What is wealth? Have you ever really thought about it? Or more importantly, have you ever thought about what wealth looks like for you?
In reality, wealth is very ambiguous. It's not an exact science. In fact, it's actually very subjective. There's no right or wrong answer. That's because it encompasses many things -different things for different people.
These characteristics make wealth very special and personal. It's what you define and make it. And it may surprise you because it's probably a destination within reach - a very reasonable arm's length reach.
Take a moment and be mindful. Get in tune with your thoughts and imagination. Ask yourself one very simple, yet complex question: what does a wealthy life look like to you?
This is not society's definition; this is not your parents' definition; this is one hundred percent all you.
If wealth were an equation, what would yours include? Here are some ideas to get you started:
• Money/high salary
• luxury car(s)
• high-end clothes, shoes, jewelry
• unlimited travel
Does your list include all of these? Some of these? None of these? The point is that your ideal wealth looks a lot different than anyone else's. It is unique to you.
Too often, we get lost in the noise of our environment, people's external opinions, and even our internal judgments.
For example, it was embedded in my head from a young age that I really had four choices: accounting, engineering, law school, or med school; and that these paths are undeniably more promising than the alternatives like becoming a movie director, writer, or artist. While this may be true in some forms of measurement (money, prestige, stability), wealth is not always this perfectly measurable thing.
Now more than ever, there's this modern shift of wealth from being a tangible, material destination, to an intangible feeling of meaning and fulfillment.
We all place value on different things. That's what makes us human; that's also what makes us unique. Yet, too often we think wealth is this cookie-cutter destination.
We're taught that if we do things right, we will be rewarded accordingly. If we just get straight A's, go to a good college, get a job out of school, and work hard towards our career goals, wealth is this present wrapped up with a pretty little bow waiting for us at the end of the yellow brick road.
And so, we follow this plan: this list of rules and pre-determined life milestones. We stay on pace, keeping track of the notches on our belts. And soon enough we'll get there: this mystical place, right?
Then one day, we wake up. To a small degree, it might feel like waking up from a coma. We live life, and yet we really forget to live at all. Life becomes second nature just like breathing or walking. Today becomes yesterday; tomorrow becomes today; every day passes without intention: just like muscle memory.
Isn't it interesting that the future is always picture-perfect, and hindsight is always 20/20. But what about now? What do we want out of life now?
We tend to neglect the now. Because we just assume the now will eventually amount to said picture-perfect future. But how can it without a clear understanding of what we want, and how we're going to get there?
It's funny, because sometimes I really feel like 10 year-old me knew more about what she wanted than 24 year-old me. If you asked me then what I wanted, my answers were pure, simple, and grounded.
It's when we strip away the man-made complexities of life today and discover the reality of life yesterday, that we get clarity. Sometimes we're too afraid to do that. We're too afraid to observe and reflect, because we're scared of what we may discover.
We tend to lose sight of the truth and honesty we once had, a very, very long time ago, as untainted kids. So one day, we finally do wake up and realize that we have these "accomplishments" and these "things" that are supposed to embody wealth, yet there's this uneasy, unfulfilling feeling that has gotten too loud to ignore anymore.
And more clearly than ever, we realize that our attainment of true wealth is directly tied to our feelings of happiness and fulfillment.
You see we are all different. Wealth does not always look like a big house with a white-picket fence in perfect Suburbia, and yet sometimes it does. Some find wealth in material things. Some find wealth in their job. And some find wealth in giving back. These are all different definitions, and yet produce the same feeling of wealth for different people.
The best part? Your definition of wealth can be ever transforming. Are you the same person as you were five years ago? A year ago? Probably not. And neither is your idea of wealth. Before, wealth could have meant owning that pair of shoes you were dying to have, or maybe it was making six figures at that high-powered job. But now, it may be having a creative outlet, your own business, or maybe a family.
And that is exactly what the wealth equation is: your unique combination of variables. It could be a few to hundreds. However many you'd like.
Let's go back to our fond memories of algebra class. If wealth was an equation it might look something like this: x + y + z = wealth. x might be financial freedom; y might be family; and z might be happiness. It can be whatever you want it to be: whatever is relevant to you.
Or it might look something like this: a + b+ c+ d+ e +f...x + y +z = wealth. It can go on and on. Because the reality is that there are a lot of things that can bring us wealth. Some are more important than others at different points in our lives.
For example, many people plan on having kids one day. It may not be the number one priority right now, so it might be a silent component of your equation today. However, one day it may trump all other variables of your equation. The beauty of the equation is in its flexibility.
We can always make room for our true priorities. That might mean compromising or giving up on other things, and that is just part of life.
The key is really the first step: defining wealth -your equation, your plan, and your destination.
Liz is the creator of 20swealth.com, a personal wealth blog for Millennials.