How much money do you make? When you compare yourself to others, do you feel less significant than people who make more? Hopefully not, because your salary doesn’t define you as a person.
It might have something to do with our hierarchical nature or our competitive instincts, but we tend to rank each other, and salary is often a measurement. Are you intimidated when you are around someone who earns a lot of money because you think they have some higher powers the rest of us can’t tap into? I can’t imagine how nervous I would be around Bill Gates or Warren Buffett.
We put our own emphasis on the importance of someone and then their importance proves out in our psyche. They must be a big deal because they’re a big deal!
We also define ourselves by our salary and believe in our own mind that we are a certain way because of it. If you don’t make much money and you’re deeply in debt, you’re broke – not poor. Dave Ramsey says that poor is a mindset, and a dangerous one at that, but “broke” can be only a temporary state.
You could also make a small amount of money and be the happiest person ever because you’re so fulfilled by your work and your life. In this case, you’re probably in better shape than most people who make more than you.
How do you break the habit of defining yourself and others by a salary?
We can break out of our current salary levels. We don’t live in a caste society where your salary and rank are determined at birth. We’re very fortunate to live in a day and age when your salary has a very high correlation to the amount of work you put into to something and your education (both formal and informal).
You might be limited in your education and experience, but you can do something about that too; even if it means educating yourself.
Making a lot of money only proves that you can make a lot of money.
A large paycheck doesn’t mean you’re exceptionally smart, a good person, or even happy! Some of the richest people or highest ranking employees in a company are the unhappiest because they’ve had to work very hard to get there. They made many sacrifices along the way and work might be the only thing they have left.
Working to the executive level in the company meant spending much less time with the family. They might seem very important at work, but they might be very unimportant at home. You should define your life plan so you have control of it and you OWN IT. If you want to be an executive be realistic about the sacrifices you’ll make to get there.
As written in the Bible, “Individuals and societies who devote themselves to money soon become devoured by it.”
I went through this decision myself. I spent seven years at my employer, and it would take at least seven more years to make the vaunted ‘partner’ level. This would have meant seven more years of weekly travel at a time that I’d probably start having kids and missing their precious moments in life. At the same time, I’m sure our expectations would rise along with the promotions, and the Golden Handcuffs would tighten.
My wife and I decided it wasn’t worth it. In the end, I found a better job with less travel, and now I’m spending all of my extra time on living and on my blog.
We ranked a happy life and marriage as more important than the potential high salary that came with a more prestigious job. Once I realized there was life beyond the company I worked for and the ranking I held, things were much easier. I realized I wasn’t defined by that position and salary.
Does your salary define you? What is most important to you?