56% of Americans would rate their current financial situation as excellent or good, according to recent data published by the analytics firm Gallup, a 10% increase since 2015 and the highest positive rating since 2002 (1). However, according to the 2019 World Happiness Report, overall life satisfaction fell by 6% in the United States between 2007 and 2018(2).
The report declared, “Even as the United States economy improved after the end of the Great Recession in 2009, happiness among adults did not rebound to the higher levels of the 1990s, continuing a slow decline ongoing since at least 2000.”
Clearly, mankind’s relationship status with money reads, “It’s complicated”, as the translation between how much we have and how we feel isn’t as precise as we may hope.
Many feel that their worth as a human is directly correlated to the state of their finances. This perceived connection between net-worth and self-worth is destructive and unhealthy. Leaving us trapped in a cycle of monetary acquisition and unintentional consumption; an attachment to more. As P.T. Barnum put it, “Money is a terrible master but an excellent servant.”
I believe that by engaging our wealth with awareness and intention we can transform our financial attachment into a practice, a genuine execution of the idea that Wealth is About Well- being, and by doing so experience the harmony of properly integrating our wealth into a meaningful life.
Evolving our relationship with money, or wealth, is not a linear process, but a dynamic feedback loop between our interactions with wealth and our perceptions of it. Meaning that how we interact with wealth at this moment is greatly influenced by our past experiences with it, and how this current interaction with wealth resolves will influence how we interact with it next time. Therefore, the true starting point of breaking the cycle is cultivating awareness around the dynamics of this loop.
I like to think of awareness as the non-judgemental observation of what is arising or occurring. The power of our awareness comes from the space it provides us, space to respond rather than react. This space allows us to pause, reflect upon on our intention and context, reorient our interaction, engage kindly and integrate our experience.
The Five Wealth Contemplations is a practice that helps us bring awareness and remember our determinations to interact with wealth in a way that preserves the health and well-being of ourselves, others and the earth. The contemplations can be said before making a purchase, creating a budget or meeting with your wealth advisor.
1. This wealth represents the resources of the earth and the loving and hard work of myself and others.
2. May I spend this money with intention, as an offering of gratitude to all that it represents.
3. May I be aware of and transform any unhealthy mindstates, especially greed, and learn to use my wealth as a tool for well-being.
4. May I cultivate compassion by using my wealth to reduce the suffering of all living beings and protect our precious planet.
5. May I find harmony in my life by fully experiencing the outcome of my interaction with kindness.
Through the simple, yet powerful, ability to pay attention we can transform the role money plays in our lives. Eventually understanding Henry David Thoreau’s insight that, “Wealth is the ability to fully experience life.”