March 12

“Examine your intentions and ask yourself if you wish to be rich or to be happy. If you wish to be rich, you should know that it is neither a god thing nor at all in your power. But if you wish to be happy, you should know that it is both a good thing and within your power. For riches are a temporary loan from fate and happiness comes from the will.”        – Epictetus

Rich or happy. Are those two really mutually exclusive? The key point is the word wish. Just as the often misused phrase about money being the root of all evil misses the point. The entire phrase from the book of Timothy reads: “For the love of money is the root of all evil.”

The operative point in both cases is the intention. If our intention is to accumulate wealth, we don’t really have a stopping point, nor do we set out with a good goal. There are many ways to accumulate wealth. Not all of them are honest and many of them require us to compromise at least some of our integrity in order to reach the numbers that a person focused on the accumulation of wealth would be satisfied with.

If our intention were to be happy or better yet, if we ready the 1800 year old text as content instead of happy, we would be onto something entirely different. In order to be content we have to learn to be satisfied more by the things we already have. When we start to do that, we find we can be content with less than we would think. This is especially true compared to someone who is intent on accumulating wealth. Someone who wants to be rich. The less we need to be content, the less we need to acquire in order to be satisfied.

Once we are content, we are free to do what we like more often because we have to do what we need to do to survive less often.

virtus fortis vocat


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