At first glance, the idea of prosperity seems pretty simple. It means having a lot, or all we want, or what we want—right? It boils down to a lot of catch phrases we have in our heads, like “making a living,” “doing well,” or even “living large.” So why does so much research indicate that people with high incomes are by no means happier than people with less? And why do travelers report, despite all media stereotypes to the contrary, that poor people in many less developed parts of the world are far more cheerful, open, and relaxed than we are here?
More questions come up: Why does certain work just feel good, whatever the pay? Why do some successful business dealings make us happy—and some not so happy? Why does it feel so good to give a gift?
Taking a deeper look, it becomes clear that prosperity is actually about the mind. As many wise people have pointed out, we need to create the space for abundance in our minds—the mentality of prosperity. The foundation of that is feeling a sense of appreciation and contentment with what we already have, and the confidence of what we can do.
OK, so how does prosperity develop if we cultivate the proper mindset; how does it actually come to us? Here I have an answer that might seem slightly old fashioned: prosperity arrives as diligence! It means hard work, any way you slice it. It doesn’t come (at least not usually) as the proverbial fat check in the mail. It is the enthusiasm to do what’s needed, the discernment to know what’s needed, and the effort to actually do it. Still, the motivation behind diligence can get complicated. We all know we have to earn money, but at the same time what we do to make money can often be tedious, dangerous, or downright frustrating. Finding work that feels right and pays
A network of mutually trusting people, a true community, is really going to be the most precious asset of all.
Decent money is not easy. Often the work that feels good doesn’t pay. In any case, the good feeling that comes from meaningful work is the simple pleasure of getting something done, and the effect that it has on our world. So hats off to everyone who’s volunteering in the community, doing nonprofit work, working for a dream business, or just helping a friend. And equally, hats off to those who are working a tough job, day after day, year after year, to make a decent life for themselves and their families. Diligence is the root of prosperity.
It’s interesting to note that once we’re willing to go the extra mile of diligence, it opens up the possibility of really doing the right thing ethically. Why? Because doing the right thing often takes some extra work. And the interesting thing about ethical dealings is that they build trust. Many commentators are pointing out these days that a network of mutually trusting people, a true community, is really going to be the most precious asset of all, the most precious prosperity, in difficult economic times. How do we get that? Through ethics.
Giving a gift, big or small, feels good. It’s a prosperity moment. Generosity, then, is the reward of prosperity—but it’s also the test. It’s the reward because being able to give obviously means having something to give; it’s the test because we need to be able to let go of what we’re giving. Generosity is also part of doing things that impact all of us. When buying a slightly more expensive product because it’s locally made, or because it’s organic, or because it uses less energy, why not just think of that as generosity to your neighbors and to future generations?
If we really reflect on all this, we could find a way of living in which abundance for ourselves supports prosperity for everyone. I’m not saying it’s easy, but it’s worth the effort. Learning to live that way brings all three qualities—diligence, ethics, and generosity—together.
As the holiday season and the New Year approach, it’s natural to send good wishes for your wellbeing and prosperity. But as the saying goes, “be careful about what you wish for.” So when I wish for your prosperity, I’m not talking about the kind of materialistic abundance that so often passes for the norm. I do wish, with sincerity, for your success on the journey to true prosperity. It’s a journey we could all take together.
by David McCarthy