How many among us consider money one of our main goals? Hands raised, please. Keep ‘em high.
Now, unless you’re driving, cooking, or doing something with your hands (sexual, perhaps?), odds are your arm’s in the air.
Ok, you can put ‘em down now.
But to prove my point, imagine that everyone reading this post had their hand raised, because, well, they did.
You see, money is a driver and a goal for almost all of us.
But why? Has anyone actually asked themselves that question?
Sure, having a monetary goal makes sense. We’ve been taught since birth that a high paycheck equals success. Further, financial well-being begets freedom. So, if money’s a goal of yours, good!
But of course, not so fast. Why is it that you want to make money? If your goal is to increase your earnings just so you can masturbate to the rising number on your banking portal, your values are misplaced.
Money is important, but it isn’t important in-of-itself. It’s important because of the things you can do with it. Therefore, cash is a tool. What’s more, it’s a tool that helps you achieve your goal, and isn’t a goal on its own.
So, let’s change the way we think about money and our net worth. Like, right now.
The Reclassification of Money
To help, let’s first define money in its modern sense. According to Webster’s, money is “a current medium of exchange in the form of coins and banknotes.”
Think about that for a second. Money is the way in which we exchange value.
Now, taking it all the way back, the idea of money started as what’s called “commodity money,” or bartering. According to Aristotle, every object has two uses. The first is the purpose for what the object was designed, and the second is is the value it holds as an item to barter.
So, way back when, before the implementation of banknotes (i.e. cash), money was literally a tool, because it was a physical commodity. If you built tables, for example, you could trade a table for food to feed your family.
But, of course, commodity money has its problems. If you make tables and need meat, but they gal who has the meat wants milk rather than a table, you’d have to find someone with milk who wanted your table, so you could trade it for meat. And if the person who had milk wanted a goat, you’d have to find a Shepard who wanted a table. So complicated!
To circumvent this issue, legislative bodies started implementing what’s called “fiat money,” which is essentially paper money that’s given value by government decree. Basically, fiat money is worthless except for the worth we agree to give it. We trust our government, and so we trust the dollars in our bank account.
Which made money less of an obvious tool. Before, you wouldn’t build 50 tables in the hopes that people would want them for a specific set of goods. But now, we stockpile money because it’s ubiquitous in what it can buy. Other than inflation, it holds its value as a constant.
This means that the idea of money shifted from a physical commodity that could be traded for other commodities to a made up piece of paper that somehow gives itself worth.
And even further, that imaginary piece of paper has shifted yet again to become a fluctuating number on a screen. We now derive our personal value from the size of that number rather than the things or experiences or freedoms it can buy.
Let’s change that. Think of money as a tool that can get you what you desire, rather than a number you want to continuously grow.
Using Money to Achieve Your Goals
Ryan Holiday said it best, but I’ll paraphrase for the sake of brevity. If you don’t have a specific number in mind or a reason for your money, the natural default is “more.”
And that’s where everyone seems to be. We don’t really know why we’re making money, only that we should, and we therefore try to make as much cash as we can with no real goal in mind. Our focus becomes “more money,” rather than achieving specific things that money can buy.
And money can buy anything. Even freedom, influence, and change. So, of course, cash is important, but it’s only important as a tool that achieves your overarching goals.
Take me, for example. I’m growing my career in novel writing (and screenwriting, hopefully soon). But, of course, you have to invest time to see any monetary return, so at the moment, I pay the bills through my content marketing consultancy. I help fintech companies better communicate with their customers.
But that’s not my end goal. My ultimate desire is to support myself full time through my creative endeavors.
Which means that my consultancy needs to provide me with stable income and the freedom of time to pursue my passion.
So, instead of trying to build a business that has a revenue goal of “more,” I sat down and defined exactly how much money I needed, per month, to live a comfortable lifestyle and still focus on my ultimate goal. And for those who are wondering, that amount is $7k per month.
And there’s my monetary goal. It isn’t an unknown value but is instead a specific number. And it’s a tool because that monthly influx of cash frees up my time so I can write for myself every day. My money is the tool I leverage to give myself freedom.
But, of course, your goal could be completely different. It could be to buy a home. Maybe it’s saving for retirement. Regardless, the home and the retirement date are the goals, not the money. The cash is just the tool that’ll help you achieve your desire.
So stop thinking about your money as a goal. It’s not. It’s just one of the things that’ll help you achieve it.
The first step is to decouple your desire from your cash. It’s not the end-goal. You have higher and more altruistic desires, trust me.
Then, once you’ve changed the way you think about your money, it’s time to write down a hard number that’ll help you achieve your goal. It could be a monthly amount or a lump sum, it doesn’t matter.
For example, if you want to purchase a house, define the exact amount of the down payment and the monthly mortgage costs.
And after you’ve clearly defined how much money you need to achieve your goal, work toward it as if it were…well, a goal.
But you’ll know it’s not your actual goal, because your ultimate desires are much more meaningful than just a number on a screen.
Evan Tarver is an author, nonfiction writer and editor, screenwriter, and small business owner with a background in finance and technology. Overall, the content he creates is meant to shift the way people think and encourage them to act. Some ideas explore the social environment on the macro level, some ideas explore the transformative power of personal growth on the micro-level, while most fall somewhere in between.