For many years, I aimed to achieve a level of prosperity that meant I could buy whatever I needed whenever I wanted it. After all, that’s what society and the media told me I should spend my energy working towards.
In the ads that flashed in front of me day after day, beautiful, smiling, buffed people showed me what being prosperous looked like and showed me the things that prosperous people owned and did. It was easy, I just needed to wear a certain fragrance, make sure my clothes carried the right label, drive the right car, holiday in the latest must-visit destination and buy a high spec kitchen. The trouble was that much of that was unattainable and trying to align my life with the ads left me feeling frustrated and disappointed with what I had.
Then I realized society had got it all wrong.
Society and the media continually focus our attention on what is missing in our lives, so of course we constantly feel a sense of lack. We certainly don’t feel prosperous.
I decided if I was ever going to feel prosperous I needed a new definition for prosperity. This is what I came up with:
Prosperity is having what I need to meet my needs today.
With this new definition in my back pocket, I started to look at my life differently. Instead of constantly focusing on what I didn’t have, I began to take note of all the amazing things I did have. I had sufficient money to cover my expenses and a little more besides. I had friends and family who loved and cared for me. I had memories of amazing experiences and I had healthy body. I lived in a safe country and was free to come and go wherever I wanted. Suddenly I felt extremely prosperous.
I began to understand that many of the things society tells me I should be striving to attain or achieve will not truly increase my underlying sense of well-being over the long term. Yes, some of the things I’d like to have or do will give me pleasure for a short time or will make my life easier in some way, but overall they won’t do anything to meet my real needs.
My life hasn’t always been like this. I know what it’s like to struggle financially and to lose money. There have been times when I’ve felt alone and misunderstood. I’ve had jobs that drained my energy and numbed my soul. I’ve felt empty and frustrated with my life. Those have not been times of prosperity, although I can say that good has always come from them because the emptiness pushed me to make changes that better aligned my life with who I really am.
When you define prosperity in terms of what you need to fulfill you as a person, rather than in terms of what marketers are trying to sell to you, you will be able to identify your genuine needs and then find a way to meet them. Maybe things need to change in your relationships or maybe you need a different career. Maybe you need more income or maybe you need to use your time differently. Maybe you need to find a way to exercise your superpower – that amazing gift that only you bring to others. Or maybe, your life is exactly right for you at this point in time.
My definition of prosperity might not be the same as yours and that’s absolutely fine. Just make sure that you define prosperity in a way that focuses on what you need to create a life for yourself that makes you feel great.
What does prosperity mean to you? How prosperous do you feel right now? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
Image by UK Department of Aid