One of my CEOs , whom I respected for his candor, once told me:
“You will learn that the more wealth you get, the more of it you will desire.”
The words struck me as they were pronounced by someone whose family wealth amounted to billions of dollars at the time.
I nodded pensively and went back to work.
I wanted to "get more" for sure.
Still, the unanswered question remained with me until I decided to face it for myself:
"Where is my limit?"
If there is no limit, where is the limit?
Death is one answer, of course.
Do I want to die rich?
Legacy is another one.
Do I want to leave something behind?
Generosity can be a driver.
I want justice in this world. How much more is required?
Happiness is a possibility.
How much will bring me and my loved ones happiness?
Fundamentally: what would it take for me to put a smile on my face every morning? Is there a limit?
I believe that, at the very root, is safety.
We need to feel safe in order to feel good.
But then, why do some people look so happy when their standards of living are undisputedly below mine?
What is the minimum level of material comfort I need to feel safe?
The beauty of this question, I find, is that it it enquires about a lower limit--not a higher one.
It shifts the focus from a usually fantasized, often out-of-reach maximum (which few of us would be willing to cap anyway), to a practical, measurable floor.
And now what?
Once the lower-limit question is addressed, we quickly move to another one: from that floor, what else do we want? If our minimum needs are met, do we want more material wealth? Or do we start looking for something else?
What do I need to feel emotionally balanced? Or psychologically stable? Or socially acceptable? Or spiritually accomplished?
Switching our "desire for more" from one kind of safety (material) to another (any other) is liberating.
It reminds us that other parts of ourselves require attention too. And as we attend more to those other needs of our individuality, we realize that our quest for material safety relaxes.