by Judy M McCutcheon, MBA
In our pursuit of money, we often expend our lives trying to find it. It was the Dalai Lama, who talked about us giving up our health to get money and then when we get the money, we give it up to get our health. We, humans, are very complex and complicated, but that is what makes us interesting. We hear a lot about work-life balance, but is there such a thing?
I personally believe that no such thing exists, it’s almost like an elusive dream. I think the only way to achieve them both is by blending, rather than balancing. My friend says that she views it more as riding a bicycle, moving from side to side to maintain balance. So sometimes you put more weight on one side depending on what’s happening in your life. I’m sure you know someone who says that when they get that promotion or that new job then they will take a vacation or they’ll be happier etc. You might even be guilty of that yourself. But, if we were, to be honest with ourselves we would come to the realisation that, money would never buy us happiness. What it does is make life more comfortable. There is no disputing that there is a strong correlation between wealth and some form of happiness – just look at the happiness meter of wealthy nations as opposed to poorer nations. I’ve always maintained that it is a lot better to cry in a Mercedes Benz than on a bicycle.
While I advocate strongly for wise financial planning so that you can live and retire free from the stresses that accompany a shortage of money, I do think that the pursuit of money as your primary goal, will affect you negatively. We should take a more holistic view when it comes to everything in our lives, including money. There is an opportunity cost to everything that we do. Think about what it will cost you when you are contemplating that overtime or working on the weekends just so you can buy the latest iPhone X, or whatever it is that you must have. Then compare it to the time lost with your family. It is important that you contextualise your money-motivated decisions. After you’ve made the sacrifice so that you can get the latest gadget, chances are that “high” you experienced with that purchase is short-lived. Think about it carefully, when you go to an all you can eat restaurant in the United States, you pile your plate high and then most of it is wasted – your eyes are usually bigger than your stomach. This simple experiment proves that you are bad at predicting your future enjoyment of a particular thing and the financial impact of that could be disastrous, especially when it comes to big-ticket items. You don’t have to outshine anyone with your purchases; they just need to work well for you – context is everything.
We should endeavour to live a life that is meaningful and enjoyable, rather than be stressed out continually about money and worrying needlessly about the future. You should adopt the concept of “waiting to worry”, that way you put off worrying and a high medical bill. Yes, it is important that you plan for tomorrow, but it should not be at the expense of today, nor should your tomorrow be sacrificed for today. Know what’s important to you at this stage in your life. If you are single, then your focus might be more on work and making as much money as possible. If you have a family with small children, then your focus might be very different. The trick is to find your blend. Think about the trade-off you make in terms of time and money and know where to draw the line so that all areas of your life blend perfectly. Bear in mind that perfect is what perfect means to you and not what society says that perfect should be. Maybe we should plan our lives in five-year blocks much like politics; it would help to take the strain off trying to look down the barrel into the future at 60 when you are only 20. Thinking about your goals in five-year spurts should help to ease some of the pressure. Another thing is to make your goals exciting, that way it gives you something to look forward to and the daily sacrifices would not seem as hard. Take a critical look at the things you spend on and practice conscious spending; prioritise the things that are important and cut your spending on things that do not really matter to you. Work-life balance or blend should not be an “either/or” proposition. We must change the mindset that money and life are mutually exclusive and look at them as all-encompassing and that way it enables us to spend, save, budget, and manage our money optimally.
Judy McCutcheon is a partner in the firm Go Blue Inc, a Human Development Company. www.goblueinc.net