A 2010 survey of Americans conducted by the advertising and marketing firm Ogilvy & Mather found that "having it all" is an unrealistic goal, with 75 percent of those surveyed saying they would rather get out of the rat race than climb the corporate ladder. Instead, "76 percent said they would rather spend more time with family than make more money." Moreover, Americans are showing disenchantment with the pursuit of money, with 75 percent saying they would take "job security over a job that offered an opportunity for raise."
"The most surprising thing about our study was how much consumers were saying what they would NOT do for money, even when money worries are high on the list," explained Graceann Bennett, managing partner and director of strategic planning at Ogilvy & Mather Chicago. "Prioritizing your life based on money is seen as a sure way to be disappointed since the pursuit of money is often reliant on factors outside of consumers' control. They have gone down this road before and are saying that they are not necessarily happier or better off as a result."
Who would have thought it? Do you mean that the vast majority of American people have discovered that ordering your life around money and the pursuit of having it all does not deliver on the promise of a better or happier me? Ironically, that discovery of this shift in our goals is from a firm dedicated to convincing us that we need more stuff!
In Luke 12, there is a parable of what I see as the American Dream. In it, the Lord confronted the rich fool in his daydream of having more. He had a current condition of personal abundance with an "overflowing" balance sheet. But, that was not enough stuff, so he purposed to expend his energy on a plan to get even MORE so he could pursue his own dreams to "eat, drink and be merry." He had a focused goal to make sure he was really, really happy.
The Lord jolted this driven acquirer from his euphoria with words designed to cause him to confront reality and repurpose his goals. Please allow me to paraphrase Luke 12:20: "Today is your last day to be alive, so who will get all your things now?"
This is a sober warning to us all to examine our financial motives.
For the past several years, my wife, Ann, and I have begun to see our lives differently than when we were younger and accumulating. We now want far less and we are getting rid of everything we have that we don't really need. I call it the "stage of de-accumulation." And quite honestly, it is a great stress reliever.
As we go through the process a little at a time, there are moments when we examine an item that we are considering donating or tossing and say in unison as we crinkle our noses, "What were we thinking?"
The Great Recession as it has been called, could be more accurately described as the Great Wake-Up Call. I see it as God calling us to live as His salt and light and avoid the trap of living a "me-focused, consumer-centric" lifestyle. By showing us our vulnerability to total collapse, He has confronted us with reality and we have the opportunity to refocus our goals and priorities.
As you begin 2011, consider these goals for the use of your time and energy.
In 2011, I will:
1. Read through the entire Bible, seeking to know and love the Author and not just the information.
2. Seek to apply spiritual truth to all financial choices as the most practical way for me to become excellent and wise with money.
3. Order my entire financial plan around the desire to become a radical, generous, cheerful giver.
4. Plan to get out of debt in order to get into total availability to serve Christ.
5. Get rid of all unnecessary stuff to reduce my stress from maintenance, taxes, insurance, storage and the time and energy it takes just to use it.
These are some of the goals that will change your spiritual and financial well-being in the New Year. Let us know how we can help you achieve them.
Chuck Bentley is CEO of Crown Financial Ministries and host of Crown's MoneyLife radio broadcast. To learn more about practical resources including the new Eliminating Debt Video Study, visit Crown.org or call 1-800-722-1976. Questions or comments? Go to Crown.org and click "Ask Chuck" on the home page. Cofounded by Howard Dayton and the late Larry Burkett, Crown Financial Ministries (Crown.org) is an interdenominational ministry dedicated to equipping people with biblically based financial tools and resources through radio, film, seminars, small groups and individual coaching. Based in Georgia, the ministry has offices in the United States, Canada, Latin America, and Africa, Europe, India, Asia and Australia.
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