How are we redefining prosperity in our prosperous world? What’s making us rethink our forms of giving when we’re having it so good in life?
Despite lingering unemployment and an economy that could be even better many Americans are finding reasons to be thankful at this time of the year. Unexpected layoffs, financial setbacks, or simply a desire to spend more time with family have served as a reality check, a wakeup call for consumers to rethink their idea of wealth and prosperity. People are focusing more on satisfaction by the quality of life than on satisfaction by consumption. The big shift is in people questioning whether the ways in which they’re spending time are bringing them greater satisfaction in life versus things that just need to be done on autopilot. More money doesn’t necessarily lead to more happiness, so many consumers are getting off the hedonistic treadmill and looking for ways to realign with family and the values that matter to them.
For some people that means starting a business that allows greater flexibility even if it means less money. The learning is that money is here today gone tomorrow, but life experiences remain with us. I’ve seen friendships end because people’s business coaches said “that’s not the right circle to be in”. Although many people have received similar advice from coaches focused on building wealth, they want none of that now. Albeit there’ll always be people who will focus on accumulating wealth, for more and more Americans now the focus isn’t on pursuing financial wealth, but on pursuing wealth of experiences.
For others redefining wealth and prosperity may mean downshifting their careers. After almost losing their children and nearly divorcing their spouses many people traded their all-consuming careers as high-flying professionals for simpler jobs. The most ambitious types by nature admit that they’re happy with their decisions, but still sometimes struggle to maintain balance. Their personalities are very driven and, honestly, it is a constant effort to stop working and put their families first. Working as a [for example] schoolteacher doesn’t pay as much as did their previous job, but people appreciate summers off and school holidays with their children. Although these high-flying pros’ former jobs meant frequent travel to nice hotels, it never allowed them time to actually enjoy them.
In addition to rethinking their careers some people have also scaled back on holiday gifts. Their children each get one gift from their parents and one from “Santa”, plus a few items from other family members. These people see their friends go crazy with gifts for kids and believe that this approach just feeds materialism and entitlement. These parents hope to model generosity and selflessness for their kids, so they put money into good causes for their communities instead of buying their (grand)parents gifts that would likely gather dust.
While some gift givers choose donations in lieu of presents, others buy experiential gifts, an option that has grown increasingly popular over the past few holiday seasons. For instance, taking a family member out for lunch, treating a friend to a movie, or giving tickets to a concert or sporting event. People are looking at more time-based gifts and at making gifts, which from the viewpoint of time is one of the best gifts that someone can give, because it shows that the giver cares about the receiver tremendously. One of my friends in London made me this series of (pictured) gifts by naked hand from wood over 30 hours a piece over the course of the past few years that I had spent at my London base. Would this gentleman go to this extent if he didn’t care about me? Many other friends have given me gifts of experiences: a lunch / dinner, or a bag of tiny gifts all from different areas [food, jewellery, ceramic ornaments], cards with poems or verses they wrote and somehow symbolic of my personality or connected with my life, etc.
So once you’ve sorted gifts out for everyone else, how about treating yourself for the year’s hard work, being a good citizen, or whatever achievements you fitted into this year? Would an experiential gift to yourself of a few hours of pleasant and caring company, perhaps even complete with an aromatherapeutic relaxing massage treatment hit the spot? If yes, I invite you to be my guest!
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