CAN MONEY BUY HAPPINESS? How much money do you need? Don’t worry I am not asking you for any money!
It seems such a ridiculous question to ask, but there is more to the question of money and happiness than might at first be apparent.
Books, internet articles and advertising come at us in every direction about making more money or finding ways to increase our wealth. We live in a world that bombards us with information, tools and tricks to make more money.
And yet the vast majority of us have had very little in the way of formal education about how to manage personal finances or wisely steward the material resources we have been given. If I could ask you the question, how much money do you need to be happy, I can almost guarantee your answer……
Just press the continue button and scroll down a little bit further!
That may come as something of a surprise to you, but yes I do struggle with religion.
When I say that I am not referring to any one religion in particular, but with the entire premise behind religious thinking. It appears to me that whatever our religious background or professed faith or even lack of any faith, there is the same premise at the back of our minds. What is that premise?
As we reflect on the Law of the Inner Circle with regard to the people around us, it does beg the question as to what kind of person am I when I am around others?
So as you read this post it is important to reflect on your own attitude and reactions to others as well as the behaviour of those around you.
Categorising people may seem unduly harsh – especially if there is no self-reflection. However, what is also very apparent from both experience as well as all the scientific research, is that not everyone is the same in the way they think or look at the world around them.
That means you cannot treat all people the same way. Yes everyone is of equal value and worth, but everyone is different in terms of what is important to them and how they process life and their experiences.Some of those differences relate to temperament and personality, while others relate to deeper character issues.
The Law of the Inner Circle is a good short hand for intentionally deciding who I should spend time and energy with as it forces us to think about our priorities, vision for life and values.
In addition to the categories of VIP, VNP and VDP along with lifters and leaners that we looked at in a previous post, Henry Cloud provides a useful distinction between different kinds of people. The roots of this are in the Biblical Scripture and are enormously perceptive.
As we look at them it is worth mentioning that elements of all three are in each one of us. So while we can certainly apply the framework to others, I myself if I am realistic about my own heart can see aspects of all 3 within myself. The diagnostic question is:
So how do I cultivate a network of healthy relationships around me to sustain me for the long haul? In many ways that takes a life time to answer! However, its helpful to look at some principles and guidelines to steer us in the right direction. For me that has meant cultivating the following 5 types of relationships in the following order:
Of course we all have our own share of difficult relationships and people we struggle to get on with, but they will come without much effort on my part! I can certainly learn a lot from such people, especially from how I react to them, but I have to be careful to not let them influence my thinking unduly.
John Maxwell talks about a survey taken among several hundred pastors and Christian leaders who had failed morally in some way or other. They had compromised their integrity and fallen into a sin that had led to them losing their ministry. The tragedy for these leaders was they had started out with great intentions of service and support to others only to find that their moral failures had disqualified them from what they had thought was their life calling.
Analysis of the survey revealed three consistent observations about these fallen leaders:
It struck me when writing about John Maxwell’s Law of the Inner Circle that actually all of us have inner circles in one form or another.
Whether we are intentional or not about it is another matter, but all of us have people whose opinions and views we take more seriously than others. Even if we claim not to need other people, there will be significant others who have moulded our thinking and perspective. And, unless we make a conscious decision otherwise, they will continue to do so.
They become the voices or the framework through which we view life and make decisions. They can also limit or expand the expectations we have on ourselves or our abilities.
Over the years having met and mixed with a wide variety of people from different cultures and backgrounds I am struck by how powerful this can be.
So for example, you meet some people for the very first time and within a few minutes you find yourself sharing openly and honestly some of the deepest and most meaningful issues of your life. Decisions are made quickly and almost effortlessly. Things happen and real progress is made.
By contrast you enter some other circles consistently over many years and it is markedly apparent as to how you are still complete strangers to each other, afraid of vulnerability or showing any weakness. There are invisible walls and barriers that seem to separate and cause distance between you. Decisions are slow or never made. You really do feel stuck.
I always remember some wise advice given to me by Ram Gidoomal, a senior Christian leader more than 20 years ago. He described to me 3 kinds of people:
John Maxwell’s 11th Law of Leadership (The Law of the inner Circle) states that your potential in life is determined by those who are closest to you.
This goes way beyond closeness in terms of physical proximity to those who you feel emotionally connected to, as well as look up to, respect or admire.
Another way of putting it, is who are the travel companions you are bringing along with you on the journey of life?
Either the people closest to you will be the wind beneath your wings or the anchor on your boat. They will either bring you higher or drag you down.
The Message version English translation of the Hebrew Old Testament in Proverbs 13:20 states:
“Become wise by walking with the wise; hang out with fools and watch your life fall to pieces.”
Just being talented or passionate is not enough. You are only as good as the quality of those people who you relate to best and identify yourself with. To achieve anything of lasting significance or value will depend on having highly capable and gifted people around you. Those people around you in your inner circle should not be just like you. In fact they should have a different perspective to you, but they should share the same values.
Yes I know it is an advert, but the short 2 minute video below from Thailand beautifully illustrates the power of human connection.
It is certainly a sweet, feel-good video, but strong interpersonal connection is not just important for babies! We were designed as relational beings and we thrive best in every area of life when we are strongly ‘in relationship’ with others. However, there is something about modern life that seems to conspire agains this.
A study published in August 2014 by Relate, a relationship charity in Britain, found:
As we discuss that elusive search for joy that goes on in our lives, we have looked at the cultural myths that get in the way of us finding the joy we deep down long for.Tim Keller describes these as ‘naive primary strategies’.(See previous post).
They are naive in that they are both too simplistic and because they have to do with things that have to go right in our lives for us to be happy. In traditional cultures it is about having the right spouse or family or career; while in more contemporary cultures it is the thirst for success as I choose to define it. But relying on your circumstances for ultimate happiness is doomed to failure because of the experiences of failure or success that we all go through. (There is more on this in the previous post). Psychologists have also pointed out that life circumstances only account for 10% of our overall level of happiness.
Keller helpfully points out that as a result of this we move to precarious secondary strategies to deal with disappointment in not finding joy. We may not even be aware we are doing it, but they are nevertheless powerful influences in our lives.
Our hearts are hungry for joy. We think it is our circumstances that need changing, but joy goes well beyond our circumstances as this powerful and joy-filled video illustrates:
As children we looked to all sorts of things for joy fulfilment. I gave some examples from my own life in the previous post.
The other huge area where this expresses itself is with romantic love. For me as a teenager growing up in an all boys school in England that was a huge subject to deal with. And it still is for anyone growing up.
As the poem says: