Break-even Living

What does it mean to ‘get ahead’ and who defined that for you?

Whenever I go running in an area where the average daily wage is $2, I am reminded of this privilege. For me to participate in an activity that might burn 800 calories in one hour when surrounded by people who may only consume one 600 calorie meal per day is a mind-bender. Still, I run past smiling faces, joyful singing coming from the churches, people busily sweeping the streets with such pride, sharing “salaama” greetings (peace), and I think “who is happiest?” Many would agree that finding meaning in one’s life, or feeling purposeful, is perhaps the most important factor in true happiness. Why do so many of us Westerners exercise more so we can eat more or weigh less? Work more so we can earn more or have less time? Schedule more activities so we can be in more places or take on more responsibilities and thus have less rest? Buy more so we can have more stuff to store, more debt to finance and less cash on hand?

I studied micro and macro economics and have started some businesses. I understand opportunity cost and wealth creation, and I too can fall prey to the common ways of Western living (don’t get me wrong – we’ve got some good things going!) No doubt I will be jumping back on that wagon soon, but I hope it will be with more intention and awareness each time I return to stateside living. I do believe it is important to have a ‘rainy day fund’ and to some extent planning for the future makes global sense. However it can also take us out of the present and often is based in fear, equally counter-productive as the attempt to fill some void through constant consumption. I will not waste my energy or create unnecessary stress by living in the ‘what-iffs’. As always, it is a balance.

Thank you to all of my mentors and guides who are showing me what it means to lead more from heart than head. I affirm today that there is plenty of everything to go around, it is simply a matter of (re)distribution and shifting one’s mindset.

Addendum: One day after drafting this post I was presented with the following TedX presentation. I encourage you to check it out if you are interested in shifting your living from ‘more’ to ‘enough’.

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