Though it may come as a shock to some, money is not the most important thing in life. In an earlier article, I wrote about five things I think are more important than money. Today's post is a continuation of that discussion. We might even call this post five more things more important than money.
Don't get me wrong. We have to have money to live and provide for ourselves and our families.
Here's the problem.
There is way too much focus on money and material things. The advertising industry and the compliant media it supports tries to convince us we need the latest new thing. They push consumerism as a way of life. It causes us to chase material things in the pursuit of happiness. We've all heard the meme that money can't buy happiness.
Is that really true?
Some would argue it's much easier to be happy with money than without. Perhaps. In my observation, though, I've seen more unhappy wealthy people than those of more modest means. I'll talk more about that in a moment.
Here are the five things listed in the original post – Health, Family, Relationships, Values, Legacy.
What follows are five other things to add to my original list. You can let me know in the comments if you agree or disagree.
Cathy and I build our lives around our faith. We are Christians. I realize not everyone reading this may agree. That's OK. I'd ask you to continue reading. I am going to tell you the role faith plays in our lives. It's important to us that you know who we are.
I'll also offer my thoughts on the importance of faith for non-believers as well. Please, don't check out just yet.
Faith in our lives
God has carried us through incredibly difficult times, during our almost 35 years of marriage. He's shown us favor far beyond what we ever could imagine. Prayer, Scripture, and community are all part of our Christian walk. Let me explain what it means to live a life of faith. It starts with a basic premise. We are sinners saved by Grace (Ephesians 2: 8-9). Grace is not something we can earn or work to achieve. By definition, it is a gift. Today, even in the Christian community, that is often misunderstood.
Scripture teaches us that no one is righteous, no not one (Romans 3: 10-12, Psalm 14: 1-2). That fact should give all Christians great humility. The picture the media often paints is of a judgmental, arrogant, condescending group. That's Biblically and functionally inaccurate. But that image sells better than the truth. We Christians are called to be humble, to serve, to love God and others.
Faith has a role for non-Christians as well. Do you have faith in yourselves? Do you have faith that you can get through challenges and be better for having endured them? Those are also acts of faith.
Having faith that things will work out for the better is a mindset. It represents an optimistic attitude. With all the negativity around us, keeping the faith can be difficult. And the challenges we face along the way can knock us down. Faith in ourselves and understanding that adversity makes us stronger give us the strength to persevere.
Or maybe your faith is in something other than Christianity. We have the choice to decide where we place our faith and trust. Wherever that faith lies, believing in something bigger than ourselves offers hope and encouragement during life's journey.
However one defines it, having faith that things will work out and that we can persevere sets the tone for our lives IMO.
Think about your legacy. Wouldn’t one of the things you’d like people to say about you be that you were a man or woman of integrity? I know that’s one of the things I want people to say about me.
Integrity is part of our value system. Integrity means doing things honestly. It means treating people respectfully. It means caring about the well-being of others. Integrity is something that everyone knows when they see it.
Conversely, it’s something everyone notices when it’s missing.
It’s easy to find people who lack integrity. They may look the part. Taking a closer look often reveals a different picture.
Integrity is what you do in the dark when no one is looking. It’s not the front you put on in the public eye. It’s certainly not the story people tell about themselves on Facebook and other social media platforms.
We need more people of integrity in government, business, education, and in life. Let’s aspire to be men and women of integrity who put others interests before our own; who operate the same way when no one is looking as we do when people are watching.
Let’s be the person who can disagree without being disagreeable; without shouting and talking over those with whom we disagree.
Let integrity be the foundation that drives our decisions.
Do you see that we’re running on a continuum here? If we focus on staying healthy, nurture relationships with family and friends, spend our time wisely, continue learning, and build our legacy, our self-worth will improve, leading to a life of contentment.
Money is a pivotal part of the journey. Money is a means to an end. If it becomes more than that, we’re in trouble. If getting more of it is the goal, it could get in the way of our having good relationships, eating right, or exercising.
