My daily routine has come not from any conscious effort at being disciplined, but rather a forced discipline thanks to my children. I must admit that I love my routine now and can’t be bothered going back to days when there was no linear schedule around eating, sleeping or even socialising. I like how discipline has replaced the unhealthy spontaneity of my previous existence.
My children are 9 years old now, amazingly I continue to learn from them. There was one such learning opportunity recently. Children have this incredible ability to reveal their feelings in the most simple, innocent way and at the same time for the person listening it’s the most profound insight that lingers on. For me, it happens often and this time too their words hit a note that I can’t seem to shake.
The really young earners reading this piece may have heard of the phenomenon called Pokemon Cards. I had no idea what these were until a couple of years ago. But now I have to keep clearing up this constantly mobile case, left lying around the house, filled to the brim with Pokemon cards – hence, no way for me to avoid them!
One morning, as usual, we were rushing in the hope of stretching those last two minutes so that we don’t miss the school bus which arrives promptly at 7:04 am, when I saw my son sneaking, what I can only guess were those wicked cards, into his school bag.
Exasperation followed from my end as he looked up at me rather sheepishly – “You are obsessed with your Pokemon Cards!” I blurted – more like bellowed.
“And mamma you are obsessed with you work!” he responded. Yes, so children are innocent but most are quite sharp on the retort when you put them on the spot.
“Yes, but I earn – my work gives me money!” I said, still surprised to hear his response and with no clear idea on what would have been the appropriate thing to have said instead.
“And this gives me joy mamma!” he said.
Clearly, I was left dumbfounded, it never occurred to me – it gave him joy!
“Hurry up!” I said, having lost this hand, but of course, I couldn’t admit it.
Can money give you joy?
The conversation, however, stayed with me and replayed a few times. It made me wonder – could the two aspects – joy and money be combined?
Days later I was interviewing a guest and got reminded of this conversation. I wanted to know if she thought that money could give us joy?
She smiled and spoke about how happy she felt recently when she was able to gift her parents a car. In the course of our discussion, it came out that she has a very positive relationship with money and perhaps that’s what got her to this stage. Clearly, money enabled her joy. The joy of giving.
A musician I spoke to recently, said he has always considered money as a utility – something to help him get by and fulfil his basic requirements. However, lately, he has this itch to do more for fellow musicians who haven’t ‘made it’ yet. He needs to accumulate funds for that. Money can potentially bring him joy. The joy of giving.
My mother devotes her weekdays and sometimes even weekends to a non-profit school for underprivileged children, where she plays various roles from being a teacher to getting involved in administration to driving 50 km to an Open School centre in order to register older children for grade 12 certificate examination. She is a volunteer who gets no monetary benefit from this hard work. She can afford to do it because there is a certain financial stability that exists in her household. Hence, her time is freed up for the work she wants to do even without any compensation for it. Money gives her joy. The joy of giving.
There are many others who use whatever extra they have to help others. It’s easy to see how having enough money to satisfy your requirements can lead to this stage of life, where you want to do more by giving. It not only brings you joy but also bring a smile to the person you are helping or giving.
There is no age for this giving, you can start as soon as you start earning or 40 years later. However, the requirement is that you will have to manage your money prudently and have a positive relationship with money to be able to understand its true worth.
Beyond the joy of giving
We aren’t all there yet though. Not all of us are giving as much as we can and that’s okay. While there is joy in giving, unless you have satisfied your own needs, you may not get there. There is a caveat here and we must first distinguish between greed and joy.
Greed is the symptom of mindless and even destructive self-giving. It makes us spend and hoard frivolously. One starts embracing materialism which makes it imperative to own stuff in order to feel secure. The more you have, the more confident you feel. Needless to say, that you won’t need most of this stuff. But greed is not new, its one of the seven sins which the Catholic Church enumerates and what Mahatma Gandhi famously said is unsatisfiable.
Money can potentially fuel this greed. It sounds preachy, but realising where this line is, between greed and true joy, will make the biggest difference in your relationship with money. Greed can turn your relationship sour because you will feel like you never have enough. Greed makes you want more even when you have a lot more than you did before. It’s dangerous to cross this line.
You must carefully assess the difference between what brings you joy and being greedy, then move forward. When you smile inside you know you feel joy, when you want to show it off, you know its greed. Once you become aware, the joys await.
The joys which money can bring
Use your money to buy yourself things, but be mindful that the things you have should give you pleasure. Pleasure from within, not the pleasure of being seen with them or the pleasure of showing them off.
The joy of achievement.
Use your money to experience adventure and travel in life. That has the potential to bring incredible joy. The joy of meeting those who may have the same physical features as you but belong to a different culture.
The joy of experiencing a new way of life, food and feat.
Use your money to bring security to your family. You can do this by being a prudent saver and investing wisely. This can help you free time over the years.
The joy of having time to spend with your family.
Use your money to bring people closer, to host your friends and family. If you learn to manage your money, you will be able to travel across countries to meet friends who are away or take vacations with the sole purpose of spending time with your extended family.
The joy of sharing.
The challenge within
The challenge will always be to balance your money relationship. There are bound to be several phases in your money life, from being a spender to an earner, to a provider to a user of money. If you are able to bring notes of joy in every step or phase of your money life, only then will you have the ability to understand its potential in bringing joy to others too. More importantly, to reach this stage requires some discipline; a similar kind of discipline that my children introduced me to, albeit unknowingly. It requires an ability to introspect and to admit your mistakes. Above all, it requires the ability to filter out your greed and a conscious step behind the line, every time you cross it.
Money taken to our grave brings no one any joy. The first step is to build a positive relationship with money and only then can it bring you joy and only then can you share this joy with others.