If you approach people on the street and ask them to define the word “rich,” the vast majority will respond in a similar way. They’ll say, “Someone who has a lot of money” or “Possessions and material wealth.”
It’s natural for us to gravitate toward that definition based on our cultural experiences. We grew up hearing people who had nice possessions described as “rich.” Our movies and advertising are filled with imagery of material wealth being linked to the word “rich.” In 1953, this definition was even given a mascot in the form of the comic Richie Rich!
But this is a limited framing of what is really a well-rounded and beautifully diverse concept.
The word “rich” is derived from the Old English rice, which meant “strong, powerful; great, mighty; of high rank.” And over the centuries, its meaning has deepened and expanded.
Let’s look at a few of its current uses today:
- Having abundant possessions and especially material wealth
- Having high value or quality
- Well supplied or endowed; a city rich in traditions
- Magnificently impressive, sumptuous
- Vivid and deep in color; a rich red
- Full and mellow in tone and quality; a rich voice
- Having a strong fragrance; rich perfumes
- Highly productive or remunerative; a rich mine
- Lush; rich meadows
- Meaningful, significant; a rich allusion
- Entertaining, laughable
- Highly seasoned, fatty, oily or sweet; rich foods
- Having abundant plant nutrients; rich soil
- High in the combustible component; a rich fuel mixture
As a concept, “rich” has so much more to offer us… especially when we think about it in the context of our own “rich life.”
When I think about my own rich life, it conjures up feelings of wonder and awe.
For me, a rich life describes the feeling of adventure… the smell of my daughter’s hair when we hug… a breathtaking landscape… the soft and tender look in my wife’s eyes… and, yes, the feeling of relaxation and pleasure when I don’t have to think twice about buying something.
Richie Rich and his cultural (mis)representation make it seem like “riches” can be found only in possessions. But the truth is that “richness” can be found all around you and inside of you, regardless of how financially rich you may be.
Here are a few ideas to consider as an overview of possibility… (And I’ll address them in much more depth in future articles.)
We can be rich in mind, with small, momentary actions. By paying attention to our thoughts and conditioning our beliefs. By training ourselves to flip our mindset and pay attention to what we have instead of what we don’t have, who we are instead of who we are not, and the things we can do rather than the things we can’t. There are many simple tools to make profound change in the richness of your mind.
We can be rich in relationships, with small actions that lead to profound change. By learning to love people for who they are, not who they are not. By approaching relationships as a place to give to others, rather than to get. By learning to practice forgiveness of others and of ourselves. Try asking someone you live with “what can I do to make this day easier for you?” for five days in a row. Then simply do what they ask and see what happens.
We can be rich in career, by aligning ourselves with a company that has similar values to our own. By starting a company that solves an important problem. By mastering a craft, trade or set of skills. By falling in love with the deeper impact of our work. By surrounding ourselves with talented, hard-working people. But the simple reality is that with a growth mindset and a belief we can learn new things, our options are plentiful.
We can be rich in health, by listening to our bodies and paying attention to the signals we receive. Of course, there are health factors beyond our control, but we’re increasingly learning that there are simple things within our control, which make a meaningful difference. Prioritizing a good night’s sleep, e. Eating healthy meals during the week, and pursuing active hobbies go much further than we ever understood.
We can be rich in heart and spirit by cultivating love in everything we do. By making self-love one of our highest pursuits in life. (This happens with tiny actions each day, not some drastic, overwhelming change.) BOr by developing a curiosity about powers greater than ourselves. By looking for the good in others. By regularly making time to connect with nature. By learning to let go of things more quickly.
And yes, we can be rich in money, much more easily than most of us imagine. The truth is that you can be wealthy at any income level. The definition of wealth is having more than you need. So, if you make more than you spend, you’re wealthy. We can improve our marketable skills and abilities. We can invest for the long –term and not try to time the market. We can use money as a tool of creation. We. Looking can look to invest it as often as possible into something else that will produce a return.
The most amazing part is that it’s the simple little tools, shifts and practices that make the biggest difference in all of these. They are all parts of an ever-unfolding process in life.
So how rich can life become? I’m not sure there is a limit. But it’s time we free the word “rich” from the limitations of mascots and media and open the floodgates of true meaning that this word embodies.
A rich life isn’t some cartoonish version Scrooge McDuck on a pile of gold. A rich life is a vast ocean of meaning and possibility.
And it’s yours to explore.
Join me in this exploration.
P.S. How are you rich? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Just click here to send me an email.