The famous 18th century philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau once said “There are two ways to make a man richer: Give him money or curb his desires”. The more money we want, the poorer we feel. The perception of wealth is relative and whether we feel rich or poor is determined not by how much money we have but by how contented we are with how much money we have. It follows that two people with exactly the same amount of money will have different perceptions of how wealthy they are depending on how much wealth they desire to have. Feeling wealthy comes from feeling contented and this in turn paves the way for greater happiness. A continual desire for more, on the other hand, leads to continual dissatisfaction and a feeling of lack or poverty.
Rousseau is not alone in his thinking. Similar beliefs can be found in Buddhist philosophy which has found popularity through concepts such as mindfulness – the practice of focussing one’s attention on the thoughts, sensations and emotions occurring in the present moment rather than worrying about the past or the future. Eckhart Tolle, in his book The Power of Now (New World Library, 1999). says ‘tomorrow’s bills are not the problem’ and can be a ‘core delusion’ that changes a ‘mere situation, event or emotion’ into a reason for suffering and unhappiness.
The beginning of the year is a good time to reflect on the present. There is little point in worrying about the financial impact of last year’s events. Start the year with gratitude for all the good things you have in life, such as friends and family and good health. Deal with any financial issues in the present moment, without worrying about the future. Be content with what you have and you will feel rich.