“The first wealth is health.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
I had no idea that this statement was a quote. I had heard it and repeated it, but didn’t know the source until I googled it. You may reflexively agree with this………instinctively you feel it is true. I still don’t know the context of this quote but let me provide my reasons for repeating it.
Even though this isn’t a controversial statement, it is contrary to how many people conduct their lives……myself included sometimes. Neglecting sleep, not taking the time to eat properly, endless stress from your job, are all too common. So how can we put this back in the right perspective so that we aren’t trading our health for money in the short-term?
What flipped the switch for me was a concept that I learned from the book Your Money or Your Life. Specifically, the section about the four perspectives of money. It helped me appreciate the health and wealth connection. So what are the four perspectives?
The Practical and Physical Realm
This is the level where most people operate. It is the perspective of the literal pieces of paper and coins in our wallet, as well as the financial transactions in our day to day life.
Almost all financial advice is given at this level. Should you contribute to your 401(k)? Do you need life insurance? How much? All these questions are from this first perspective.
The Emotional or Psychological Realm
This perspective is beyond the material realm, and is our personal thoughts and feelings about money – our money style or personality. Are you cautious? Generous? A miser? Our style was shaped by the environment that we grew up in and the experiences we had around money as well as the stories that were told to us about money.
Was money something openly discussed in your house when you grew up? What was said about money? How do you associate money now? Do you associate money with security? Power? Social Acceptance? Evil? Greed?
This is the perspective that all marketers use. They use language to try to evoke an emotion in you that will lead you to buy their product to fill the desire they have stirred.
The Cultural Realm
Beyond how we feel about money, is the cultural view of money. Money is a “store of value” and a “means of exchange” but only within the confines of a cultural agreement. Cultures define assumptions that we make about money and work. This is a learned “truth” based on how we have structured our society. When we look at other societies and how they differ from our own, we can see that what we have defined as “true” is more accurately described as an agreement we have made as a group.
Personal Responsibility and Transformation
When we look at money in this perspective, we are looking for something that is universally true. Universal truth can’t be found at the previous three levels. The flaw of these three levels is that it looks at money as something external to ourselves. But when we look from a higher perspective, and find a clear definition that is universally true, we can then have a very powerful relationship with money. One where we are the master instead of the slave.
So what is universally true? Money is something we choose to trade our life energy for! When you go to your job, you are trading your life energy for money. When we think in these terms, it clarifies the value. Your life energy is finite, personal, and relatable. Viewed from this perspective, the choices that we make about how we make it and use it seem more important. Because they are.
If we engage in activities that ultimately damage our health, it has a direct impact on our ability to produce wealth in the future. Anything impacting your energy, impacts your ability to create wealth in the future.
“Wealth is the ability to fully experience life.” – Henry David Thoreau
The bottom line is that our life energy is used to create value by serving others. The amount of energy that we have is dictated by our level of health. So it all starts there. Our health is our most important asset…….it is in fact our first wealth.
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