The Pursuit of ?

The Pursuit of ?

Are you caught up in the constant pursuit of more?  Culturally, this pursuit is so ingrained that many people may not even realize the grip it has on them.  I’ve experienced this in my own life and have frequently witnessed it as a wealth manager.

On the positive side, pursuing dreams, achieving goals, and enjoying the fruits of one’s labor are key ingredients to a life well lived.  Nice houses, exotic vacations, toys, expensive hobbies, private educations, and so on are all wonderful if you’re able to afford them.  On the other hand, we can find ourselves doing things that don’t align with our real interests or values when greed, cultural pressures, or the need for status overtakes our lives.

Some believe that if they achieve a certain level of wealth, they will hitescape velocity and feel they finally have enough.  However, “the pursuit” often intensifies as wealth increases.  One reason for this is that people tend to move into different social circles when moving up the wealth and status ladder.  They are regularly exposed to dazzling lifestyles and people at the top of their game.  University of Illinois psychologist Edward Diener, a leading pioneer on the study of happiness, recently stated in Time Magazine that “money can boost happiness if it allows people to obtain more of the things they need and desire.  But when their desires outpace what they can afford, even rising income can be accompanied by falling feelings of well-being.”

Upward comparison can get the best of anyone, and is further fueled by exposure to advertising that constantly tells us we need more.  Social media sites like Facebook offer endless opportunities to compare our lives to our friends.

The darker side of the pursuit can lead to overly stressful lives, staying in jobs that aren’t fulfilling, loneliness from neglected relationships, and the feeling of being on a hamster wheel that never stops.  The good news is we have more control over this than most things in our life and can take steps to lessen its impact.

Here are some ideas that may be helpful:

  • Spend time exploring your values and goals.  Write them down and talk about them regularly with those close to you and ask them to help hold you accountable.  This keeps you grounded on what’s really important and makes you less susceptible to distractions.
  • When making a purchase, engaging in an experience, or even making a charitable gift, ask yourself if you would still do it if you couldn’t tell anyone about it.  Ryan Howell, a psychologist at San Francisco State University says that this is a good litmus test to see if it matches your true interests and values.
  • Explore the tradeoffs of decisions.  By attempting to understand the implications of decisions before you make them, you’ll likely make better choices and feel more confident.
  • Ask yourself if there is anyone close to you that is being hurt by your pursuit. It can be easy to rationalize that the end justifies the means.
  • Help someone in need.  Generosity is always a good remedy for this kind of thing and serves as a reminder of how well off you really are.  I wrote about this in a previous post.
  • Don’t be overly concerned with whether you have enough.  You’ll likely never feel like you do.  Instead, keep an eye on whether the decisions you are making are moving you closer to or further from your real goals, and take action accordingly.

If you are mindful of how the pursuit can overwhelm your life, you should be able to have more control over it and steer yourself towards your own personal definition of success.  With more clarity, you may experience less stress, better relationships, and more energy for your passions.

You’ll likely even find others trying to follow in your footsteps!  Is it time to reconsider what you are pursuing?

Ben Johnson
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