The Beatles had it right: “Money can’t buy love,” nor can it buy happiness as shown in psychological studies where the co-relation between happiness and money is not as strong as we might think. Many employers also recognize the limits of higher salaries in motivating their employees. Besides fair salaries, workers also want to be treated fairly, praise of their accomplishments, clear communication, involvement in decision-making process, and learning and advancement opportunities.
True happiness comes from within, from the recognition that my value as a human being can never diminish. You were born with that intrinsic worth that a thief can’t steal, a fire can’t burn, and water can’t drown. Of course, we have certain basic needs of food, water and shelter. Beyond that our desires are merely wants and not needs. When we recognize the difference between wants and needs, we gain freedom, for we no longer feel compelled to walk the path that others walk. We can find our own way towards personal satisfaction.
When we look at wealth I sometimes wonder whether our understanding of wealth is narrowly defined, confined merely to a person’s bank account. Yet a person with a lot of money without a joyous heart, loving relationships, and self-worth would actually be poor. Wealth besides our income can extend into all that gives richness of mind, body and spirit.
I am not recommending poverty or abandonment of money but a right relationship with it. We need to clarify our personal values and motivations. Some people are indeed motivated by a large income and work towards it even making sacrifices, yet for some true wealth comes from time spent with family, from the knowledge that you are loved, from connection to a community, or from a connection with the Self. What makes you happy is the more important question? Once you know, then as Joseph Campbell suggests you can “follow your bliss.”
A successful person knows the right direction for them, whether it is an altruistic goal or a pragmatic goal. An unsuccessful person loses self-awareness and the direction to achieve personal fulfillment, instead they follow a direction that has been recommended by others even when it is incongruent with their nature.
We need to learn where we want success in our life whether it is in work, family, personal development or another area of life. Steven, an important person in NEXUS, experiences a conflict between his desire for financial wealth at the expense of ethics and compassion. Like Steven, we can also face a dilemma between different sets of goals. For example, many parents, especially mothers, may have the dilemma of career goals versus the desire to stay home with a young child.
Our society recommends that we have balance in our lives, yet balance in these situatins might be an undesirable goal, rather we need to decide what is our greatest value. What would give you the greatest joy between the choices you face? Or to put it another way: How much fun is it to drive around in Ferrari with no one beside you?
If money isolates us from relationships than it may in fact go counter to our happiness. This is precisely the experience of Steven in our novel. One cautionary note: In seeking happiness, we need to accept the highs and lows in life, since they are part of life. Some of the happiest individuals I’ve meet have been those who remain joyous under any circumstance.