could afford a Porsche or a yacht, we would feel totally, unconditionally and deliriously rich, the reality is otherwise. After all, if you live in an industrialised country you might already be in the top 1% of world income. But that’s cold comfort when your friend is heading on another overseas odyssey, while you’re eating baked beans to save a house deposit.
The human mind is insatiable, so when using stuff as the only measure of rich, there is always more to be had. I blame it (and everything) on our caveman brain. In the days when the necessities of life were not at all assured, more was always better. More berries? Yes, please. A new, better tool for defending against a saber tooth tiger attack? You bet! A warmer more comfortable home, I mean cave? Sign me up for the mortgage!
Unfortunately, our brains haven’t got the software update for 2016. In evolutionary psychology they say that you can take the person out of the Stone Age, not the Stone Age out of the person. In fact there is a little bit of Neanderthal in all of us.
Choosing how you feel
The trouble with the word “rich” is there’s no clear definition. Rich isn’t quantified in the dictionary, it’s defined by wishy washy terms such as ‘a great deal’, ‘plentiful’ and ‘abundant’. It’s a term that can’t be defined because being rich is relative and ultimately it’s just a feeling that isn’t actually determined by your net worth.
Right at this moment you can’t change how much you have, but you can reframe your situation. You can feel rich.
That doesn’t mean throwing away all ambition to improve your finances, or settling for a bad financial situation. It means looking for and acknowledging the abundance in your life right now. Regularly acknowledging the stuff that you normally take for granted shifts your focus to the things you have rather than the things you don’t.
Acknowledging this can make your life feel much more abundant in the here and now when you realise how much you already have in your life. And if you don’t believe me, try packing up everything you own and carrying it for a block or so.
Shift your focus this way and you will have found the real secret to feeling rich.
Pay attention to the positive
Starting a gratitude practice is easy and can be as simple or as formal as you find helpful. You could try a weekly journal, listing 5 things you’re grateful for or write each thought on a post-it note throughout the day. You could just share your thoughts with a friend or partner over dinner. I like to practise gratitude on the go, taking a few moments throughout the day to acknowledge the abundance in my life in any given moment.
I don’t own a yacht or a $5 million property portfolio, but through a regular gratitude practice I have learnt to feel rich. Today I have:
- Grocery bags full of food I can’t wait to eat;
- A warm house that’s keeping me dry and out of the rain;
- Time to write this post while my baby naps instead of having to go to work.
What makes you feel rich?