Every day, it seems, an increasing number of people find themselves cash-strapped, debt-ridden, and upside down financially. This increasing national attention on the economy, job market, and overall instability of the dollar (or at least “my dollars”) is causing many to question their relationship with money.
While money may not be the source of happiness, it is often the middleman. Money provides us expanded choices, freedom, and a sense of security. With an increased cash flow, we imagine, we can bring abundance into our lives and provide for family and friends. We can also afford to be more generous, travel where we wish, and acquire resources to help us grow physically, and spiritually.
I’ve noticed an expanding trend, however, to “bypass the middle man” and look for other means – other currencies, if you will – to attain the experiences, relationships, and items we desire without the cumbersome monetary exchange.
One example I recently learned about is an organization called CouchSurfing International. This vast, worldwide community connects people, cultures, and places in a meaningful way, and it doesn’t cost any money to participate. For travelers, it provides an alternative to hotels or B&Bs, allowing them to stay at a host’s home for free. The idea of “couch surfing” implies that you will simply crash on a sofa, but in reality it usually means taking up the guest room. It is absolutely free, and as an added bonus, you not only have the benefit of accommodations, but also an opportunity to experience the place you are visiting from a local’s perspective. Especially while traveling abroad, this provides cultural immersion, opportunities to meet friends and discover places you would otherwise overlook.
Why would people do this? The people who are attracted to this concept value relationships. They love meeting people – especially people from around the globe. They value interesting experiences and love to build connections. At present, there are about 1.5 million couch surfers (representing 231 countries), 2.8 million positive experiences, and have been 1.7 million new friendships created as a result of this network.
Every aspect about CouchSurfing is voluntary, and you can view profiles, read references, compare interests, and even verify identities before agreeing to surf or host. These safety measures (and the fact that the people who are drawn to do it are naturally positive and giving in nature) ensure that the vast majority of encounters are positive. At least that has been the experience of the folks I’ve talked to. Still, I know what you’re thinking.
Do you view money as a means to obtain something else you desire? If so, what is it?
Is it possible that there are other ways to bypass the middleman (money) and still get more of what you want? I believe that you can, if you will follow these three steps.
Here are a few examples:
Instead of expensive, formal education, access MIT lectures and other incredible resources via the Internet or iTunes University. For that matter, take advantage of your free local library!
Instead of a pricey health club membership or personal trainer, jump on a bike, take a run, do some yard work, or just walk through a park a few times a week. Get creative and develop your own cost-free workout plan.
Instead of an expensive present and fancy dinner to show your partner how much you care, plan a romantic picnic, write a touching letter, or employ your creativity (and inside information) to craft a truly special moment.
Your health and happiness are not derived from dollars, and that is a good thing. We cannot escape the impact of financial markets, in some form or fashion. We are all making adjustments to our game plans. But do not allow any external circumstances to hijack your happiness. That is your responsibility and mandate. And to create and experience a sensational life, you man need to convert to a new currency.
Keep looking up,