I recently came across this quote attributed to the Dali Lama.
When the Dali Lama was asked what surprised him most about humanity, he said this.
“Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money.
Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health.
And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”
I’m sure when the Dali Lama refers to sacrificing ‘health’ he is talking about physical and emotional health. Scientific research into positive psychology and subjective well-being strongly indicates that once we achieve a certain level of income that sufficiently covers the ‘basics’ of life (and I realise that is very subjective), pursuing and attaining higher levels of income does not necessarily increase our overall sense of well-being.
That’s not to say we ought not strive to earn more, however, what it does say clearly, is for us to be very aware of the impact striving for more money can have on the other elements of our lives and in particular our physical and emotional health.
And how eloquent the Dali Lama reminds us of the importance of living in the now.
The past is past and the future is a figment of our imagination. When we say we are planning for our future, we are actually planning for a time that we are imagining – who knows whether what we imagine will occur? This is not to say that we ought not plan. However, as the Dali Lama suggests, it’s no good being too focused on the future and not living now.
Liz and I were discussing this idea of how to balance planning for the future and living in the moment now, and we’ve certainly come to the realisation that it is always going to be a struggle to know if we’ve got that balance right. To help us not stress or worry about getting the balance right however, we’ve decided that knowing that we’re trying to get the balance right is probably as close to any level of comfort we will have, so we’ve decided to just be comfortable in knowing that we’re giving it a fair go.
The big game that we’ve stopped playing (with moments of temporary relapse), is the comparison game, and we reckon that’s what can suck most of us into the game of, as the Dali Lama puts it ‘sacrificing our health for money’.
Once we got clear on not comparing our ‘lifestyle’ with others, (and this was way back when we first got married and earned just enough to ‘meet the basics of life’ (food, shelter and very little left at the end of any pay week) life decisions became a lot easier, and we could certainly live more in the ‘now’ rather than worrying about how our now, or our future might stack up against what others were doing, what others possessed, or how others lived.
Liz and I have always focused more on our shared moments and experiences than on our possessions… and when we had little money to spend, and quite often none at all, we’d look for experiences that cost nothing or almost nothing – and we didn’t have to look very far to find them, and we’re convinced this is what has helped us to have a strong sense of well-being throughout our thirty years together.
Scientific evidence backs up this approach and validates that one of the keys to building a stronger sense of well-being, we all ought to be pursuing experiences in life and not possessions.
Experiences allow us to live in the now, to experience now… and what better way than to share them with loved ones.