I was wandering along a beachfront in Florida, admiring a beautiful plant I had never seen before, when I first realized I had a skewed view of resources.
That sounds like a strange place to have that realization, it really isn’t.
Let me explain.
We had only been living in South Florida for a few months, but it only took a few months to realize this was one of the most wealthy places in the country—and people weren’t afraid to flaunt it. Everywhere we went, we saw luxury vehicles and fancy shoes and five-carat wedding rings and the end-result of plastic surgeries.
There were boats and boat houses and yachts with their own Wikipedia pages. There were houses the size of hotels, and other houses so big they made the hotel houses look like shacks.
In some ways, of course, this wild display of wealth was a little disconcerting for me. But at the same time, it was eye-opening.
I couldn’t believe there was this much wealth in the world.
I had never considered that this overflow of resources even existed. And the way I saw it was, if there were people who could afford multimillion dollar vacation homes (sometimes second vacation homes, or third, or fourth) surely there were enough resources to feed people who were starving, and clothe those who were homeless.
So for me, seeing the wealth didn’t seem completely depressing. It actually seemed very hopeful.
This was the first shift in how I thought about money.
I thought: resources are much less limited than I ever imagined. There is plenty to go around.
This shift was very important for me, because it made me realize we weren’t all competing to get a small part of a fixed pie. In fact, we didn’t need to compete at all. Instead of feeling like a starving child at a dinner table, mad at everyone else who had a bigger portion than me, or guilty about having the portion I had, I just kept thinking, over and over: there is plenty to go around.
Which brings me to the day on the beach with the beautiful flower.
Because although I’d experienced this shift in perspective about money, something still didn’t feel right to me. I mean, there were abundant resources in the world, but people actually were still starving and homeless. And although I knew I was “rich” from a certain standpoint, being around this much wealth always made me feel like I was falling behind.
No matter how much I made, how much I put away—it never felt like there was enough.
So what was the disconnect?
And so, as I wandered down the beach that day and I stumbled on this beautiful plant, I realized my instinct was to pluck one of the blossoms and put it behind my ear. It was so beautiful, couldn’t resist. But as I reached out, I thought to myself: If I take this flower now, the next person walking down the beach won’t be able to enjoy it.
And in case that sounds like a really noble thought, the next though I had wasn’t so noble. It basically went like this: so what?
“It’s not the same,” I argued with myself. “Admiring this beautiful flower on the beach is not the same as taking it back to my house.” I already had the vase in mind I was going to use when I displayed this flower prominently on my kitchen table. That’s when the rational side of me spoke up again. “Yes, but if you pluck this flower from the bush, it will die in a few hours.”
And that’s when the second shift in my thinking about money came into being.
I realized that, most of the time, I feel like I have to own something—to hoard it and keep it for myself—in order to enjoy its beauty. It has to be mine. A new pair of shoes, a beautiful car, even the talent or ability of a friend. Whoever claims it, whoever owns it is the rich one. Everyone else is poor.
This is where name-dropping comes from and shopping addictions and consumer debt.
When I think about money, or blessings or resources as limited, I miss their beauty altogether. (tweet this)
When I think of the world’s resources like a fixed pie, in which we’re constantly fighting for resources, I find myself trapped by feelings like jealousy, competition, greed and fear.
It’s counter-intuitive, but I’m actually more happy when I have less.
I’m actually richer when I don’t try to save things or keep them for myself. The more I give, the more I receive. The more I receive, the more I give.
It doesn’t make sense, but suddenly, it’s as if I realize: Hey, there is plenty to go around!
These two small shifts have changed the way I think about money, changed the way I act with money, and changed the way I feel about generosity. The fear I used to feel around money (I don’t have enough!) is quickly fading away. The tendency I used to have to hoard money (I have to be prepared!) is all but gone.
My inability to share what I have (everyone else has more than I do!) is non-existent.
I’m more thankful, more satisfied, and “richer” than I’ve ever been before. Not in dollar amount, necessarily, but in attitude at least.
And that has made all the difference.