With 2008 coming to a close, I suspect that this is one year that many people will be happy to put behind them. At the very least, given the current grim fiscal climate, it’s probably not a year that will go down in history as being particularly abundant.
On the other hand, opportunity abounds. As I write this, on the day before a historic election, there’s a hum in the air — the hum of a citizenry more engaged than it’s been in decades, and more willing to put its shoulder to the wheel of progress. Perhaps it’s that we have a clear sense of the challenges facing us, and the necessity of making some meaningful changes in the ways we’ve been living.
Those changes are necessary, I think, not just for our own sake, but for the sake of future generations.
So here’s my half-glass-full assessment of the situation: We’ve got our work cut out for us, and if we’re willing to lift our heads enough to see beyond the daily global-recession headlines, then I would argue that the future is bright indeed.
Yes, economically, it’s quite possible that we won’t soon experience the same sort of financial abundance many of us enjoyed in recent years. All the more reason to think about how we can create a more meaningful, stable and satisfying sort of abundance — by consciously cultivating and appreciating the resources that are within our control.
Here are five areas of potentially unlimited plenty:
- Health — Energy, vitality, focus and endurance are the rewards of good health, and they are essential to accomplishing our other goals. They’re also crucial for withstanding stress and anxiety. Staying healthy and fit helps you ward off expensive medical bills and leaves you well equipped to handle whatever life throws your way. So, if there was ever a time to make staying well a top priority, it’s now. Eat well and simply (see below), and get plenty of exercise, fresh air and sleep. Your body will pay you back with interest.
- Simplicity — Research into the realms of happiness shows us that beyond the ability to meet our basic needs, material wealth does not increase our satisfaction in living. In fact, a surplus of accumulated stuff and clutter actually contributes to our stress. This is a great time for clearing clutter, donating unneeded goods to charity, and re-engaging with simple pleasures like clear surfaces, room to move and time in nature. This is also a great time to rediscover the pleasures of unadulterated, unprocessed foods (note: in terms of nutritive value, most organic produce is far less expensive than either soft drinks or fast-food fare).
- Time — This is arguably the most precious resource over which we have direct control. The way we spend our time is central to our quality of life, and while having plenty of money can make managing our time easier (because we can purchase “time-saving” goods and services), an overemphasis on material wealth can distance us from the satisfying moments, connections and priorities that really matter. Even when we are busy, worried and overworked, it’s possible to avoid the grip of “time poverty” by staying focused on the present moment, doing daily check-ins with our core values and vision, and deeply appreciating the relationships and blessings that are ours for the keeping.
- Love — If there’s any great gift in times of challenge and doubt, it’s that we get a very clear sense of who our true friends and loved ones are. To feel the heartfelt, steadfast support of those who care about us — and to give our care and affection in return — is one of life’s most extraordinary (and least expensive) pleasures. Whether you hug your spouse, play catch with your kid or take a long walk with a friend, seize the opportunity to connect and care deeply. Give thanks for the good fortune you have to love and be loved, and for the opportunity to grow this hugely renewable resource day by day.
- Giving — Acts and attitudes of generosity contribute to a climate of hope. Giving to others makes you feel better — about yourself, and about life in general. Whether you can give money, time, energy, advice, encouragement, or even just a kind word and a smile — give. Even if you can only give a little, giving makes the world a better place: It helps us all become better people, and that makes the future even brighter.
Wishing you plenty of everything that matters most to you.