Why Making Money Shouldn't Be Your Only Goal in Life
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"Money can’t buy happiness." We've all heard this sentence (and others like it) countless times before, seen it printed on motivational posters and ascribed to various celebrities and philosophers. But do any of us truly, genuinely believe it?
For most people, the answer is a resounding no. In simple and obvious ways, we all need money for everything from fulfilling basic needs necessary for survival to making our wildest dreams come true.
But making money should not be the one overarching goal in life, overshadowing everything else we have going on.
Money is a means to an end
When most people visualize a seven-, eight- or even nine-figure net worth, they aren’t thinking of the money itself: The real value of money is what you can do with it. In truth, money itself is rarely the end goal.
We need money to make many of our objectives a reality. Whether these objectives are of the real estate kind, material goods, or experiences — like travelling the world — money is going to be a necessary factor for making them happen.
When people talk of money being a means to an end rather than an end goal, this is the underlying idea. We shouldn’t be focusing solely on the act of making profits, but also on using these assets to shape our lives and others in ways that make us happier and more fulfilled. Making a large amount of money takes an enormous amount of effort for most of us – but doing so with a specific intention in mind will make the road to achieving our goals more fulfilling.
Life is short
It’s a cliché, but we all know it’s true. Though we do our best to ignore it, the truth is that our lives could be cut short at any moment, as could those of our loved ones.
It’s important to have goals in life and plans for the future, money-related or otherwise, but this can’t prevent us from living in the present. Not all dreams and goals have to be set somewhere far off in the distant future for "when I’m rich," "when I’m CEO" or "when I’ve retired." Setting the goal of enjoying the present on your way to the future won’t distract you from working towards what you want to achieve.
For the same reason, amassing money for the sake of amassing money will not bring you life satisfaction in itself. You should be fully aware of the health of your finances and have a hefty reserve of funds, but remember to take advantage of it while you can. Even if you’re saving up for a larger expenditure, like a retirement fund or a new house, don’t be afraid to spend money on things you want and experiences that enrich your life, here and now.
Beware of burnout
Burnout is considered to be an occupational phenomenon – it refers to a state of physical, mental, and/or emotional exhaustion caused specifically by work-related stress. It’s a problem common and serious enough to have earned an entry in the International Classification of Diseases. A 2020 survey found that nearly two-thirds of full-time workers are dealing with burnout at some point while at work.
Of course burnout might be caused by factors other than excessive focus on income: Many jobs, such as healthcare or law enforcement, involve intense psychological pressure that could be overwhelming. But if your sole focus in life is to make more money, you run the risk of losing regard for your health and wellbeing, eventually becoming unable to continue your pursuit.
Introducing other goals into your life – unrelated to making money – will, at the very least, give you some breathing space and a way to unwind and find satisfaction in other areas of your life. Exercise goals, for instance, will put you in better shape – all while providing a release from work-related stress. Working towards family and relationship goals will ease the emotional tension you build up at work.
It’s important to ensure that we have something in our lives that’s just as important as our businesses or careers so that there's at least one more source of positive affirmation. Values and goals unrelated to money-making provide healthy ways of dealing with the stresses and pressures of our professional lives, lowering the risk of burnout and preventing us from turning to damaging coping mechanisms like drugs or alcohol.
And at the end of the day, even at the most practical level, you’ll want to be in a good physical and mental shape to take advantage of the opportunities that the money you’ve earned can give you. If you drive yourself into a rut trying constantly to maximize your income, you won’t be able to enjoy the rewards.
Happiness can only come from the fulfilment of what we need and want. The problem is that we usually don't know what we want or need. We often think that we do, but in reality we may have our priorities wrong. With that said, does money make you happy? My answer is yes to some extent — money can buy freedom and experiences, which in turn lead to happiness.
In a world that is riddled with noise and overtaken in a helpless rat race to nowhere, the only chance to rediscover happiness is to cultivate meaning. Your privileges, your pursuits, your achievements, your endowments, your experiences, your expectations, your very existence — these should all make you ponder life's most persistent question: What meaning are you building with them?