I often hear people say that money can solve all our problems. Money can make our lives better. Money can buy happiness.
That money is freedom. Money is comfort. Money is success. Money is everything.
And the more money we have, the more we enjoy life.
And the more money we have, the less stressful we are.
And the more money we have, the higher the chance we live longer.
It may sound true, but I’m skeptical.
Is having more money the only way? Who knows.
To a certain degree, I believe that people can live a happy and meaningful life with money. That’s one thing. However, I also believe that we can live the same happy and meaningful life without money — at least for me.
But I’m not delusional though. I know money plays a huge role in our society.
I know that it helps us in many ways such as pursuing our dreams (or passions).
I know that we need money to survive (especially people in the city).
So this is how it goes:
People + Money = Needs & Dreams
That’s it: Money is a tool to buy our needs and achieve our dreams.
And if we do great work and people pay for it, then money becomes a byproduct from doing great work. I love that.
People + Great Work = Money
But here’s when we humans fucked up: We attach happiness, success, and change to money.
We depend on money for almost everything we want to achieve in life.
We depend on money to make us happy and make our lives better and solve all our problems. We depend on money to boost our social status and gain confidence and rule over people and attract friends or the opposite sex.
Here’s the equation:
People + Money = Happiness & Pleasure & Success & Life
I used to believe in that equation. Maybe for others that’s the only way (I don’t know everyone’s story).
But then I figured out that there’s a way to be happy, better my life, and solve my problems without the need for more money.
If you want to be happy:
Be grateful and be content.
Being grateful is the realization that we have enough — and we are enough.
Some people say, “If only I have this car… If only I have a higher income… If only they will accept me…”, and on and on.
Guess what, they’ll never be happy. They’ll always feel inadequate.
True happiness doesn’t come from external factors such as money, material possessions, social status, recognition, Facebook likes, and our families’ approval.
(By the way, who popularized the idea that we need “things or someone’s approval” to be happy?)
And it isn’t about being euphoric all the time. Instead, happiness is accepting who you are, what you have, what you can do, what you can’t do, and what the world did to you. Contentment.
From “The Little Book of Contentment,” Leo Babauta writes,
“Corporations intentionally make us dissatisﬁed with our lives or ourselves in some way, so that we’ll buy their solution (a car, new shoes, a new gadget). And so we’re always pursuing some dream of material happiness, when obviously that doesn’t work, and it never ends. It’s a fantasy. We think we need all of that to be happy, but it doesn’t make us happy. Instead, we can be happy right now, with what we already have.”
Here’s what I do often: Gratitude. Every time I wake up or go to sleep, I think of all the things I have right now — everything that has meaning in my life — and be grateful having them. Gratitude feels good inside.
Gratitude makes us happy. And you don’t need money to express gratitude.
If you want to make your life better:
Focus on improving yourself. Learn from great people (or people you admire).
Read good books or blogs. (Some books are free). When you read, you absorb experiences from other people. Books are experiences. Of course, reading is useless without taking actions. So take actions and test new ideas.
Find different point of views
Immerse in different cultures. Converse with individuals who disagree with your ideas. Challenge your beliefs. Try to switch perspectives (What is it like to be a prostitute? Or a blind old man?).
Also, spend time with like-minded people — and discuss different ideas.
But what if there’s so much negativity? Then let go of negative people.
Walk more. Run. Jog. Eat healthy food and sleep at least 7 hours.
Avoid or minimize social media, entertainment, daily news, and video games. Too much of them isn’t beneficial. They are distractions. They drain the time you can use for more important matters such as learning and creating. Your time is limited.
Learn and create
Learn new things that are relevant to your life goals. And create things — visual arts, music, websites, apps, poems, DIY projects, or any forms of art. When you create things, you discover more about yourself.
As Dejan Stojanovic said, “Creating means living.”
Spend some time alone
Introspect. Write down your thoughts. Practice meditation or any mindfulness habits. Ah yes, build good habits. Replace your bad habits with good.
Have you noticed that most of these things don’t need huge amount of money?
With or without money, we can make our lives better.
So please stop complaining — If only I am born rich. If only there are no temptations. If only heaven allows it. If only… then my life will be better.
You always have a choice.
If you want to solve (or minimize) your money problems:
Drop all your wants and focus on your needs. I know it’s hard. But it’s the truth.
Most of the time people create their money problems. We’re discontent. We always want more.
But what if the solution is to want less not want more?
In most cases, our money problems stem from our root desire to gain more, and impress others — we are social animals that constantly seek others’ approval.
Sometimes it’s because we seek comfort. Sometimes it’s because we want the easy stuff.
This leads us acquiring more possessions we don’t truly need. The problem is that we don’t buy those things from our hard-earned savings — instead we apply for loans.
Now we are in debt. We struggle to pay back. We lose our inner peace. We can’t think clearly.
If we can’t think clearly, we can’t make better decisions. And if we can’t make better decisions, we keep messing up.
Then the cycle repeats. We borrow money again, thinking it may solve our problems. But it never. It only adds a new layer of problems.
Three years ago, I discovered stories of people living fulfilling lives with less money (or even without money, holy cow!). What is the secret?
Mark Boyle is a moneyless man. Jon Jandai lives a self-sufficient life. And Joshua Becker has been living with less possession for years.
It’s inspiring that they hack life in a good way. Though their lifestyles may not work for everyone, we can always try.
Ah yes, I’ve been trying hard. For three years I’ve been living with less, saving more than I spend, and simplifying my life. My rule of thumb is that, if it’s not a need then it’s not that important.
Why would I buy new shirts when I have enough? I’ve never bought a new shirt for 2 years. But I have a few new shirts gifted by my loved ones. Thank you very much.
Why would I buy a new guitar if my guitar still works? Because I want an upgrade? Bullshit. If I want an upgrade, then I will upgrade my skills not the gears. The gears come after.
And if there’s something I want to pursue, instead of buying things or applying for a loan, I focus first on my current resources. How can I make this happen using what I have? Entrepreneurs call it bootstrapping.
Of course it’s not for everyone. But these simple mental shifts have made my life better in ways I never thought possible. I can now save money for the things I love — writing and music. Also travel and self-education.
I may be tempted to chase money — most of us do it once in a while — but as long as I can, I want to stay grounded and be content with what I have.
I love what the German quantum theorist Max Planck said, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”
I don’t need more money to be happy. I don’t need more stuff to be happy. I don’t need more.
We don’t need more.
We already have everything we need.
Here are some of my (weird) thoughts about how money affects human lives:
- What if Society Has No Money
- You Work For Money and Prestige, What About the Things You Love to Do?
- Money is not the Ultimate Goal, Don’t Chase it
In the words of David Foster Wallace,
“If you worship money and things — if they are where you tap real meaning in life — then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough. It’s the truth.”
Question: Is having more money the only way to be happy?
If yes, prove me wrong. I love finding different point of views.
UPDATE: There are contradicting researches about the correlation of money and happiness. Some researchers claim that money can’t buy happiness, whereas others claim it can. (Google Money and happiness.)
What do you think?