What we value guides us to our end game. That journey leaves our legacy. If we are working on all of these areas, we will find contentment. Paul, writing from a prison cell tells us in Scripture that, “No that I am speaking of being in need, but I have learned in whatever situation I'm in to be content” (Philippians 4:11). He said this from a prison cell. Trust me, first-century prison cells for Christians were not pleasant. In some instances, prison officers beat Paul almost to the point of death. He often wore shackles on his legs and arms.
Once again, whether you believe Scripture or not, the lessons are applicable. When I read this verse, I ask myself would I be content? Would I have that kind of a positive attitude? If I'm honest, I'd have to say heck no. I'd likely be crying like a baby or screaming for someone to get me out!
Does being content mean we won’t worry? Of course not. Will we meet adversity and challenges along the way? Absolutely. That’s all part of the process. How we deal with adversity shapes who we are.
Contentment doesn’t come from having stuff. Stuff is not fulfilling. It’s temporal. And there will always be someone who has more or better possessions. That brings us back to an earlier point. If accumulating money and stuff is the goal, it’s a rare instance that brings contentment
Contentment comes from within each of us. It's a choice not to let our external circumstances, most of which are outside our control, dictate how we react. It's a state of mind we would all be better off pursuing, me at the top of that list.
In today’s competitive world, it seems education is more important than ever. The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the unemployment rate in January 2017 was 2.5% for college grads and 7.7% for high school dropouts. For people with some college or an associate degree, the unemployment rate was 3.8%.
Right now, some of you are thinking, “Isn't the focus of the post on things more important than money? Why are you bringing up employment statistics”?
Simple. We need money to survive. We have to have food, shelter, clothing, and the basics of life. That takes money.
To provide for ourselves, we need to work. The cost of living can vary dramatically based on where we live. Having a job that pays a living wage is vital to us financially and in many other ways.
Being able to provide for ourselves builds self-esteem. Education is a valuable starting point for that self-esteem. Self-esteem gives us confidence. Confidence improves our chances of being successful.
A good education improves our critical thinking. When we can think critically, it helps us make better decisions. Better decisions lead to better outcomes.
And the education shouldn’t stop after we’re done with school. The internet provides the opportunity to consume more content than ever. We can read books on our tablets. We can even get our degrees online now if we so choose.
Anyone can be successful with or without a degree. However, the better-paying jobs favor those with an education. That can be an undergrad, masters or a skill specific technical knowledge. Whatever form it takes, the better educated we are, the more opportunities we will have.
Education comes in a lot of forms. Take advantage of it in whatever way that suits you. And never stop learning.
Man, oh man is the issue of time a big one these days. Does it ever seem we have enough of it? Don't we always seem to run out of time?
We Americans seem to pride ourselves on being busy. We work more extended hours and spend less time on leisure activities than almost any other developed country. Most married households have both spouses working full-time.
If there are children, parents shuttle them from soccer practice and games to swimming to lacrosse, to basketball and any number of other activities.
We have some close friends who help their granddaughter excel in dance. They have traveled all over the country with her. She practices multiple times a week and has some competitions most weekends.
I love that they’re doing this for her. I worry about balance.
Even those who are younger and single strive to get to the top level of their jobs. Alternatively, they aim to gain financial freedom to allow themselves the opportunity to leave those jobs to do their own thing.
That’s all well and good. But at what cost? Is financial freedom, having your kids be the best at multiple activities or climbing the corporate ladder worth not living today?
Putting stress on ourselves and our kids can damage both the parents and the kids. Balance is hard. It's also important. It’s something I wish more of us could find.
Here are the ten things that make up my list of things more important than money:
Health, Family, Relationships, Values, Legacy
Faith, Integrity, Contentment, Education, Time
Like anything we read, there are things we will agree with and things we won't. I promised when I started Money with a Purpose that I would be transparent and honest in my writing. I hope that's what these two posts do. Your list of ten things may be different than mine.
That's perfectly fine.
I never expect everyone to agree with anything I write. I value the comments and feedback I get from readers who disagree. Healthy discussion around topics of disagreement makes life better IMHO.
As I've said many times if we would get back to the place where we could disagree with one another without being disagreeable, the world would be a better place.
Call me an idealist or naive, but I believe that's an achievable goal we build one relationship at a time.
Now it's your turn. What things would you add to the list? What traits would you not include? How are you able to find balance in your life? Let me know in the comments below.