What it Means to be Rich

Cedric Johnson, Ph.D and Kristine MacKain, Ph.D

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If we were to ask: What does it mean to be “rich”, most of us would immediately think, “money”. But being rich can extend far beyond money. If we define “being rich” as having an abundance of the things that we value, and connect our pursuits to those values, we become rich in the very deepest sense of the word. “So, ask yourself: What constitutes value in my life?” Maybe it’s a(n):

         Deep emotional connection

         Significant contribution to the welfare of others

         Experience of awe and adventure

         Appreciation of beauty and excellence

         Expression of one’s creative (eg, artistic) self

Yesterday we met a very “rich” man who has been building houses for the desperately poor here in Mexico. Since 2001, his organization has built 80 houses for families who were living, literally, with “no [solid] roof over their heads”. In his former life, this man was a successful administrator at a university who loved his job and his life living on 15 acres in a bucolic countryside. He often told people that he would happily die at his desk. Then one day while visiting our Mexican town, he stumbled upon a larger calling that triggered a deeply held

value: to make a significant contribution to community by meeting the needs of the extremely poor, and a

….purpose, to which he should devote the rest of his life: to provide that community of poor people with permanent shelter which led to the

…..action of building 500 square foot cottages for families without permanent shelter that included private bedrooms, an indoor toilet, and an interior living space.

The corporate culture in the USA often works against establishing value and purpose at work because the drive for shareholder gain operates at the expense of employee satisfaction and contribution to the greater good. Many corporate employees tell us they feel they are “drowning” in such a work environment.

In the NY Times article, “Does Your Job Make You Happy?”, Anna North points to studies that more and more younger workers are migrating to socially conscious companies. These employees

“will take less compensation in exchange for a greater sense of purpose.”

We are not suggesting that we all retire and build houses for the poor. But if we experience a sense of emptiness at work (or elsewhere), maybe it’s time to create a new life for ourselves.

Ask yourself:

What are my deepest held values?

What purpose or goal expresses or embodies these values?

What actions can I take to realize this value-driven purpose out there in the world?

 Then, act on it!

 This is a life that is rich; this is a life worth living.

About cedricj

I am a licensed psychologist and management consultant and have always been intrigued by how leaders can inspire people in their organizations. The bottom line is that people are not always motivated by material rewards, the use of the carrot or the stick, fear and intimidation,and command and control, Five human needs inspire and drive us. Kristine S MacKain, Ph.D and myself describe these inspirational forces in our book "What Inspirational Leaders Do" (Kindle 2008)
This entry was posted in Contribution and Leadership, True riches and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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