Most people define wealth financially by measuring net worth, investment accounts, salary, IRAs, real estate properties and so on. With financial wealth comes a lifestyle with all its trappings. But what real value does that have if you have no one to love or be loved by, your health is poor, and you’re spiritually bankrupt? What good does financial wealth do if you are consumed by work or the dollars in your bank account? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying there is anything wrong with being wealthy. In fact, money is a very important commodity that can be used to get a lot of positive things done. I also believe when you are aligned with your purpose and doing something positive for humanity, financial security will follow. With money, you can do more of what you are doing to serve others—it is a beautiful thing.
However, if your whole reason for being is to amass financial wealth, you will find the rest of your life devoid of meaning. Wealth can be defined in a myriad of ways. You can consider yourself wealthy if you had parents who loved you and provided you with a strong foundation. You might feel wealthy if you have a lot of close friends, one extremely valuable friend, or a loving partner you are privileged to share your life with. You can feel wealthy when you raise children to be healthy, happy and successful. You might feel wealthy because you have people who listen to and respect you, you make an impact, and people look to you for inspiration. You might feel wealthy if you are able to figure out how to live a certain lifestyle of without having much money or going into debt. Having good health can be a form of wealth. You may feel wealthy if you have a special relationship with your pet. You could feel wealthy if you have your independence and are free to do what you want. You may feel wealthy if you have a talent or hobby you enjoy. You can feel wealthy because you live in a beautiful place where you spend a lot of time in nature. You might think you’re wealthy if you have a solid credit score. When you get away from the traditional way of defining wealth as only coming from money, there are so many other ways to define wealth.
As we enter a new decade, define what your own personal brand of wealth is if you haven’t already. There was a woman recently who was so committed to her physical fitness that she let her marriage wither and came to regret it. I had a male client who was so focused on building his business that his wife asked for a divorce. I’ve known other people who invest everything in their children to their financial detriment. I recently read about a man who invested so much in his volunteer firefighting that he had a heart attack from the stress and smoke inhalation.
It’s time to get serious about what you want to be known for at your 100th birthday party. Even if you’re only in your 20s and believe you won’t make it to your 50s, take the time to think about what you want to be known by when you’re gone. How do you want your health to be? What kind of relationships do you want with the people who are sharing your life with you? What impact do you want to have with the young people in your life? What work do you want to be known for? What is the legacy you wish to leave behind? What are you doing to maintain your independence? And, what are you doing to create moments of joy in your life?
If you are thinking, there will be time for all that later… you might be right, but then again, you could be wrong. My husband was 37-years old when he died of leukemia. Tomorrow is not guaranteed for any of us. This is not meant to be a license to recklessly abandon all responsibility in some hedonistic pursuit because if you do, what will people say about you at your 100th birthday party? You’ll want to find that sweet spot, your personal balance point, between focusing on what’s important and meaningful to you today while laying the groundwork for your life leading to your 100th birthday party.
This is not always an easy balance to find. There are three questions I ask myself that lead me to my definition of success. When I am at a decision point in my life, I ask:
- What kind of person do I want to be in this situation?
- Can I live with my decision if I don’t wake up tomorrow?
- Is this a decision I can live with in the long-term?
If you get the picture of who you want to be and can answer yes to questions 2 and 3, then go ahead and act out the picture you have. If you answer no to either question, consider adjusting who you want to be in the situation so you can be proud of your choices in both the short- and long-term. This is how you accumulate the kind of wealth I value. After all, in the end, you can’t take your money with you; your stock portfolio will need to be left with someone else. Use your financial wealth while you are here to make life better for yourself and others, and focus on the type of wealth that you will enjoy today, and every day, until your 100th birthday party.
My definition of wealth is about loving relationships, freedom and independence, meaningful work, a grateful practice of spirituality, health and regular moments of joy. I listed them in the order of importance to me. That way when there is a choice to be made, I know which to look at first. When I focus my time, energy and attention on these things, I feel wealthy indeed. How about you?