Rich man, poor man

Saturday, January 19, 2013 Permalink

I regret now that it’s taken me a few days to get back to The Happiness Code. I’d already seen the title of the seventh key, Being Grateful, and felt a bit ‘meh’ about it all.

You know, ‘yes, yes, my life really doesn’t suck’ and so forth. ‘I have family and friends and my health. I’m actually rich.’ Yadda yadda yadda!

But, now that I’ve read it; some of the practical examples really resonated with me and I found myself nodding, earmarking pages and lost in my own thoughts.

The seventh principle in Domonique Bertolucci’s quest for happiness (underpinning the key of gratitude) is one of ‘abundance’. For me the word in itself puts a different spin on the ‘grateful’ concept. (Not that I’m choosing a word for 2013, as many have, but ‘abundance’ may well be up there as a contender if I was to do so!)

“Worrying about money is one of the biggest causes of unhappiness, but no amount of money can make you happy unless you change the way you feel about it.”

As someone who recently took a redundancy package from my workplace and am currently not-employed, I can seriously relate to this.

Bertolucci talks about a ‘poverty mentality’ which leaves us focussing on what we DON’T have; even though we may already have everything we need. She reminds us that WANTS are not NEEDS.

Bertolucci suggests that few of us – certainly not those reading her book I would think (and the hashtag #firstworldproblem comes to mind!) – have experienced true poverty. Even if we are struggling financially, we’re significantly better off than those in developing countries, or those who are homeless in our own countries.

Bertolucci also notes that the poverty mentality can be about more than money, it can be about thinking we don’t have ENOUGH of anything. (Hello, resonating much?! I constantly use the word ‘enough’ – though mostly when it comes to food!)

Fortunately for the materialistic types such as myself, Bertolucci isn’t suggesting we throw away our money and live off the earth. Or similar.

“There is nothing wrong with enjoying life’s luxuries as long as your happiness isn’t contingent on them.”

She gives a couple of examples, including her own life – quitting the well-paid corporate world to pursue other interests. She went into her new life, she says, well-aware of the consequences of her decision AND believes the trade-off to be worth it. THIS I could relate to.

I wasn’t in a highly-powered exorbitantly-paid job by any means, but lived quite comfortably off my salary and rarely (in recent years) had to go without anything I wanted (within means). I mean I didn’t choose overseas holidays, but was able to buy a new computer, TV, car and so forth when I needed it. I dined on the nicest cuts of fillet steak and chicken breast without blinking an eye and could dine out whenever I wanted.

However, when I accepted my redundancy I knew things would change. I did my sums and made the conscious decision to move and downsize. I looked longingly at places in my new hometown of a similar price to my last apartment but, decided that being debt-free and NOT having to work for a while was more important than a luxury apartment. I worked out how much money I ‘might’ need and decided I could live quite comfortably on my remaining savings for 6+mths before I needed to think about an additional income.

I also realised that this new lifestyle would come at a price, and that’s something I’m still grappling with. I didn’t skimp on my chosen abode. It’s gorgeous and by the ocean. Every time I look out of my window I’m beyond happy with the decision I made; but it’s hard to remember that I have to make decisions consistent with my new lifestyle (and lack of income).

Every so often I see something I want. A non-essential. The old me would have just bought it, but the new me has to ask if it’s something I really need. Unfortunately I’m still wantonly drinking $18 bottles of red wine (rather than $10 or even $5 bottles) but I’m slowly starting to accept this new life and money-isn’t-everything mentality. (Obviously changing to be a less-materialistic person might take some time!!!)

I must confess to being more worried about money than I expected to be. The moment I stopped earning a salary, the movement in my bank accounts became one-way. I’ve been paid for some writing / blogging, but with minimal impact on my haemorrhaging bank accounts.

However, my ‘I must earn as much as possible‘ mentality feels like a thing of the past. Now, I’m just focussing on the bills I need to pay and putting food (and nice wine) on the table. (Oh, and being able to dine out once a week is also a deal-breaker!)

Bertolucci suggests we base decisions about what we need on our values. To some, going to shows or travelling is a priority; for others it’s good food and wine; for others lovely clothes; and for others, the latest technology.

“Just because there are things you still want, that doesn’t mean you can’t feel gratitude for all of the wealth and abundance already in your life.”

This is consistent with the conversations I’ve been having with my life coach, Karen Anderson, about ‘acceptance’, particularly as it relates to me and my body. I’m coming to realise that ‘accepting’ myself as I am, doesn’t mean that I don’t want to be a better version of me; it just means that (even if there’s room for improvement), I’m okay as I am.

The quickest way to get an abundance mindset, says Bertolucci, is to express thanks or acknowledge all you have. I know a few people are doing the ‘grateful jar’ thing this year (putting a note in the jar acknowledging something they’re grateful for), while others pray and others might write it out in a journal.

I often say that I take what I have for granted. This may be true – to an extent. But in my new life I’m coming to appreciate everything I have and the opportunities I’ve been given (in fact, I’ve even wondered if I’m worthy of such abundance of good fortune!). Sure, there are a lot of things I want to change and I do stress about where the money will eventually come from, but compared to SO many others I have so much. And (wanky as it sounds!), even if I didn’t have money in the bank, I’d still be richer than many!

Do you suffer from the poverty mentality? Or celebrate abundance?
How do you acknowledge all you’re grateful for?



