Money is Not Your Only Resource

So often, our default seems to be to want ‘more’. It becomes important to ask whether you do, in fact, want more – and then, to ask more of what and why?

Living deliberately and focussing our resources on what matters most allows for more time and energy put toward those things. Here, some explorations in progress in the studio.

We recently came to a realization around money and resources that upturned everything…

A few seasons ago, we went for a weekend morning walk in a wealthy Montreal neighbourhood. There were beautiful cars, well-heeled women hurrying into full restaurants for brunch, and armloads of boutique shopping bags. When we got back home afterward, we found ourselves snappy and irritable. The walk had left us feeling upset and resentful and we found ourselves wondering why.

As is most often a good idea when you find yourself angry or upset about something – we decided to look directly at it. We picked it up, turned it over, talked it through from various angles. I highly recommend this approach as a means to understand a problem and thus be able to move beyond it.

After some talking it through, we realized that the wealth, so casually flaunted, seemed unattainable to us. Around this same time, I had been reading Bari Tessler’s book, The Art of Money and there was an exercise about mapping out your “Basic”, “Comfort”, and “Ultimate” lifestyles. We decided to give it a try.

We realized we had to consider more than just our financial resources. We had to look at ALL our resources: time, energy, focus, money, quality of life…

The ‘fancy cheese moment’

At first, with each tier, we defaulted to better food, more eating out, more travel, more things, and nicer things. As we went along, the amount of money required for each level began to balloon. I began to feel queasy as I reverse-calculated the before tax income numbers and announced them for each section. It felt like a vice slowly tightening around us.

We were just adding the note about ‘oh and we can buy more of the fancy cheeses!’ to the Ultimate lifestyle when it hit us: More things and fancier things are not necessarily what will make us most happy.

While it seems pretty obvious in hindsight, it is not the natural or default cultural assumption. We’ve since dubbed this moment of realization ‘the fancy cheese moment’.

Making progress on a creative project brings deep personal satisfaction for me. It almost always gives me new ideas which, in turn, keeps me learning, growing, and feeling invigorated.

It’s not just about money

We realized we had to consider more than just our financial resources. We had to look at ALL our resources: time, energy, focus, money, quality of life…

So, we went through the three levels again and this time we questioned everything before writing it down. We wanted to be sure that what we were writing down was an internal and not an external motivation. Sometimes these can be hard to differentiate and you may need to mull it over for a few days to better understand the underlying motivation.

Is it what you want?

We did not want to be writing things down because they were the default cultural or social thing to do. We wanted to ensure that what we were writing down was driven from within. We kept asking ourselves why we wanted things. We didn’t want to write things down just because they ‘proved’ somehow that we had ‘made it’, because they gave us social status, or because we were worried what others might think. We also didn’t want to write things down because we wanted to emulate what someone else had or had done.

Asking yourself whether what you want is driven by an internal or an external motivation can be very revealing – and very helpful in guiding you.

What we learned

What we realized, in the end, was that a large number of things that we thought were important to us, weren’t so important, after all. Education, feeling engaged and being able to pursue our passions came out as top goals. To us, this means working toward being able to spend our days doing work we find meaningful and rewarding and that uses our unique gifts. Time spent together enjoying our surroundings and the seasons is also a priority.

While these learnings are more or less a continuation of the path we were on, they have really solidified our inner compass. What is and what is not a priority and why is much clearer to us, now – as is what brings us the most personal meaning. Going through this process has made it much easier for us to not feel as though we are ‘missing out’ when we make a choice – because we know why we are making it and that it is in line with our bigger vision. It has also lead to bigger underlying changes to habits that were draining our energetic resources (perhaps I’ll write more about this in another post).

If we make more money along the way? All the better. We can use it to give back, to hire others, and put our good out into the community. We’re remaining open to adding in whatever is most meaningful to us when we reach that point.

If you are struggling to figure out your direction, creating a vision story and knowing your personal values are powerful tools to help you get clear on where you are headed.

If it’s the questions around wants and their motivations that has you stymied, consider giving daily journaling a try. I find it invaluable in checking-in with myself, seeing how I feel about things, and knowing where to set my sights next. 

** Mentioned in this post: Bari Tessler’s The Art of Money is a book written in a warm and gentle voice by someone with years of experience helping others around money. If you struggle with your money mindset or have a difficult/negative relationship with money in any way, I recommend giving it a read.

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