When I realised I was rich
It can be very easy to say how lucky we are to live in a developed country, but it's worth really taking some time to reflect; to take in and appreciate the scale of our fortune.
I earn, in comparison to many of my peers of a similar age, a pretty modest wage. Last tax year, after subtracting my expenses, I declared a net income of around £15,000.
Nevertheless, according to the "How Rich Am I?" tool on the website of Giving What We Can, that level of income still puts me in the top 8% richest people in the world (For skeptics, it's worth noting that this tool does factor into it's the calculations the fact that money goes further overseas).
The top 8%? That I means I'm richer than 92% of the world's population. Essentially, I'm minted. Whoopee!!
To be born into a life where that level of wealth is easily achievable is seriously jammy. There was a much greater chance of being born into much less favourable surroundings.
Appreciating this fact has changed my perspective on life in two fundamental ways. The first of which I will touch on in this weeks blog, the second, next week.
From a purely self-serving point of view, maintaining an awareness of my relative wealth and quality of life enables me to take my life more lightly.
The things I worry about are of a quite luxurious nature.
My good friend Chris Horsfall (a.k.a North), who has also being going through a career transition of his own, said to me last year:
"Millest, we may reach the ends of our lives and never have had a career that completely fulfils us. And what?! Things could be much worse."
I remember Andy Murray saying that at a certain point in his career, he made his peace with the fact that he may never win a grand slam. This helped calm him down, and go about this training and life with much more enjoyment. He has since of course gone on to win 3 grand slam titles.
I may never be entirely fulfilled by my work. I may never meet the girl of my dreams. I may never explore my full artistic potential.
In the grand scheme of things, these are luxurious concerns. I have food, water, shelter, my physical and my mental health (well, most of the time!), and even better, I also have close family and friends. I am doing pretty well on Maslow's hierarchy of needs.
Two caveats worth mentioning:
One, that I do not believe that relaxing the intensity of our desires means losing our ambition. I still hope and believe that I will find work that deeply fulfils me, get married and have a family of my own. But as the Andy Murray example suggests, putting things into perspective and giving less weight to our goals may in fact help.
Two, that trying to using gratitude and perspective to get ourselves or others out of a depressing mental fug is not effective. Living in a developed society does not take away our right to feel low, and the "you have nothing to complain about" approach is both untrue and unhelpful. Suffering exists in many more forms and places outside of that which is caused by extreme poverty in developing countries.
I have the capacity for world-class levels of indecision. But when I can maintain a bit of perspective on things - which, as people who know me well will testify to, is not all the time - it enables me to take my life less seriously, to take more risks, to realise that in when approaching any decision the worst-case scenario can only be so bad, and to approach life with a liberating sense of play.