In a workshop, a group was asked to make a list of the "seven wonders of your world," conjuring up the notion of developing an update of the ancient world marvels such as the pyramids and the hanging gardens of Babylon. Ideas poured out, including The Grand Canyon, The Golden Gate Bridge, The Great Wall of China, Mount Everest and the Taj Mahal.
One woman, however, was still struggling when everybody else had finished, stating there was so much to choose from. When the facilitator asked what she had already written down, she shared: "To see, to hear, to touch, to smell, to laugh, to feel, to love." The room grew quiet as everyone realized she had indicated something profound. Everything on her list was freely available without limit to everyone in the room.
Consultants Ethan Willis and Randy Garn offer that anecdote in their book Prosper, since it points the way to what they call The Prosperity Zone. Their use of the term "prosper" can misdirect us initially, because it is tied so tightly in our minds to wealth, but they see prosperity – and a fulfilling life – as broader than just money.
Indeed, they offer a formula: Money + Happiness + Sustainability = Prosperity. So prosperity is a balance between money and happiness – a balance that must be sustainable for the longer haul. You must feel good about what you are doing to make money; have the passion to continue it for years if not decades; the work must be ethical, environmentally sound, and beneficial to others; and the work must offer lasting value, not be a get-rich-quick scheme.
"So many people are searching for money. Money isn't everything, but it is a necessity of prosperity. A lot of people are happy but can't pay their bills. We want to redefine what prosperity is in today's world," Mr. Garn said in an interview.
Prosperity is not an external event that happens to us. It flows from the inside out. "You are in the Prosperity Zone when you are living your best life, when what makes you money makes you and other people happy, when work doesn't seem like work at all, and when you enjoy every waking moment. Your Prosperity Zone is the place where what you love to do more than anything in the whole world also makes you money," they write.
The duo run a coaching operation – apparently a prosperous coaching operation – in Utah, aimed at entrepreneurs. They have nearly 500 employees, and conduct 1,500 one-on-one coaching sessions a week. The search for the prosperity balance begins with an assessment of how you are faring now in the three crucial elements.
You also need to ask yourself some reflective questions:
· What does my ideal lifestyle look like?
· How much money do I need to maintain my ideal lifestyle?
· What can I do to improve the most important relationships in my life?
· How important is a sense of physical well-being?
· How much exercise do I need each week?
· What can I do to improve myself?
· What can I do to improve my self-image and self-confidence?
· How do I see my spiritual relationship to prosperity?
· What makes me happiest? Why?
· How much do I value an environmentally sustainable life?
They have a six-step prosperity journey that involves understanding your Polaris Point. Just as the North Star can be used as a navigational tool, you need to envision what you aspire to become, to achieve, to contribute, and to create – and how all of that relates to money.
Central to being in the prosperity zone is to be earning from your core: Finding what motivates you, and how to turn that into a living. "If you could be doing anything, what would it be? How can that be channelled into building prosperity?" they ask. "The more you leverage the energy that flows from that kind of passion, the bigger the competitive advantage you can deliver, and the more satisfying the income will be."
Of course, these notions of North Stars and earning from the core are not terribly original, and making it actually work for us can be quite elusive. But the idea of finding a balance between money, happiness, and sustainability clarifies an important struggle – an important balance – in our lives.
And Mr. Garn's warning in the interview is also important to consider: "If you hate what you're doing, you will go through booms and crashes. That's why people are switching jobs like crazy. They are just not happy."
Harvey Schachter is a Battersea, Ont.-based writer specializing in management issues. He writes Monday Morning Manager for The Globe and Mail's T.G.I.M. page, management book reviews on Wednesdays and an online work-life balance column on Fridays.