What Does it Mean to Be Rich? An Unusual Definition of Prosperity & Affluence

I’m ok with becoming rich and accumulating a lot of money. How about you?

But, even though becoming rich is a reasonable goal, I also find the traditional definition of rich, i.e. to possess a lot of money, to be less than useful early in our money quest.  It’s not that measuring how much money we have is a bad thing.  It just does not tell us how or why the money will be earned or accumulated in the first place. To get to the root cause of becoming rich, we have to dig deeper.

A while back I stumbled upon a relatively obscure but very helpful book called Spiritual Economics: The Principles and Process of True Prosperity by Eric Butterworth (see a 10 minute video book summary).  The book provides some insightful and unusual definitions of concepts like prosperity and affluence:

“The word affluence is an overworked word in our time, usually implying cars and houses and baubles of all kinds. Its literal meaning is ‘an abundant flow,’ and not things at all. When we are consciously centered in the universal flow, we experience inner direction and the unfoldment of creative activity. Things come too, but prosperity is not just having things. It is the consciousness that attracts things.

Butterworth’s point was that money, like water, flows to us only after we ground ourselves with effective beliefs, attitudes, education, and habits. These inner qualities (spiritual) are primary, and the outer success is secondary. Becoming valuable, serving people, and consistently doing “wealthy” habits like living below your means lead to the material results we want.

Ralph Waldo Emerson also explains this concept beautifully:

Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny.

If a part of your personal destiny is to become financially wealthy, then you must begin by sowing wealthy thoughts, follow-up with wealthy actions, and persevering with wealthy habits. Another way to say this is: THERE ARE NO SHORT CUTS! You must do the steady, consistent work of changing yourself before your circumstances change.

Butterworth also shared the root of another misunderstood word, prosperity:

“The word prosperity comes from the Latin root which literally translates: ‘according to hope’ or ‘to go forward hopefully.’ This is not so much a condition in life as it is an attitude toward life.”

I don’t deny the simple reality that having more money in the bank can make our lives a lot easier. But, I think an often missed lesson about wealth and true prosperity is that beyond the bare necessities, monetary wealth becomes less and less effective at making us happier and more fulfilled.

Our dominant attitude towards life in general, whether it’s one of hope or one of fear, will determine our deeper sense of “prosperity.” We can have such a big pile of money in the bank that we will never need for anything materially, but if our mind is centered in greed, fear, or other less than optimal states, we’ll still be miserable. If our lives are unhappy, empty, or apathetic, what’s the point of all the money?!

Your specific process of going about the work of inner (spiritual) work is your business, not mine. But, whatever it is for you, consider working on your root definitions, your thoughts, your beliefs, and your habits. The greatest teachers tell us this is critical to being truly affluent, prosperous, and rich in the broadest sense of those words.

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