“When you have too much month for your paycheck, then what you need to do is realize that there is abundance all around you and focus on the abundance and not your lack and as night follows day abundance will come to you.”—Sidney Madwed
I was in a London airport lounge recently scanning the headlines of the Sunday newspapers . I found one story after another detailing the struggles of the European community to find a solution to the fiscal and financial crisis in Greece. These stories often asked if the economic contagion would spread not just to other members of the Eurozone but to the U.S. and other corners of the world.
Shortly after my return to the U.S. I heard several presidential candidates warning that if the United States didn’t bring its deficit spending binge under control we would face a crisis similar to what is rocking Greece. One morning my reflections led me to ponder how many families throughout the world are on a course which may lead them—no matter how vast our current financial resources—to a bankrupt future in terms of purpose, significance, and character development.
A few days after Christmas I had the opportunity to spend a half day with Lee Brower, author of The Brower Quadrant, a book I’d highly recommend. Lee introduced me to a powerful concept he is developing called Empowered Sustainability. I have been reflecting since that meeting on what a positive legacy we might leave our children and grandchildren if we could help them live every day of their adult lives through the paradigm of Empowered Sustainability.
I believe that what Lee Brower is seeking in the concept of Empowered Sustainability is an antidote to the shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations wealth cycle that James E. "Jay” Hughes, Jr. discovered in his professional odyssey. What can we do to not just preserve a family’s financial wealth through future generations but allow the family to flourish both individually and collectively?
There is no question that societies in the developed nations have become increasingly materialistic over the last century. The “more is better” mentality is a siren song which will shipwreck both individual and family happiness. That mindset puts us on what some call the hedonistic treadmill. It is an unsatisfying, in every meaningful way, race to acquire more; to have better toys, gadgets and lifestyles.
How can we make sure there isn’t a Greece in our child’s or grandchild’s future?
I think it starts with The Power of Example. It is what we model in our own lives which will reflect the brightest in the future lives of our children and grandchildren. It starts when we tune into our personal purpose and calling. Then, we should make sure we help our posterity understand this wisdom from Wayne Dyer:
“Doing what you love is the cornerstone of having abundance in your life.”
And, we need to help them understand the math of less can be more. Choosing purposefully how we spend our paychecks; living within our means rather than beyond; and making sure we are wise consumers are all part of this sustainability discipline.
There is a huge need in the U.S. today for financial education. But no matter how much we know about investing, until we can exercise the self-control necessary to not mortgage our futures through excessive use of credit cards, home equity loans, and pay-day cash advances we will remain in economic serfdom.
I believe the path to Empowered Sustainability starts with honest introspection. It begins with understanding the difference between needs and wants and committing ourselves to be grateful for what we already have. Gratitude is a key component of Empowered Sustainability. I love this wisdom on unleashing the generative influence of appreciation by focusing on what we already have:
Both abundance and lack [of abundance] exist simultaneously in our lives, as parallel realities. It is always our conscious choice which secret garden we will tend … when we choose not to focus on what is missing from our lives but are grateful for the abundance that’s present—love, health, family, friends, work, the joys of nature, and personal pursuits that bring us [happiness]—the wasteland of illusion falls away and we experience heaven on earth”-- Sarah Ban Breathnach, in John Cook, comp., The Book of Positive Quotations, 2nd ed. (2007), 342.
As we become aware of how we are spending our financial resources and where we are investing our time and energy, it opens up the opportunity to commit ourselves to a plan which will ultimately reduce stress, increase our opportunities to discover greater joy and fulfillment, and make the Power of Example a sustainable influence within our families.
"Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed”—Mahatma Gandhi