Sunday, January 8, 2012

Time, Money and Fulfillment

Since the dawn of civilization, exchange of goods and services has been a tool for growth. Prior to the advent of money, the value of this exchange of resources was informally set in the barter system. At some point, the concept of money then took over, attaching a certain monetary value to our daily economic transactions. Over the last several thousand years, the material form of money has evolved from cattle, grain, shells, metal coins, leather notes, gold, paper notes to the present day electronic money.

Although the bartering system is for all practical purposes non existent in the modern day world, this concept is a recurring theme in our mind and thoughts. At the level of the mind, we are constantly trying to barter for happiness by jumping from thought to thought in the hopes of finding one that fulfills this need. We also “barter” our time for money that we earn by working and in turn “barter” this money for happiness in the form of physical comforts. The sense of happiness relative to time and money is a moving target. Money may buy an object that brings happiness today, that same object may become a source of misery in the the future. Just as wishing for money does not make one rich, wishing for happiness does not necessarily make one happy. 

It is almost impossible to come up with an universal panacea for man’s quest for happiness. In today’s world, maintaining a constant sense of happiness can be as difficult as holding onto a single thought all the time. No two individuals have the same gauge to measure happiness. We generally base our happiness on the availability of something of value such as knowledge that can be translated into money or the physical possession of some material goods. Once our thinking gets conditioned on these lines, it is very hard to sustain, in our minds, an abstract concept of happiness that is not based on something tangible.

No matter how hard we try, there is no one recipe for happiness, either internally or externally. For a good majority of people, happiness depends on how we how we use our allotted time, on how we use money available to us wisely and more importantly, on how much fulfillment we derive in our individual line of work. Time moves at the same speed for all of us, but what we do with this time varies quite a bit. In terms of money, each individual’s time is valued differently depending not just on the type of work but also on supply and demand for a particular kind of skill among other factors. Some are able to barter their time for more money than others. However, when there is an interaction of time and money, there is always scope for unhappiness to set in. Everybody would love be in a position to trade a small amount of their time for a large amount of money and not the other way around, Just as a two legged stool cannot stay upright without support from a third leg, interchanging time and money alone cannot provide us happiness. We need a third supporting leg in the form of a sense of fulfillment.

The more we develop the art of deriving satisfaction and fulfillment irrespective of what the rewards may be, the easier it becomes for us to break our conditioned thinking that things of external value bring us happiness. Developing a sense of fulfillment does not always depend on availability of time or money. Time moves on irrespective of whether we have or don’t have money. Time does not wait for fulfillment to set in. We have just celebrated the New Year, and just as we pay our taxes for money earned in the previous year, consider lessons learned as “tax paid” for whatever mistakes one has made in the form of unproductive use of time or money in the years past.

A good resolve for the New Year would be using our time and money wisely and for a good goal; and developing a sense of fulfillment in whatever one may do independent of time or money. This is one of the many paths that lead to a happy state of mind.