Monetizing Joy? Sigh…

Dollar SignsLast week I shared Michele Woodward’s post Do What You Love and The Money Won’t Follow.  In her article, Woodward takes aim at one of the self-help industry’s hopeful yet clichéd slogans, “Do what you love and the money will follow,” and demonstrates that it is, at times, simply not true.  In fact, reports Woodward, people doing what they love often aren’t rewarded financially.

Her conclusion—do it anyway!  Woodward’s revision to the saying is:

Do what you love, and the happiness will follow.

I recognize this (dare I say) obsession we have with financial wealth.  And, the unfortunate consequence of this mindset is that we have made our joy conditional.  What I mean by this is that we often can readily describe a number of activities and behaviors that we know we would enjoy and would brighten our lives.  But we don’t do them, because they don’t pass one test—Will I make money doing this?

We believe we have to monetize our joy.  If we cannot, then we don’t do these joyful things.  We have grown blind to the value of play and the mental and physical benefits of living a joyful life.

A friend told me how, while recently on vacation, she got such simple pleasure by going each morning down to the nearby beach and picking up trash.  It wasn’t her mission to rid the entire beach of trash, but she felt great about her positive contribution.

What about including something like that in her daily life, I asked.  “I could only do that because I was on vacation,” she replied.  “I don’t have time for something like that in my regular life.  Between being a mom of three kids, driving carpools, running the household, being a wife and partner, and also an entrepreneur, I’m either taking care of my family, or I’m working on building my business to make money.”

Now, I doubt anyone is willing to pay my friend to spend her time cleaning up a small section of beach.  Or, if they did, that it would be equal to what her time is worth to her.  But, the ultimate result is that she doesn’t do this simple activity that brought her satisfaction and joy.  Something that satisfied her, perhaps, precisely because she didn’t have to do it; she got to choose to do it, and was rewarded with feeling connected with a community, with having a positive effect on something bigger than just her and her family.

I get that we want to feel financially secure, and income answers that.  But, I believe, when we peel back the outer layer of the onion, we are reminded that beyond security, money is just a means to provide ourselves a satisfying lifestyle.  And doesn’t that satisfaction come from relaxation, play, and practicing joyful behaviors?

I think we get stuck in that first layer, where money provides security and the opportunity for happiness; and, dwelling there, we start believing that more money buys more security and more happiness.  (More security??  What does that even mean?)

At this point, our world flips upside-down, and we believe that we need money more than joy.  We prioritize income over joy, and we conditionalize joy so that it’s only useful to us if we can monetize it.

We lose sight of how joy improves our quality of life: our mood, our health, and all of our interactions.  There is a deeper value in joy, and I believe a greater wealth.

Here’s my dog-chasing-its-own-tail perspective: We believe we have to do things that will make money in order to have the security and time to then do something fun and joyful.  Sometimes it’s good to jump right to the fun and joyful thing.  And, believe me, there’s a lot of security and comfort in having a peaceful mind, a joyful heart, and connection with your community.

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