"Musicians must make music, artists must paint, poets must write if they are to be ultimately at peace with themselves. What humans can be, they must be. They must be true to their own nature. This need we may call self-actualization." ~ Abraham Maslow
What is the purpose of my life? What is the purpose of my money? What makes me successful?
If the three questions were circles in a Venn diagram, the place where they overlap would be self-actualization. One's degree of success, if success is prudently defined, is the measurement of progress toward self-discovery, toward self-actualization, where one knows (and is acting as) the authentic self.
As most of us may attest, it is difficult to be authentic, to feel and act as yourself, when you are starving, insecure, emotionally distraught, socially displaced or underappreciated; and absolute financial poverty can certainly contribute to all of these conditions.
Money's utility, however, is best suited to help us acquire the most basic of human needs, the physiological needs of food, shelter and clothing. Those needs that are higher, with reference to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs (pictured above), such as safety, belonging (love), and esteem are not purchased with money; they only appear that way.
The importance of money, material wealth and social status are taught by social conventions and ingrained into the human psyche by messages received and repeated often, such as those of mass media and marketing. To say, "I need more money to feel important," or "If I had more money, I would be more secure financially, emotionally and socially," is a function of what you have learned as a product of your environment.
Where people often make mistakes in life and in money is to measure success by monetary, material or social means; to make life goals financial goals. If money can truly meet the human needs of safety, belonging and esteem, then there would be no such thing as a financially wealthy person who is insecure, unloved or poorly regarded.
While perception is reality (one's feelings are subjective and not necessarily "wrong"), it is a false perception to believe that more money equates to more fulfillment. Conversely, but speaking to the same point, some of the wealthiest people in the world, such as Warren Buffett, are self-actualized people making large sums of money, not because they had once aspired to obtain great material wealth or social status, but because they are being and acting authentically as themselves.
"One cannot choose wisely for a life unless he dares to listen to himself, his own self, at each moment of life." ~ Abraham Maslow
In my humble opinion, the higher needs in Maslow's hierarchy, the needs of safety, belonging and esteem, come naturally as a by-product of being, knowing and acting the authentic self. The answer to the three questions, "What is the purpose of my life?" and "What is the purpose of my money?" and "What makes me successful?" are all the same: self-actualization.
If we may agree that a general, overarching goal in life is to be successful, it is prudent to define success in some way that involves you being you, with little or no regard for financial or material wealth. Once you have reached the level of financial security that enables you to meet all of your physiological needs, any money that you obtain above that level may become a tool to aid in your self-actualization.
Source: Motivation and Personality, by Abraham H. Maslow
Photo of Dave Gilmore Credit: Gary Williams