My husband Thom and I recently spent some time talking with a young couple we know about the direction of their life. With one small child and hope for one more, they are considering moving to a larger home to give them all more space in a slightly more prestigious neighborhood. That certainly means larger mortgage payments, higher utility costs, more stuff, and a longer commute. Still, they seem convinced it would all be worth it. After all, isn’t that the American Dream—more, bigger, better? Thom and I kept our mouths shut because they appeared to want encouragement more than advice. Yet because I wish someone had tried to explain to a younger me that the dream we sought was not really a bigger house or more stuff, I thought I’d share what the joy of real abundance has come to mean to me after all these years.
Along the way, I’ve learned that real abundance has nothing to do with cash in the bank. It has nothing to do with expensive houses, cars or technology. There’s also no connection to fame, adulation and fortune, although there’s no rule against it. Instead, the approach to abundance that I’m learning to live by, more and more as life goes on, is one where I recognize and trust my connection and alignment with a benevolent Universe. Even if that doesn’t make much sense to you, just know that real abundance has nothing whatsoever to do with any feelings of fear, scarcity, lack or not-enoughness.
In fact, if you are feeling fear about your life, distrust of the Universe, or that there is never, ever enough of what you need to be happy and at peace, then no amount of money or stuff will make you feel real abundance. As Laurence Boldt says in his book, The Tao of Abundance, “…for most of us, the feeling of lack is not a result of a lack of things or material stuff. It is a sense of struggle and a lack of ease; a lack of energy; a feeling of powerlessness and blocked expression; a lack of harmony and connection in relationship; a lack of time to be, grow and relate; and a lack of opportunity to fully appreciate and celebrate the beauty in life—that gives a sense of deficiency to our existence.”
With that in mind, here are my seven signs that show what it’s like to live in real abundance:
1) Regularly enjoying a luxury of time. I know lots of people who have a lot more money than I do, but often when I ask them about their lives, they are too busy to enjoy it. I’ll bet you do too. In our culture there is an obsession with working hard to prove our success. Unfortunately, even when you are successful you worry that you have to work even harder or you’ll lose it all. Many slave away at jobs they detest for 20 to 30 years just so they can finally retire and enjoy themselves.
In contrast, Boldt says, “For the Taoists, leisure is the essence of abundance.” Anyone who doesn’t know how to take time to relax and regularly do nothing is firmly in the grasp of a scarcity mentality. Real luxury is not working like a maniac to take an expensive vacation—it is living a life you enjoy every day. Real abundance is embracing the moments of today as a precious gift filled with 24 hours that will never be repeated.
2) Freedom to navigate the course of our days. During our early-married life, I struggled with the idea that Thom and I didn’t fit the mold of what I thought defined success. Neither of us had a college degree or a prestigious occupation. There was no corporate ladder to climb even if we’d found one lying around. Instead, what I’ve since discovered is that our decision to be entrepreneurial was one of the greatest gifts we could give ourselves. It gave us the freedom to try out several paths that captured our interest. It allowed us to use our imagination to create opportunities where none existed before. Best of all, it gave us the freedom to live life doing what we love and to make choices based on the calling of our hearts.
3) Peace of mind. One of the easiest ways to spot someone who lives with a scarcity mentality is to listen to their conversations. Most of their talk is filled with fear, doubt and uncertainty about the economy, the government, their jobs, the future and just about everything else. In contrast, Boldt says, “To live in abundance is to be fully alive, free of any sense of lack or desperation.”
Boldt offers a cute story about a man who leaves his small village and travels the world. When he returns, all the people of the village rush around him asking, “How is life out in the world?” The man says simply, “Same as here. It is good for those who know how to live.”
4) Living with meaning and purpose. Anyone who believes that their daily work is a calling, with an awareness of their unique purpose and meaning, lives abundantly every day. As Katharine Graham, former owner and publisher of the Washington Post said, “To love what you do and feel that it matters—how could anything be more fun?”
5) Deep connections to others. There are currently dozens of scientific studies, books and research papers that now prove that those who are happiest and live longest are those with supportive, loving and long-lasting relationships—partners, friends and community. Cultivating, protecting and honoring our relationships are keys to the priceless feeling of abundance in our lives.
6) An understanding of our place in the Universe. According to Boldt, the Taoists believe, “If you put yourself in accord with the way of the universe, it will take care of you abundantly.” While your view of your place in the Universe might be different than mine, as long as you rest in the belief of a loving and benevolent Source-Of-Being that wants good for you, you will experience a life of real abundance.
7) Deep gratitude for all the good you have. As author Melody Beattie says, “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”
When you think about it, anyone who spends the hours of their days chasing after money, fame or power is really just a slave to the belief that there is only so much to go around. On the other hand, when we start recognizing the incredible abundance that makes up the world, we can start seeing ourselves surrounded by an abundance of love, creativity, ideas, opportunities, awareness, friends, beauty, happiness, fun and so, so much more.
I’m not sure what direction our young friends will take in their lives, but I hope they figure out that somewhere along the line the abundance they seek starts deep within. In the end, it’s SMART to remember that the path to real abundance is as Lao Tzu says, “When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.”