Last Updated: March 26th, 2019
Excerpt from Jonathan Robinson’s book Find Happiness Now: 50 Shortcuts for Bringing More Love, Balance and Joy Into Your Life
One of the reasons most people give for feeling unhappy is that they simply don’t have enough money. If the money you currently have could assume a human form and talk to you, what might it say? If you’re like most people, it would probably say something like this: “You never appreciate me. All you ever do is complain about how I’m never enough. You’re always worrying about how I might let you down in the future, or might leave you. I feel like you don’t trust me at all. And after all I do for you! I’m always getting things for you, protecting you, entertaining you and making your life easier—but do I ever get a heartfelt thank you? Nooooo!” If we treated our mate the way we “relate” to money, he or she wouldn’t want to hang around us!
Trying to get “enough” money can be like trying to fill a gigantic bowl. No matter how much stuff you put into the bowl, it never fills up. We put a Mercedes in the bowl, a new house, a boat, but it never seems full for more than a few minutes. The reason the bowl never fills up is that it has a big leak in the bottom! Whatever we manage to get and put into our life, like a bowl with a leak, it quickly runs out. We are soon left completely empty.
The bowl represents our desires. We keep trying to fill this leaking bowl, enticed by television ads and movies that tell us if we only had (fill in the blank), then we’d finally be full-filled. But because the bowl has a major leak in the bottom, we never get to the place where we feel we have enough. When people start having some material success, it can sometimes trigger an even bigger leak in the bowl of desires. So begins the endless cycle of never feeling really satisfied.
In my book Real Wealth: A Spiritual Approach to Money and Work, I talk about simple antidotes for the “not enough disease.” The ability to feel thankful for what we have right now is one way to plug up the leak in the bottom of our bowl of endless desires. By feeling grateful for the things in your life, a whole new energy and experience is created.
People often pursue money for years just so they can have a few moments of feeling satisfied. Yet, the practice of gratitude can make us feel rich faster than any “get-rich-quick” scheme ever invented. After all, if you feel thankful for what you have, you’re immediately rich! But if you have millions and don’t appreciate it, then you’re eternally poor.
Perhaps you’re thinking it would be easy to feel grateful if you only had some more money. If only, if only—the curse of the modern mind. If you own a car, you’re automatically in the top seven percent of wealth in the world. If you don’t feel grateful for being in the top seven percent of wealth, being in the top two percent won’t make much difference. The truth is that you and I live better today than kings lived just one hundred years ago! We’re blessed with being able to go to the grocery store and choose from 20,000 food items. We’re blessed with inexpensive ways to enjoy music, read books, be entertained, talk to people on the phone and even travel to distant lands. There’s a lot we can feel grateful for—if we don’t fall into the pothole of “if only” thinking.
I’ve learned that the discipline of gratitude begins by appreciating whatever you currently have—even if part of you doesn’t like it. In my own battle with the “not enough” trap, I learned some tools that immediately helped me convert my feelings of scarcity to feelings of abundance and thankfulness. As I mentioned previously, an effective method is to simply ask yourself the question, “What could I feel grateful for?” When I began this practice, I came up with just intellectual answers. Yet over time I’ve been able to tune into the actual feeling of deep gratitude for the many wonderful things in my life. Gratitude is like a muscle that needs to be exercised. The more I’ve meditated on this question, the easier it has been to feel truly grateful and less caught up in the trap of “if-only” thinking.
A second approach I’ve used in order to feel grateful is to compare myself to people less fortunate than I am. Years ago, when I was in a serious auto accident, I remember wondering if I had become paralyzed. As my hands and feet responded to my thoughts, I was overcome with gratitude. Several other people in the car were not so fortunate. Each day I still take time to feel great thankfulness for the use of my limbs. Many people have found it helpful to keep a “gratitude journal” in which they list five things they’re grateful for each day. A daily practice such as this is useful for calming the mind and awakening an inner sense of abundance.
A third and final way to stop worrying about money is to have a written Plan B. A Plan B is simply a blueprint of what you could do if you ever experienced money troubles. When I wrote down my Plan B, I realized I had over a dozen things I could do to bail me out of financial difficulties. Seeing these ideas on paper helped me to feel assured that, if bad times ever came, I could handle it. After all, I already had a plan. Worrying about money is a non-productive waste of energy. By feeling grateful for what you already have and having a back-up plan in case of difficulties, you can greatly reduce the time you spend worrying. If you can do that, you’ll feel more relaxed and peaceful. Feeling at peace and OK in the world is what real wealth is all about.