It’s Not About the Money

Visiting my old office stomping grounds recently, I exchanged greetings with a colleague I hadn’t seen in a while.  As we connected, she asked what one might typically expect, “How are you doing?”

I’m not sure who was taken aback more when I bypassed the standard “Fine thank you” and instead answered with a somewhat surprised tone in my voice saying, “I’m happy. I’m really happy”.

I was taken aback because I hadn’t really thought about it much until the “I’m happy” popped out of my mouth.

It’s not that I’ve been particularly unhappy, it’s just that I’ve had an especially good summer and more time than usual to think about what’s important.

Those who know me might question my happiness level given as there’s been a lot of uncertainty in my life over the past few months. For example, I’m in the midst of rebuilding a consulting practice while developing a new and complex tech start-up that is going to take time to generate revenue. As a result, my income has taken a significant hit. 

But, even though my buying power may have been crimped somewhat, and my economic well-being may be a bit shaky for a while, I’ve gained something even more important—time and freedom to live with more balance and richness.

It turns out that just as I’ve had the summer to think about and rebalance my priorities, so too are others asking, “What’s the point of money?”

That questioning is the basis of a new book by John De Graaf and David K. Batker called, “What the Economy for, Anyway? Why It’s Time to Stop Chasing Growth and Start Pursuing Happiness”.

In essence they’ve asked how our economy might be organized if quality of life, justice, sustainability, and happiness were its goals instead of money. In other words, what’s our economy for?

Just as I’ve had the opportunity to reprioritize what’s important, so too do De Graaf and Batker explore something different—an economy focusing on people rather than money that would allow us to live better, longer, and more meaningfully by working less, enjoying more, consuming less, polluting less, destroying less, and owing less.

Ultimately de Graaf and Batker set forth a simple goal for any economic system— the greatest good, for the greatest number, over the longest run.

When citizens are asked what they want from the economy, it isn’t about more stuff. Turns out they want more time for family and friends.  As in my case, longer working hours and too little vacation resulted in my being time starved. And, after all, time is the key that opens the door to better health and happiness, closer friends and family ties, and stronger communities.

I won’t lie and say I’m not a bit anxious about money. However, it was put into perspective somewhat when my husband recently asked me what I would be doing differently if I was making more money.

The truth is, not much.

In addition to the cleaning out of cupboards and drawers which seem obligatory for women when they have more time, I have been fortunate to have spent more time with family, attended more cultural events, gone river tubing (such fun!), had more patio lunches with friends, worked out four times a week, cooked healthier meals, almost finished the long overdue update of a textbook that’s been stressing me out for years, read more books, and perhaps most importantly, had more time to think and live in the moment.   

In the end, I might have something in common with economists. They have been so focused on pursuing the how-to’s of economic growth they haven’t stopped to ask “what for?” or “so what?” And maybe, just maybe, that’s something we all should be doing.

Posted on 08-31-12


Great writing. Such good food for thought

•Posted by Letisha  on  09/14/12  at  02:43 AM

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