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Creating a new form of wealth

Would you like to be wealthy?! 

Financial wealth has become so synonymous with success and happiness that it's very easy to be captured by its alluring promises and find ourselves blindly devoted to the cause of getting rich. Those who have amassed wealth are held in high regard in society - as heroes, role models, and even gurus. “If only I could have what they have, I’d be happy” - I imagine many of us had some variation of this thought.

I’m curious about the desire for wealth, as I am about most desires! What is it about this that appeals to us? Where did the desire come from? And what’s really behind it? After all this desire is so deeply embedded in us that it feeds into our beliefs around work, rest, pleasure, and so much more.

Wealth is about accumulation. It’s about building up an abundance of value - whether that’s money, property, or other assets, and here comes the critical part - wealth requires that we have more than we actually need. It’s also relative, and so it requires a certain level of scarcity because if we all have an abundance of something then it’s no longer perceived as valuable. It, therefore, can create competition and separation between those who have and those who have not. I need to not only have but to have more than you.  

But what’s really behind our desire for wealth? I think this depends in part on the circumstances in which we were raised. For those born into wealth, continuing this abundance may be critical to maintaining your social status or way of living. For others, wealth may be a way of future-proofing their lives, providing a safety net for any unplanned situations that may lie ahead. For those who grew up with little to no wealth in their families, beginning to accumulate wealth may seem like a way out of hardship and into a better life. 

"Wealth is the ability to fully experience life"

Henry David Thoreau

I see the pursuit of wealth as the pursuit of freedom. The desire to not be limited, the freedom to do as we wish, the freedom of CHOOSING. 

The question that comes up for me is whether financial wealth is actually an effective method to achieve this freedom. 

One of the challenges with the pursuit of wealth, which by definition requires us to have more than we need, is that it seems very rare for someone to reach the finish line. The more money we make, the greater the pressure we might feel to “upgrade” our way of living accordingly, meaning that we start to spend more and more thus not actually creating more wealth! We work more, consume more, and continue to crave more keeping ourselves in an endless pursuit. We can see the effects this is having on a global scale. There's also the challenge of needing to protect any wealth we accumulate - like the dragon protecting its cave of treasure. Neither of these sounds like freedom to me! 

Fantasy graphic showing a dragon in a cave sitting atop a pile of gold

Image: Lisa Lenz on ArtStation

On the flip side, many people have to fight every day to have the freedom to choose. We don’t all experience this freedom in an equal amount, or by default. 

I can’t help but think that we are distracting ourselves (or, if I’m more cynical, being distracted) in our pursuit of wealth. We think that we can buy more status power but at what cost? Very often the cost is a compromise of our personal power - that is the birthright of us all to have an effect or influence in our lives. 

I’m fascinated about our relationship with power as it’s at the heart of my work and teachings. What’s interesting about this exchange - of personal power for wealth (or social status) - is that it highlights how we’ve come to undervalue our personal power. When we are busy and time-poor, it can feel as though someone is doing us a huge favour in taking care of some of the many things that we would otherwise have to do. As a result, we’ve outsourced so many of our responsibilities - even for meeting our most basic human needs - to others, often gleefully, so that we can focus on the “important” stuff like earning money! But are we fulfilled? Many of us aren’t. And the answer we often arrive at is - “I must need MORE wealth”! 

What would happen if we were to start focusing on creating a different kind of wealth for ourselves? 

I’m not saying that we should all quit our jobs and do away with money altogether. I know that in this current reality that we live in, money is a necessity to meet our basic human needs. But there is a difference between having the means to live and dedicating our lives to amassing an excess. Maybe once we have enough, we can focus on other ways to create wealth in our lives. 

I think there’s a benefit for almost everyone in rebuilding our connection to our personal power. For example, building conscious awareness and acceptance of our own wants, needs, and limits. 

I also think we need to look at the impact of our attempts to outsource the increased responsibility that comes with having more power. In the Right Use of Power model, they talk about under-utilising power as an abuse of power and I have to agree. How can you become more aware of the power you hold and take responsibility to use it for good? There are many ways to do this - from individually and consciously stepping into roles that support others, or coming together with others to initiate change in our society.

What if we started with a thought experiment around reframing what abundance could mean for us, beyond material wealth? Where could we have abundance without needing others to be in scarcity? Where are we already free, or more free than others? 

So, do you want to stay on guard in your cave or do you want to be soaring above the mountains?!

There's a lot more to say on this, I feel. But for now, I will leave you with these ponderings.

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