5 Steps to Finding Your Optimum Mix of Money and Meaning

The Lost Poem #3

Is money the goal anymore?

Or, in the age of insta-famous self-helpers, is personal fulfillment and living “on purpose,” the goal?

What has finally become clear to me is that the goal is actually both, and the particular mix of money and meaning that is right for each of us is personal.  There is no formula.

All one way, cash is king.

The problem with putting dollars at the pinnacle of the goal chart is that satisfaction from attaining cash will always be elusive. What we actually want when we put money in the God seat is the experiences we believe money will buy us. Lotto winners and one-hit wonders have demonstrated that if we don’t recognize money as a means to an end and not an end in itself, we will always be left wanting.

All the other way, purpose is paramount.

Oh boy, there are some pretty smug purpose-driven people out there on the instaweb splashing their spiritual gifts and oneness with the universe for all to see. They use phrases like, “if you follow your heart, the money will follow.” Trouble is, in modern America income is actually tied to the foundation of the Maslow pyramid. Food, water, warmth, and shelter, all require some skrill in the USA.

If you are an artist, for instance, you may believe that deep down in your soul you would be most fulfilled if you could spend your days immersed in a dream like experience of color and texture painting. (I have no idea what that is like – wink, wink.) The only problem with that dream is, you are not going to be able to achieve the feeling of bliss and one-ness with the universe that comes from #livingyourpurpose without some cash!

First, supplies. But second, even if you got creative and managed to pull off free art supplies, being able to really enjoy the view from up there in self-actualization part of the Maslow tower requires being able to trust the foundation on which your tower is built. If you aren’t sure you have enough money for food to eat, utilities for warmth, and a house for safety and shelter, you won’t be able to focus. You will be unable to relax because your primitive brain will be preoccupied with your sustenence and safety. You are going to need some bucks.  You are going to need a combination of money and meaning.

The Definition of Rich

Our patron saint of badass bank-making, Jen Sincero, has enlightened me on what it means to be rich. In her best-selling book, You are a Badass at Making Money, Sincero writes: “RICH: able to afford all the things and experiences required to fully experience your most authentic life.” Boom.

So, how does one get to their ideal mix of money and meaning? Prioritize the experiences you most desire to have.

5 Steps to Your Magic Money Mix

  1. First, get clear on what you value most.  For me it’s some combination of: family and friends, creative pursuits, spiritual life, physical health, service, and my home environment.

  2. Next, what are the things and experiences you desire most – especially in each of these categories. How much do they cost? List them.

  3. Now, consider your options for making money.

    1. Pick a more money/less soul option such as your day job.

    2. And a more-meaning/less cash option such as making/selling your own art.

  4. Compare the job to the items on the list. Example: is the experience of being able to buy a house more important to me than the experience of making art everyday without interruption?  Is the experience of being able to afford extra trips with my family more important than the experience of being able to make art all day every day?
  5. Make your way through your list of desired things and experiences comparing each one to the experience of how you make your money.

The Result

At the end of this process you will find that you want some proportion of the bought things/experiences, and some proportion of the experience of the purpose-driven career. This proportion is your biggest clue about the right mix of money and meaning for you. Once you know how much your work-experience means to you in comparison with the experiences and things you can buy, you can make some choices about what proportion of your desires are motivated by money, and what proportion by meaning.

You can have both! It’s not all or nothing. The trick is to prioritize your desired experiences. It’s not money, it is experience that makes up a life full of meaning.


Marissa Johnson is a Pregame Coach and founder of Fearless Facilitation. Join her for The Huddle, our Life Goals class, this spring at Pregame HQ.

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