What is wealth? Have you ever really thought about it? Or more importantly, have you ever thought about what wealth looks like for you?
I think about it all the time. I believe wealth is very ambiguous. It's not an exact science. In fact, it's actually very subjective. There's no right or wrong answer. That's because it encompasses many different things for different people.
These characteristics make wealth very special and personal. It's what I define and make it. It's not society's definition; it's not my parents' definition; it's unique to me.
Take a moment and be mindful. Get in tune with your thoughts and imagination. Ask yourself one very simple, yet complex question: what does a wealthy life look like to you?
If wealth were an equation, what would yours include? Here are some ideas to get you started:
- money/high salary
- luxury car(s)
- high-end clothes, shoes, jewelry
- unlimited travel
Does your list include all of these? Some? None? The point is that your ideal wealth is yours. Too often, we get lost in the noise of our environment, people's external opinions, and even our internal judgments.
For example, it was embedded in my head from a young age that I really had four choices: accounting, engineering, law or medicine, and that these paths were undeniably more promising than the alternatives, such as becoming a movie director, writer or artist. While this may be true in some forms of measurement (money, prestige, stability), wealth is not always this perfectly measurable thing.
Now more than ever, there's this modern shift of wealth from being a tangible, material destination, to an intangible feeling of meaning and fulfillment.
We all place value on different things. That's what makes us human; that's also what makes us unique. Yet, too often we follow one definition.
We're taught that if we do things right, we will be rewarded accordingly. If we just get straight A's, go to a good college, get a job out of school, and work hard towards our career goals, wealth is this present wrapped up with a pretty little bow waiting for us at the end of the yellow brick road.
And so, we follow this plan: this list of rules and pre-determined life milestones. We stay on pace, keeping track of the notches on our belts. And soon enough we'll get there, this mystical place, right?
Then one day, we wake up. To a small degree, it might feel like waking up from a coma. We live life, and yet we really forget to live at all. Life becomes second nature just like breathing or walking. Today becomes yesterday; tomorrow becomes today; every day passes without intention, like muscle memory.
Isn't it interesting that the future is always picture perfect, and hindsight is always 20/20? But what about now? We tend to neglect the now. Because we just assume the now will eventually amount to said picture-perfect future. But how can it without a clear understanding of what we want, and how we're going to get there?
Sometimes we're too afraid to observe and reflect, because we're scared of what we may discover.
We tend to lose sight of the truth and honesty we once had, a very, very long time ago, as untainted kids. So one day, we finally do wake up and realize that we have these "accomplishments" and these "things" that are supposed to embody wealth, yet there's this uneasy, unfulfilling feeling that has gotten too loud to ignore anymore.
And more clearly than ever, we realize that our attainment of true wealth is directly tied to our feelings of happiness and fulfillment.
Wealth does not always look like a big house with a white-picket fence in perfect suburbia, and yet sometimes it does. Some find wealth in material things or in their job. Some find it in giving back. These are all different definitions, and yet produce the same feeling of wealth for different people.
Your definition of wealth can be ever transforming. Are you the same person as you were five years ago? A year ago? Probably not. And neither is your idea of wealth. Before, wealth could have meant owning that pair of shoes you were dying to have, or maybe it was making six figures at that high-powered job. But now, it may be having a creative outlet, your own business, or maybe a family.
And that is exactly what the wealth equation is: your unique combination of variables. It could be a few to hundreds. However many you'd like.
Let's go back to our fond memories of algebra class. If wealth was an equation it might look something like this: "X + Y + Z = wealth." X might be financial freedom; Y might be family; and Z might be happiness. Or it might be a never-ending equation because the reality is that there are a lot of things that can bring us wealth.
The key is really the first step: defining wealth -- your equation, your plan, and your destination.