By Sylvia Walker, author of SmartWoman
Starting or running a business is hugely taxing and it’s easy to be driven by money, particularly in the early months. You want to focus all your energy on making it a success, but it is easy to fall into the trap of materialism. Money and wealth is equated to success and we all want to be successful. However, it is important to realise that money is only one aspect of our lives – it cannot be our sole driving force. So where does our money fit in?
There are a number of different approaches, but I favour the view that money is one of the four pillars of our lives – the other three being physical health, mental health and relationships. Our wellness as individuals depends on balancing these four pillars, and, just like the legs of a table, these four pillars provide stability and resilience – the strength to cope with the challenges of life. When they are balanced, they also allow us to find a sense of purpose, to be successful and, ultimately, to be happy. If they are unbalanced, we could end up in a less than ideal situation.
If your focus is mainly concentrated on creating money and growing your wealth, you might labelled a workaholic, neglecting your health and viewing relationships merely as a tool for accumulating more power and money. It distorts your sense of purpose. You may end up rich, but unhappy and unfulfilled in many other aspects of your life. Battling an illness can force you to put all your focus on your health, impacting heavily on other aspects of your life. This can be financially devastating and severely challenging to your mental health, as the battle against illness is as much physical as it is mental. You may neglect friends and relationships in the process.
On the other hand, being obsessed with one’s health can result in a beautiful body, but leave you financially vulnerable, as you spend vast amounts of money in pursuit of perfection and may have a self-perception focused entirely on how you look, instead of how you interact with others. This can be damaging to your relationships. Some people may have an intense focus on their mental growth, spirituality, and understanding of themselves and the world around them, believing that mastering this will meet all the needs in other areas of their lives. This seldom happens and the result of this intense focus is weak relationships, no financial foundation and, perhaps, poor physical health. The only people who seem to be able to live a healthy life focused on spirituality and mental growth are people in a religious order, such as monks and nuns. If all your energy is going into your relationships, with you always hunting for that perfect partner or being obsessed with family or friends, you are likely driven by your emotions and may easily neglect other aspects of your life. You may find yourself spending vast amount of money to impress and gain acceptance, leaving you financially weak. Your health may suffer and your poor perception of yourself may drive you to seek external validation, undermining the relationships you focus on so intensely.
It may sound dramatic, but most of us are not perfect. We are all constant work in progress and our focus may shift from one pillar to another, depending on our circumstances. For example, if you are starting your own business, a large part of your energy would shift to the money pillar, as you need to generate an income and make a success of your new venture. This should be temporary though, and not become a habit. So while our focus may shift towards one or two pillars at a particular time, it is important not to neglect any one of them in the longer term. It’s all about balance, and when we consider building our wealth and being financially fit, it’s necessary to do so in the context of a balanced and healthy life.
Sylvia Walker is highly skilled and experienced in the financial services industry, having spent a large part of her career as a marketing manager for a blue-chip company. During this time, she worked closely with the media, conducting hundreds of presentations, doing radio and TV interviews and writing many articles for publications such as O, the Oprah magazine, Good Housekeeping / Goeie Huishouding, Sarie, The Mercury, Plus 50 and many others. She left the corporate world at the end of 2014 to pursue her interests further afield. She is also a published author. She contributed chapters on financial planning in Mary Ann Shearer’s Take Control the Natural Way and Nadia Bilchik and Lori Milner’s Own Your Space. She authored Dealing in Death – Ellen Pakkies and a Community’s Struggle with Tik and co-authored Steeped in Blood, the memoirs of Dr David Klatzow, which was shortlisted for the Alan Paton Award in 2011. She also co-authored and published Reflections for Old Mutual in 2013. Sylvia is currently a financial planner, writes articles, and conducts workshops on various aspects of financial literacy and planning. She is also the resident financial guru on the Cape Talk Early Breakfast Show, and is on air every Friday morning. Her latest book, Smartwoman, has just been published, and is a culmination of many years of experience in advising women on how to gain financial freedom and grow their wealth. www.sylviawalker.co.za