When I was younger, I believed that money would make all of my problems go away. House dirty? Hire someone to clean it. Hungry? Go get whatever kind of food you want. Car broken? Go get it repaired, or buy a new one that has fewer issues. And on and on.
I’ve had three years now where I haven’t really had to worry about money, and it’s really eye-opening what problems it makes go away…and what problems remain, or get worse.
Let’s take housecleaning as an example. I am notoriously terrible at keeping my house clean. I am so focused on work that I literally don’t notice the house getting dirty around me until it’s filthy. Then I get overwhelmed and frustrated about it.
I gave up on trying to clean my house myself years ago, and hired someone–even though my company barely made enough to pay me a salary and I still had a lot of credit card debt.
In mid-2007, before I sold my business and when I was still living on next to nothing with a pile of debt, Richard and I moved in together. Richard is a clean person, and it really bothered him that I let the house fall apart (or, more commonly, adopted the attitude of “It’s only three days until the house cleaner comes…we can leave all the dirty dishes out until then, right?”) Sometimes he would clean up himself.
I thought we could solve this problem by hiring someone to clean every week. But with me getting diagnosed with Celiac disease, we cooked at home more, and that’s when it really fell apart. We had been living together 3 years when Richard finally got so upset with me about the house that he didn’t speak to me for over a day. It was one of our only huge fights.
So I used money to try to solve the problem again. Only this time, I hired a therapist.
In my first therapy session, my therapist warned me that he would say what Richard couldn’t or wouldn’t say–that I might get mad at him at first, and even be tempted to quit therapy. I told him I was pretty strong and willing to listen.
He then said something that was eye-opening. He said, “Pretend the time you have in a day is made up of 10 units. How many of those units do you devote to work?”
I said, “Eight.”
He nodded. Then, “How many on your relationship?”
I said, after a long (and humbling) pause, “One.”
He said, “I don’t think so.”
And that’s when I broke down in tears.
Money Can’t Fix This…
That’s what money doesn’t fix, you see. You can hire the housekeeper, but you’re not fixing the underlying issue. It doesn’t fix the workaholism, the need to prove yourself, or the fact that you aren’t seeing the dirty house. Those are internal issues.
Money can fix you getting late to the airport by getting you on another flight. But it doesn’t fix your poor time management skills.
Money can buy you all the food you want, but it doesn’t fix you not leaving time in your life for exercise or a healthy diet.
All of that said, I still enjoy having money–and having the freedom to spend or invest it as I choose.
However, to fix your real issues, you must look internally. Having more money will solve your immediate, pressing needs. But it won’t make you a better person. That’s a tough lesson to learn.
(Richard and I have since broken up, and I’ve been making a concerted effort to focus more of my life on growing my relationships with my friends and employees, as well as my health and fitness. But it isn’t easy!)
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