Are you rich? Pause for a moment and really consider the question. Does it make you feel uncomfortable to consider yourself rich?
No matter how much money we have, most of us avoid classifying ourselves as rich. Our distorted view of our own wealth can be severe. I was recently speaking with someone who earns more than $1 million annually. He told me he was tired of being poor.
Where does this distorted view of the world come from? The term rich is a relative one, and we typically compare ourselves to those with more instead of those with less. The challenge is no matter how much we have, there is always someone with more money. When we compare ourselves to someone with more, while may feel comfortable, we don't consider ourselves rich.
Why does it matter if we don't consider ourselves rich? One might argue that having a conservative perspective on our wealth encourages us to work hard and save for our future. Isn't that a good thing? Does it hurt anyone if we fail to recognize how much we have compared to others?
Yes, it does. It may be harming you in four distinct ways.
1. Undervaluing your comparative wealth reduces your sense of gratitude for all that you have. In my opinion, having a genuine sense of gratitude is a necessary condition for living a life with meaning, satisfaction and joy. When we adopt a mindset that reduces our sense of gratitude, we can diminish the joy we could be experiencing.
2. You may be constraining yourself from doing things that give you pleasure. You may believe you can't afford a nice vacation, send your children to an expensive college or donate to your favorite charities. You may not even tip well and hang on to that extra $10 you could have left a good server. You may be staying in a job you're not happy in because the income is good. You might be scared to venture into a field you may love more because of financial considerations. If you think you are not rich, you tend to hold onto your money rather than do good in the world and do good for yourself.
3. Because you don't consider yourself rich, you focus your time, energy and attention on obtaining that goal. Even though you may already have abundant resources, your misperception keeps your from recognizing it, and you may continue working hard rather than taking time off to engage in activities you enjoy − being with loved ones or maybe just exercising and sleeping more. Remember that time is your most precious resource, and you'll never be able to recapture those hours making money you don't really need.
4. Your failure to recognize your financial abundance may blind you to recognizing your true wealth. When we focus intently on growing our financial pie, we often fail to acknowledge the other resources we have at our disposal to create the life we desire. We undervalue our time, Signature Talents™, wisdom, body and mind and network of relationships. When we fail to recognize our true wealth, we blind ourselves to capturing opportunities to enhance the quality of our lives and the lives of the people we love.
So when you compare yourself to people who have more and feel you come up short, it can cause you to measure your life in ways that are not constructive. Don't fall into the trap of making crucial decisions and measuring your life by the size of your bank account.
So I challenge you to think again about whether you are rich. Let's look at a few other definitions of what rich means, other than as someone who has more or makes more money than you do. The Talmud says, "Who is rich? The one who is content with he has." Socrates said, "He is richest who is content with the least, for content is the wealth of nature."
And Marlene Dietrich really hit on the heart of the matter when she said, "There is a gigantic difference between earning a great deal of money and being rich."
So I'll ask again. Are you rich?
David Geller is the author of Wealth and Happiness: Using Your Wealth to Create a Better Life . He is the CEO of Atlanta-based GV Financial Advisors and is available for professional speaking engagements