“Make yourself rich, by making your wants few”
– Henry David Thoreau
This quote, I think, proves true in every aspect of life however this is how it proves true in terms of money and material possessions in particular.
When I was 14 I worked my shift of what would become 6 years of working 2-3 different positions at different places, simultaneously. I never really had any intentions other than making money although I wasn’t necessarily saving up for anything in particular. It did inarguably allow me to access incredible experiences such as all the traveling I have been blessed to be able to do already, even as I am still only 21 however that was not necessarily even always the obvious intention. To be honest I worked because I somehow already had this notion that I needed to. It was almost instinctive or habitual, at the very least it was conditioned. I didn’t grow up in an overly privileged household and had I not worked I probably would not have had the opportunity to do some of the things that I did but did I need to work 25-30 hour work weeks while still in school? No. Did I need to work at all? In terms of money to survive, no. Not at all.
This year has been the year of realizing the true value of money and realizing the true cost of overvaluing it which I think is the case for most people, as it was for me.
In talking about money, possessions and work I think it is critical to address the basic human needs for living and thriving.
The illustration above is commonly known as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. I remember initially encountering this pyramid in my third period Psychology class, in which I usually, definitely, had issues paying attention. I had a teacher who was absolutely incredible but unfortunately also cursed with an incredibly monotone voice and I usually found myself engaging more in writing secret notes than engaging in class discussions. We did address some really interesting and intriguing theories in that class though, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs was one of them.
The hierarchy addresses the needs of humans in order to live and thrive. On the bottom are the most basic needs, labeled as the “Physiological” needs and including food, water, shelter and warmth (along with other physiological needs such as breathing and sleeping) the basic needs are the only needs associated with money in terms of surviving and thriving. While money is certainly necessary in most situations in order to be able to pay for at least food, water and shelter, I think most people are rather disconnected from the perspective of how much or rather how little is actually needed.
All you need money for in life is the rent of a room, food to keep you satiated which is probably, I dare suggest, a lot less than what people are actually eating under regular circumstances along with water if that is not publicly accessible for free of charge. For most people in most situations that is not going to be a lot of money in perspective of what a 9 to 5 40 work, any work, pays per month. So what about the rest of the money?
The rest of the money is for enhancements, the excess money is a privilege but a privilege that, like all other privileges, comes with responsibility.
If you have more money, you have the privilege to choose what you want to eat which unlike purchasing for food is not a basic human need, the basic human need is a demand for nutrition but not of a particular kind. Money will allow you to choose. The more money the more choices, theoretically.
If you have more money, you have the privilege to choose where you want to live: In what country, in what city, in what neighborhood, in what building. You also have the privilege to choose how much space you want: A tent, a room, an apartment, a house. The more money the more choices, theoretically.
These are merely examples of the advantages and disadvantages that money provides.
Distinction between need and want is of essence, and I think most people, including myself for a long time, are completely ignorant to the fact that more money demands for more work and therefore inevitably at some point will decrease our happiness, that money is not necessarily infinitely, increasingly advantageous. How much money is enough and what is demanded to make that? To what extend does money increase life value? And when does it begin to decrease it?
I know that the suggestion may sound abstract but it is really quite simple although it is individual.
For me, an amount of money that allows me to purchase organic produce, a small simple accommodation somewhere idyllic and provides me with the freedom to travel, that is an amount of money that would increase my life value and happiness. However any excess amount of money that would require me to work so much, that I would not have time to meet my needs of love and belonging, self-esteem and self-actualization, would not be worth it.
Of course I do think it is important to acknowledge that any amount of work that is driven from passion and purpose and inspiration is always valuable and always worthwhile.
In conclusion, I think it is so crucial to our happiness that we allow ourselves to reevaluate, continuously, what makes us happy. Especially in terms of money since consuming more is what we are conditioned to believe is the mean to more happiness.
Is it clothes to cover us or is it clothes to cover us, designed by a particular designer, that determines our happiness; and, apart from the money, what else will the purchase; privilege, cost us?
My proposal isn’t perfection but rather perception, perspective and progress