1.2.2: Why focus on money?

Our minds and our environments are obsessed with money, and it enters into every decision; it’s therefore the most reliable means of changing our worlds

On the one hand, a book about the Good Life should concentrate on the stuff that universally contributes to such a thing. It would be a book about physical, mental, and spiritual health. About breathing, moving, eating, and sleeping. On the other hand, there are plenty of them already and relatively speaking no one listens to them. But there is something people do listen to.

Give anyone the choice between learning how to breathe, move, eat or sleep better and a promise (however dodgy) of being able to buy better breathing, moving, eating or sleeping and the wallet will get busier than the brain.

Give anyone the chance to change one thing to improve their life, and most will plump for more money over perfect sleep, even if the money they already had wasn’t really working for them and the days following a perfect sleep were reliably the best of their lives. More is always better, they think, and money’s the ultimate convertible cure.

In our resources-into-good-life equation, money is the least important of the three main exhaustible resources of money, time, and energy. The stuff that makes life worth living always gets done in time, it doesn’t always get done just because there’s money around. And not all time is created equal. Two hours of high-energy time will always out-rank ten hours of being hungover or heartbroken.

So why focus on the least important? Because it’s easiest. We think about money all the time, intentionally or otherwise. We’re too busy to pay attention to time and either too tired or too wired to pay attention to energy. Going from zero to one is always the hardest step to take. Remember too that this is fundamentally a book about changing behaviour by inspiring thinking changes that lead to action changes. It’s harder to change actions with time and energy prescriptions, because time and energy are so much more capricious.

Our relationship with money is like meditation: it happens immediately, feedback is instant, and every second is a chance to choose which way you’d like your brain to behave. You live in a never-ending trading floor of feelings, with money choices the inescapable public record of choices for one way of living over another.

When we talk here of money, it is not in isolation; it is our relationship with it – our money mindset – that’s vital to our vita. This comes with a caveat, of course: money is important up to a threshold. But that threshold is lower than you think it is. If you’re not so short of the stuff that it dictates every single decision, if you’re not either already in or one missed payday from poverty, then you’re either above or within touching distance of this threshold. When I talk about money not solving money problems, I am talking about problems above this threshold.

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