  • Char
    January 19, 2013

    I was talking with my Mum the other day about board – how much my boys pay and what she had to pay way back when. She told me that every pay packet she got came with a potential shopping expedition and often her board wasn’t paid on time. I reminded her that I’d gone straight from being a poverty-stricken student to a poverty-stricken newly-wed then a parent with a mortgage. I never had the freedom to spend on myself just because I wanted something. I never had to do without either. There was a roof over our heads and food on the table and I had a happy, healthy family.

    I think that all that time prioritising needs over wants has made me want for very little. Our mortgage is paid off now and we don’t have to watch every single penny but I’m really glad we had to do it a little tough because it’s made me realise what’s truly important – the people you love and your health. If you have both of those then you’re rich in abundance.

    • Debbish
      January 19, 2013

      What a lovely thought Char! Yes, I remember my Uni days – mind you I lived at a residential college where our meals were provided and recall that my brother and I received $30 spending money a week while there – for the extras. Thank god I didn’t drink in those days!


  • Jess
    January 19, 2013

    This is one I’m good at. When I finished Uni I travelled to Sth east Asia for 4 months! It was amazing, but the standard of living over there is very low for most. Even during times where money is extra tight my quality of life (at least in terms of material possessions) is so much higher. Whenever I’m feeling “poor” or depressed about money I try to stop and out it in perspective.

    • Debbish
      January 19, 2013

      Hi Jess. I lived in developing countries as well for a while although I came back with a mentality of expecting more! Not necessarily in terms of money, but I found myself LESS patient / tolerant of bad service etc. No power, water etc were to be expected in developing countries but not here.

      Sadly I don’t think it helped me be more thankful for what I have! Although the memories are still very vivid. (My mother kept ALL of my letters from when I lived o/s. I should trawl through them – I’m sure they’d be enlightening. My first one home was 21pages of longhand writing!)


  • Priska
    January 19, 2013

    As you will see from my last blog post I definitely suffered from a poverty mentality or not good enough mentality.
    I have a partner who is the current breadwinner whilst I wade my way through my midlife transition.
    I went through a lot of fear and angst when I first left my job because mine had always been the reliable income. Two years down the track (though not always smooth sailing) nothing has turned out as bad as I expected, quite the opposite.
    I thought that it was not possible but I have changed from $16 wine to $5 wine. I don’t drink red but am now quite happy with my $5 Gossips Sav. Blanc. Maybe you could try the red.

  • Debbish
    January 19, 2013

    Priska, will go and check your post out… and yes, I really need to rethink my wine-drinking habits!

    The fear and angst is understandable. You would have seen my earlier posts; when it looked like redundancy was a possibility for me I freaked out – “I’m single, sole mortgage-payer, hefty mortgage” and so forth. But, then I flipped it about and saw it as an opportunity.

    So far I have no qualms about my decision and I hope that in a couple of years I’ll be in the same place as you – surprised by the outcome!


  • Jo Tracey
    January 19, 2013

    a timely read… 🙂 Thanks Deb…

    • Debbish
      January 19, 2013

      You are most welcome!

  • @Kanga_Rue
    January 19, 2013

    I’m doing the grateful jar (did you know?) – just thought it would be a fun thing to do.

    With the divorce & relocation, I took the view of a lifestyle change, will be going car-free & have substantially changed habits, though I’m still trying to figure out the budget.

    I’m still getting “stuff” mainly as most of Pickle’s and my things are still clearing customs… but haven’t missed most of our abundance of items (which already has a blogpost I’d its own in draft).

  • Debbish
    January 19, 2013

    I didn’t know about the grateful jar but know a few people who are doing it.

    I had my old place on the market in 2011 for 3 months and cleared benchtops and packed stuff away. My dad’s passing happened at the end of it and then the new year and suddenly it was 2012 and my place was on the market again. More stuff was removed from surfaces for Open Houses etc.

    When I moved into this place I was shocked by how much CRAP I had packed away and that I hadn’t missed AT ALL!

  • Julia
    January 20, 2013

    I absolutely am taking to heart the advice from your life coach – just because you are OK with yourself, that is not saying you can’t be better. I always think if I don’t stop being hard on myself, I’ll never change. But that is like the old story of the wind and the sun trying to get a man to take his coat off. The wind blows and blows, trying to force it off, and the man just pulls his coat tighter. The sun shines brightly and gently, and the man takes his coat off because he is warm and the sun feels good. Thank you so much for sharing this advice.

    • Debbish
      January 20, 2013

      What a lovely analogy Julia, I hadn’t heard that one before!

  • Liz@LastChanceTraining
    January 21, 2013

    Another challenging post Deb. I’m on the poverty side of things still but this is something I am trying to work on. xx

    • Debbish
      January 22, 2013

      That’s all one can do Liz…. ‘try’.

  • Marion
    January 21, 2013

    Hi Deb! Well, I’ve had children since 1989. We have 4 children, and they always need something. So, I always have money issues in the back of my mind. We currently have a daughter in college. I really can’t imagine having extra money at all. We never do. I never have as an adult. Given all of that, I am grateful. But I can’t really imagine what being single is like for finances.

    🙂 Marion

    • Debbish
      January 22, 2013

      The single thing is okay on one level – knowing you’re only responsible for yourself – but stressful given that there’s no one else to help out – in terms of finances.

      You’re ‘it’ if that makes sense!

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