Since I was a little girl, I have loved words. Learning words, using words, and expanding my vocabulary. Reading and writing exercises in elementary school were my favorites. In high school, my friends would tease me because I could always throw in sophisticated synonyms. I loved how words had the power to elevate a mundane conversation, granted everyone understood the alternates being used.
Poetry, epic fiction, and English literature were a formative part of my teen years and I often dreamt of becoming a writer. Then a different, colder voice would interject and convince me that making a bunch of money, so that I could have a good life, was the right way to go. "Be a lawyer", it would say, "Then you can use all your words and be important and make money!"
That never happened. I discovered personal finance and investing in the early 2000's, right before the dot-com bust. I majored in financial services within a business administration degree, took my securities and certified financial planning courses, and started my career at a bank when I was nineteen. I was on my way!
THE DEFINITION OF WEALTH
While I understood money - what it was for, how to use it, how to make it, save it, and was even trained on how to invest it, I hadn't taken the time to understand wealth. To really, deeply understand it. For all my curiosity and love of words and their meanings, I never explored the vast meaning of the word wealth. Naively, and perhaps with some condescension because of my chosen career path, I thought I knew what wealth meant. In reality, I had no idea.
As defined by the dictionary, wealth is:
* an abundance of valuable possessions or money.
"he used his wealth to bribe officials"
* the state of being rich; material prosperity.
"some people buy boats and cars to display their wealth"
* plentiful supplies of a particular resource.
"the country's plentiful mineral wealth"
* a plentiful supply of a particular desirable thing.
"the tables and maps contain a wealth of information"
synonyms: affluence, prosperity, riches, means, substance, fortune
This official definition covers off what I thought wealth meant, especially as it related to being rich and having material prosperity. 'Material' being the operative word. Wealth is pretty clear to most of us, especially when we are on a career, corporate or entrepreneurial warpath. The attainment of prosperity, of means, and of fortune is a high priority. It is also highly prioritized by modern culture and media.
WEALTH AS MONEY
Stories, movies, tv-shows, radio shows, books, blogs, podcasts about the rich and ultra-rich, high-flying bankers and traders, savvy empire-building investors, and garage-to-greatness nerds ruling industries are in our faces 24/7.
We cannot get away from the idea that success must be measured by monetary wealth, and that wealth brings happiness and fulfillment. Or that chasing wealth - and the attainment of more money - is the most valuable use of our time, efforts and lives.
Why does wealth have to be “more” or “most”? And why does it have to be only related to money? As someone once told me, money is a vehicle and it serves a purpose. We are not its servant. It does not control us. It is mostly necessary but it doesn’t need to be the goal.
As a society, we’re so focused on money, on the accumulation of it for the benefit of ourselves, our ego, for power and for control. Unfortunately, many chase that materialistic definition of wealth.
I certainly did. And that chase did not bring happiness or fulfillment.
One of my biggest 'you should' beliefs was around money. I made career and life choices based on chasing wealth. My ego clung precariously to every move I made, every raise, every promotion, and later on, to investments that were higher risk than they were worth.
I continued that chase unconsciously in search of this external validation. It was in good faith because, unbeknownst to me, I was searching for my value and my meaning.
THEN, WHAT IS WEALTH?
Wealth can be so much more than currency or the collection of riches. Wealth is a noun and as far as I can tell, it can be applied to other nouns. More meaningful nouns. Entire categories. Entire pillars of our lives. Look at the keyword that the dictionary provided to describe wealth:
Where else can we apply the definition of abundance to our lives? That's the most important question to begin reframing the definition of wealth. Where else in our lives are we wealthy? What are other areas of our lives overflowing with plenty? How are we prospering?
In relationships, love, family, community, emotions, spirituality, career & purpose, creativity, health.
We are wealthier than we believe. We are prospering in areas of our lives we might not consider. There are so many small and daily happenings that we completely overlook, which are proof-positive that we are wealthy.
We have plenty. We really do.
What is in our lives that gives us a sense of fulfillment, joy, and contentment? How much of that do we have? It's a profound shift to think this way, and almost magical. It also helps us to shift our focus on what really matters. Because I want more of that wealth - the kind that is already surrounding me, feeding my Soul, and contributing to a sense of alignment, meaning, and fulfillment.
This is the wealth and abundance that I am supremely grateful for.
APPRECIATION AND GRATITUDE
Wealth is abundance. Abundance is a mentality - a mental framework. You can rewire your brain to create entirely new mental frameworks. Rewire your brain through gratitude. And, feel better through gratitude.
Recognizing the wealth and abundance in our lives naturally opens us up to appreciation and to gratitude. Whether you catalog everything in one giant exercise, maintain a daily gratitude journal, take gratitude walks or do gratitude meditations, the more you realize and appreciate all that you have - whether material, emotional, relational, spiritual or physical - the more naturally you will feel gratitude.
Gratitude is our emotion that relates to our ability to feel and express thankfulness and appreciation. When I first heard of gratitude journals and a gratitude practice, my mind dismissed it. It made no logical sense. I was young, then. I had been suppressing any and all intuitive feminine qualities because I only valued the intellect. What I didn't believe, what I didn't know, is how life-changing gratitude can be.
Gratitude is even scientifically shown to improve health. People who consciously focus on gratitude experience greater emotional well-being and physical health than those who don’t. When we appreciate something, our ego moves out of the way and we connect with our Soul.
When we appreciate the abundance already in our lives, our energy shifts and we attract even more abundance into our space. Recognizing abundance helps us feel wealthy, especially in areas where we never before associated that word with what we had.
What is real? That is a massive spiritual seeker's question. It is the question. We can apply that question to the way we personally think about and define wealth. What does wealth mean to me? What does wealth mean to you?
With abundance and gratitude in mind, what is real wealth?
The absolute, exciting beauty in that question is that the answer is unique and as you reflect on it, you can shape the definition to align with your aspirations. With your deepest and most noble intent. What holds meaning for you? What do you really, truly, deeply want? How does that question make you feel? What does your Soul say?
A more aligned definition of wealth helps you to feel the way you want to feel, and live in a way that has more meaning. As a consequence, as I've seen for myself, and for many people I've met who are worldly-wealthy, they believe in abundance, are full of gratitude, love, and optimism. They are the most remarkable people. They are happy, fulfilled. Many are living with and for purpose, first. The 'money' follows.
Wealth is a state of being. It is, in many ways, of state of mind. How we look at the world, the lens we see it through can be one of abundance or it can be one of scarcity. I choose abundance. I choose wealth.
I believe that wealth can be redefined by each of us personally. We have the power to change what it means, and how we approach it. That is immense power.
We can define it for ourselves, whatever we want it to mean and as a consequence, what we will do to attain more 'wealth'. With that in mind, as you go within to find your real meaning of wealth know that wealth is grown from a mindset of recognizing abundance, and the related practice of gratitude.
I define wealth as an abundance of every person, being, environment, experience, and emotional state that makes my heart sing and my soul shine. Wealth is the gift of being able to live with meaning and purpose.
How do you define wealth?