World-famous fashion designer and businesswoman Coco Chanel once said: “there are people who have money and there are people who are rich”. Chanel didn’t believe that material wealth was enough to make you rich in life. I’ve known a few wealthy people and they have certainly confirmed this theory; constantly being stressed and generally discontent. The Notorious B.I.G. once said: “Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems”. In this post, I’ll explore the things that make you rich in life outside of your bank balance.
“I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.”Jim Carrey
adjective: rich; comparative adjective: richer; superlative adjective: richest
1. existing in plentiful quantities; abundant.
2. having a great deal of money or assets; wealthy.
The term ‘rich’ has become synonymous to monetary wealth as opposed to the more general meaning of abundance. In this regard, it does seem like the term has been hijacked and this is what Coco Chanel meant in her famous quote. Although money is a component or pillar as it were of a fulfilling life it’s only one of many that make up a rich life.
As the saying goes “if you don’t have health you don’t have anything”. If achieving material wealth is at a consequence to your health then it’s not worth it. High paying jobs normally come with increased stress and more stress equals elevated levels of cortisol which if sustained over long periods can equal a shorter lifespan. Away from stress, there’s poor diet and lack of exercise. I’m surrounded at work with people that seem to be permanently sick. It’s no coincident they have poor diets and are overweight. One in five deaths worldwide are linked to an unhealthy diet. The sugar and fast food industry make the tobacco industry look like the good guys!
Having friends and family undoubtedly improves your life. Who wants to be wealthy with no friends? Or even worse, with pretend friends. Having strong social ties is believed to increase lifespan too, so you get to live happier and longer. What’s not to like? We (humans) are social animals, dependent on trust and seek the companionship of others for our wellbeing. From an evolutionary perspective this makes perfect sense, don’t fight your genes.
Having a purpose in life is linked to positive well-being. When we were hunter-gathers our purpose was clear; forage for food, avoid being eaten, generally try and stay alive! Go forward in time a few thousand years and life for many of us is too easy. One study found that we may become more pessimistic as life gets easier, I’m definitely guilty of worrying about trivia. There’s obviously a sweet-spot though, a life that’s too hard wouldn’t be much fun but conversely, a life that’s too easy would be pretty bland IMO. Many modern-day jobs are void of purpose, if you fall into this camp then you’ll need to find something outside of the daily grind that adds meaning to your life.
It’s what we do that matters, not what we have. According to the Oxford Handbook of Happiness: “variety is the spice of happiness”. There’s no fun in life when you know what’s around the corner. Therefore, mix things up, try new things. I find one of the best ways to introduce variety is to learn something new. Don’t assume you’ll like or dislike anything until you’ve tried it. If you don’t want to do something it’s often a reliable indicator you should be giving it a go. After a while, ticking along in life is downright boring.
In Daniel Pink’s book “Drive”, a book about what motivates us, one of the primary ingredients is mastery. This is the desire to keep improving at something that’s important. If you have a job like mine that involves sending emails all day and stuck in pointless meetings then you’ll need to find mastery outside of the workplace; scrolling social media, binging Netflix, shopping and being a foodie don’t count.
How do I score
Based on what I’ve outlined above for what defines a “rich life”, how do I score myself?
How I score in being rich
This is my highest scoring category. I don’t have any health-related problems (touch wood) and feel energetic most of the time. I’ve always eaten quite healthily, exercise frequently, avoid stress and recently cut down my drinking. I’ve also embraced the accessibility of blood testing and check many key health markers annually. There are a few small areas I could optimise but not many.
This was tricky to score. I wouldn’t classify myself as having an abundance of friends, however, I’m an introvert and enjoy my alone time. I enjoy spending entire days or weekends doing my own thing. This obviously influences the number of relationships you have in your life. I would guess that extroverts surround themselves with more relationships. Nevertheless, I could do with more in my life. As you get older and move around it’s a common theme that you end up with fewer close connections.
My job serves no purpose whatsoever. Sending emails and going to pointless meetings definitely has a drag on the soul. This makes finding a purpose outside of work important. The way I see it, I’ll significantly increase my chances of finding purpose by experiencing more in life. The more things I try, the more likely I’ll find purposeful activities. Purpose doesn’t have to be one thing, finding purpose with many things is just as good and probably more achievable. Some view purpose as something meaningful beyond yourself. On that basis, my purpose score would be close to zero, and that’s a reason why I’m looking into volunteering.
After I read “Time and How to Spend It” by James Wallman it really made me focus my attention on spending more time on experiences. Undoubtedly you feel better when you push yourself to do more things, especially when they challenge you. My aim of 1 new experience per week has petered out since the onset of miserable winter weather in the UK, so this needs to be revived!
My job doesn’t offer any activity that’s worth mastering unless you include PowerPoint! Therefore outside of work, I look to improve my swimming, surfing, martial arts, skipping, writing and DIY. I feel there’s room for improvement though.
My overall “rich score”
Overall, my highly unscientific “rich score” across categories came out as 64%. Does this feel right? Kinda, maybe. Do I think there’s scope to improve my life by 36 percentage points, almost 50%? Errr … it’s hard to say. The categories I have selected don’t consider weighting, I’d argue that health is your most important asset more so than experiences and mastery. Anyway, all that aside, I still find this exercise helpful. It’s useful to reflect and consider areas that can be improved. Hopefully, someone else will find it useful. If you have any feedback or comments then please leave them below. Thanks for reading.
Loneliness often follows sudden wealth: