26 June 2012

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The value(s) of money: Living a better life by having a job that matters to you

In the blog article “If you’re frugal, you don’t need to earn as much as everyone else”, blogger Kristen shares what those of us who have discovered the joys of living with less know: when you’re not chasing after materialistic success and wealth, you don’t have to compromise on your values to get ahead in life. This does take a specific mind-set, though. You need to know what really matters to you to work towards it, or you might just end up blindly chasing the biggest pay check you can with no regard for your happiness in the long run.
If you don't know what you want, you end up with a lot you don't.

This notion of working towards a better you rather than a bigger bank balance seems absurd in a country where people are struggling to get work. I can already imagine people declaring, “Of course you want the highest paying job you can possible get! Why struggle?” Well, it depends on what you see as “struggling”. Making the best of the money you have can be very rewarding. And while working your butt off to afford things like the best car or the biggest house or the most expensive holiday can also be rewarding, things in themselves cannot make you happy.

It’s important to have some perspective and not to over-do it. When we work too much we don’t have time for our friends and families, time to enjoy the hobbies we love or time to relax and take stock of our lives and where we’re heading. While there’s nothing wrong with having a lot of money, if you’re chasing after superficial success when you already have enough, you have to ask yourself why you’re doing this and if you’ll ever feel like you have enough.

The dilemma many of us face is that we can never have “enough”. There will always be more expensive things out there, demanding our attention and masquerading as something we have to have now. Our spending habits are geared toward this kind of instant satisfaction, and we do not value long term success that cannot be measured in Rand. This is one of the reasons why people become over indebted. By buying more and more we think we are buying better lives, but when we add the financial stress of being in debt to the mix, we’re ten steps back from where we started.

It is not the man who has little, but the man who desires more, that is poor.
 As Kristen says in her blog, she achieved the things she wanted to achieve in life exactly because she wasn’t geared towards making a lot of money, but because she wanted to be happy with what she was doing. Think about it: you spend most of you week days working, so if you don’t like your job or you feel pressured to earn more and more, you start losing focus of the reason you chose that career in the first place and every day becomes a rush to get the job done or a drag to the finish line. Only to be back at work again the next day.

Feeling like you’re doing the job you’re meant to be doing is much more rewarding than longing for a better salary or a holiday. If you refuse to compromise on your values, you might just find that a better job finds you, one you are really good at, and the money will roll in by itself. The only difference is, this time you won’t be tempted to buy yourself a better life – you’ll already be living it.

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