“If you don’t like the culture around you, you have to choose to not buy it”. These are the words of Morrie, from Tuesdays with Morrie, simple yet empowering. For me, they are a reminder, even permission, to make different choices. And choices that are more aligned with my own beliefs, versus the beliefs that I may have inherited from society.
One of the mainstream beliefs that I have begun to question is that of capitalism. Specifically, the belief in capitalism that “more is more”, with the sole focus being money. There is a beauty in the simplicity of this belief. A single dimension to focus on, an easy numerical measurement that is widely understood and adopted by most. I wonder how much of our love for this belief is actually our love for simplicity. Perhaps a limitation of our minds has resulted in a one dimensional belief system, not because it is better, but because we can understand it easily.
Capitalistic structures, like the stock market, the corporation and the tax system, all concern themselves with making, measuring and spending money.
Money is important for Financial Security. Unfortunately, a large portion of the population currently faces financial insecurity, with more entering this state as result of the pandemic. Money is absolutely needed, without it, one will have great difficulty living well. Food. Safety. Shelter.
Money can also provide Financial Freedom. This is where money is used to go beyond our basic needs, and is used for our desires. A nice home, nice car, nice clothes, fancy foods, experiences and entertainment. These desires can bring pleasure and comforts.
Money can provide the opportunity for Financial Impact, when one chooses to invest funds to help solve a particular problem, not for themselves, but for others. Making a donation to a charity is an example of this. We are moving away from this though, as the average person gives a very small share of their income today, and giving rates pre-pandemic have been in decline for years.
Money can also provide a sense of Financial Identity, and this may just be the source of greed and corruption often found in capitalism. To identify with how much money that I have, or that I have earned. This appears to be a never-ending battle with infinity.
Money can be like air. There's practically no limit to how much air exists, however having more air beyond a certain point does not really do anything for me. I have a limited capacity in my lungs for how much air I can take in, at any one moment. There is a minimum amount of air that I need to live, but there is a limit to how much air I can take in, despite a near infinite supply available.
It would appear that for a squirrel, yes a squirrel, success in life is food. It spends all day, going from here to there, searching for food. It spends its entire life running and looking for food. Capitalism is no different. Under a capitalistic belief system, we are all squirrels running around, looking for food all day, even though we can only eat so many nuts in a day.
There is another way, and it asks us to not buy the culture that we find ourselves in. It asks us to open our eyes and to see reality as it is, as it truly is. And it asks us to transcend any limitations or laziness of our minds to see and only identify with a single dimension in life.
While Capitalism is a one-dimensional approach to life, Balancism is a multi-dimensional approach to life. Balancism asks us to bring a balance between three dimensions: money, time and space.
Money means Financial Security, Financial Freedom and Financial Impact, however stops short of Financial Identity.
Time means having the time in one's lifestyle to invest in connections. Connections to people and passions, outside of work. It could be quality time with family and friends, learning skills or exploring new interests. Countless happiness research studies prove that the biggest influence of happiness is not money, but the quality of the connections that we keep with others. To cultivate quality connections takes quality time, not leftover time after the dishes are done at the end of the night.
Space means mental space. We are more than our body. Our material experience in life is via our senses, however there are perhaps even more important experiences that we have in life, which are non-material and non-physical. These are our thoughts, emotions and feelings. They are always with us and I believe have an equally important influence on our experience in life.
Peace of mind might be as valuable, if not more valuable, than money after a certain point. To be at peace, intellectually and emotionally, with the world, with how I show up to the world, with the choices that I make, with what has and has not happened. Our mind is the most valuable real estate that exists in our world. Who or what is occupying that real estate? How much of that real estate is occupied by our work?
A Different Culture
Capitalism prioritizes one dimension, money, at the expense of time and space. In a culture dominated by capitalism, one is working nearly all of the time, physically or mentally. Time to explore, connect and learn is scarce. Space to feel at peace, to reflect and to be present is nonexistent. The purpose of life, observed through a snapshot of this moment, is work.
Balancism looks to optimize for multiple dimensions. Balancism could be described as part capitalism (money), part socialism (time) and part buddhism (space). Value is placed in money, time and space. Balancism believes that a full life is full of pleasure, people and peace.
This is a philosophy that has guided me well over the recent years and one that I continue to learn, experiment and grow with. It is a philosophy that I intend to manifest in the culture within the organizations I am responsible for leading or supporting.