If money makes the world go round, what makes it all worthwhile?
It is easy to be glib about money and say that it does not matter, but of course it does. It frees us from the tyranny of others and allows us to enjoy rich and diverse experiences. However to follow the theme of Decembers issue of Psychologies magazine, money is not in and of itself enough to make us happy.
'Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers'
Several stories in the media of late have resonated with me in this context and to take one, the news that some football clubs are paying their backroom staff below the minimum wage whilst some of their footballers earn in excess of £300,000 a week. Try telling the backroom staff that money doesn't matter! However if you take a moment to look at the lives of the footballers, I wander how many of them are truly happy in a broader sense?
Of course money is no guarantee of happiness and it is our relationships with others which matter most. Acts of kindness and altruism, as Steve Taylor points out in his excellent article on Lifelabs, are the ultimate expression of the human spirit at its best. Because we are social creatures living in an interconnected world, no amount of money can make us happy unless our relationships with others are good and healthy ones. Happiness is not something which we can 'acquire' it is not a commodity or an 'it' but rather a gift which comes to us, if we are fortunate, as a by-product of living a good and balanced life. To my mind, this awareness is a form of spirituality and if this word jars with you, consider the words of fellow coach Jerry Gilpin:
'..almost everything we do is innately spiritual and physical. Spirituality isn't part of us, its who we are. Likewise, its not a dimension we have to decide to enter or address..its just part of the matrix we are situated within..'
I once met a partner of a global consulting firm who described his life as 'a fur lined rut'. He was used to all of the material trappings (great word in this context) of success but he was bored and no amount of money could change that. Like so many high earners he was cash rich and time poor, he was no longer enjoying what he did for a living and he felt trapped. His life was fundamentally out of balance.
To benefit from full and rounded relationships time is more important than money, and the quality of the time is most important of all. You only need to look at the delighted look on the faces of children, when they have your full and undivided time and attention, to see that this is the case. I recently reread a book which I first read fully 25 years ago and a quote jumped out at me for its relevance today.
'We are in such a hurry most of the time and we never get much time to talk. The result is a kind of endless day to day shallowness, a monotony that leaves a person wandering years later where all the time went and sorry that it has all gone'
Robert M Pirsig 'Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance'
As a coach and mentor I sometimes reflect on the people who have influenced me most over the years and try to replicate such relationships. These people have taken the time to talk properly. They have treated me as an equal, valued my opinion and listened to what I have to say. In listening, they have demonstrated empathy and understanding. They have challenged me when appropriate and made me laugh, often at myself. Above all, they have developed relationships of mutual respect and trust which have enabled me to grow with confidence. No amount of money can buy these sorts of relationships and they require a far more significant investment of wisdom, love and time.
Some of the content for this article is drawn from a book I hope to publish next year entitled 'what next? an insiders view into career management and change'