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How you can be wealthier without earning any more money?

In the journey of life, the quest for happiness is perhaps the most universal of pursuits. So popular Will Smith even did a movie about it.

This quest, while deeply personal, is often navigated through the lens of societal expectations and cultural narratives that emphasise more money = better, happier, nothing to worry about. However, writing in a journal every day means you reflect a lot. Often this involves an exploration into the essence of true happiness and this reveals a more complex picture, one that is best understood through the framework of four fundamental pillars: health, wealth, relationships, and freedom.

A balanced investment in each of these areas is crucial, as deficiencies in any one pillar can lead to suboptimal happiness outcomes, nudging us away from the fulfilment we seek. Just think about it, if you were seriously deficient in just one of those areas, how would it impact your baseline happiness?

Wealth is a Sticky One

Of the four pillars, wealth is perhaps the most misunderstood, frequently mistaken for the ultimate key to unlocking happiness. This misconception is rooted in a simplistic view of wealth as merely the accumulation of financial resources. While financial stability is important for our sense of security and well-being, it is but one component of a much broader spectrum of wealth that encompasses experiences, personal growth, and the ability to contribute to the well-being of others. Recognising the multidimensional nature of wealth allows us to seek a form of richness that not only supports our individual happiness but also enriches our collective human experience.

Human Nature, Wealth, and Status

The human inclination towards seeking wealth and status is not inherently flawed. Evolutionary psychology offers insights into this drive, suggesting that, for our ancestors, higher status within a group correlated with better access to resources, mating opportunities, and overall survival. This evolutionary backdrop has wired our brains to equate status with success and security. However, in the context of modern society, this pursuit often becomes a never-ending cycle of comparison and dissatisfaction, where the markers of status are continuously evolving and the satisfaction derived from them is fleeting. This recognition is not to demonise the pursuit of wealth or status but to understand its limitations and the potential pitfalls in equating these with happiness.

The symbols of status today — money, job titles, social media followers — can lead us into a never-ending cycle of comparison and dissatisfaction. 

The Golden Handcuffs Dilemma

An illustration of the pitfalls of a narrow focus on financial wealth is the concept of "golden handcuffs." This metaphor describes the situation in which individuals feel trapped by the very jobs that provide their high income, bound by a lifestyle that their salary sustains but no longer serves their deepest desires or needs. This scenario highlights the critical flaw in prioritising wealth at the expense of the other pillars of happiness, particularly freedom. It serves as a warning to misaligned pursuits of wealth which can lead to a diminished quality of life. If you think money will make you happy, perhaps seeking a balance that supports a fuller expression of happiness is a better idea.

Lifestyle Design

Tim Ferriss's "The 4-Hour Workweek" presents an alternative to the golden handcuffs scenario through the concept of lifestyle design. Ferriss advocates for a reevaluation of traditional work paradigms, encouraging individuals to create lives that prioritise freedom, autonomy, and personal fulfilment over the conventional markers of success. By embracing principles of efficiency, delegation, and a focus on impactful work, Ferriss's approach offers a blueprint for escaping the trap of the golden handcuffs, highlighting the potential for a life that balances wealth with the other pillars of happiness.

To successfully implement lifestyle design and determine the amount you need to earn without compromising the other pillars of happiness—health, relationships, and freedom—start with a clear understanding of your desired lifestyle and its associated costs.

This involves calculating the financial requirements of your ideal life, including basic living expenses, savings for future goals, and funds for pursuits that bring joy and fulfilment.

From there, create a budget that prioritises these elements while eliminating unnecessary expenses. Next, explore income streams that you don't hate and in an ideal world align with your skills and passions, focusing on those that offer the level of flexibility and autonomy you desire, such as remote work, freelancing, or passive income opportunities.

This approach enables you to earn precisely what you need to support your envisioned lifestyle without falling into the trap of overworking for surplus money that doesn't contribute to your overall happiness. By strategically balancing your income and expenditures around your core values and aspirations, you can achieve a lifestyle that doesn't sacrifice health, relationships, or freedom for unnecessary financial gain.

Personal Reflections

My own journey with increasing wealth has offered showed me the relationship between wealth/money and happiness. This is always a tricky one when you run businesses and work in sales its very easy to fall into the traps I mentioned above. That being said as my financial situation improved, I discovered that the true value of wealth lies in its ability to facilitate peace of mind, enable enriching experiences, foster meaningful relationships, and afford the luxury of time for personal growth and contribution. Not in material nonsense. This realisation showed me the importance of balancing all four pillars of happiness — health, wealth, relationships, and freedom — as the foundation for a truly fulfilling life.


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