During a beautiful evening rain shower last night I began thinking about my beloved Costa Rica, which literally means Rich Coast. More than just Costa Rica, the significance of the world Rich stuck in my mind and how we define wealth and the impact on our quality of life. During these challenging times in the world, where the financial stress, emotional stress and social unrest are at levels which are clearly unsustainable, defining how each of us define “wealth or being rich” might just be the key to our survival and ultimately our happiness.
The United States is the wealthiest country on the planet, has the highest concentration of millionaires and having lived outside of the USA for the last 25 years, the global vision is that US Citizens live a life of luxury and excess. While this generalization is not 100% accurate, the reality is that the quality of life, spaces, infrastructure, and earning potential in the USA is far and away the most robust in the world and yet it is the country with some of the highest rates of suicide, depression, gun violence, social distress and political division. I, like most, spent my life studying, learning dreaming of achieving financial success as it was always portrayed as the American Dream and the pinnacle of happiness.. being RICH!.
When I moved to Costa Rica, besides the stunning natural beauty which mesmerizes us all, what truly captivated me was the joyful, peaceful and warm hearted people who call this paradise home. I asked myself then how these people, most of whom were living at or below what most North American’s would consider poverty levels, could smile more, living longer, cherish their families and communities more than the “rich” families of so many of our tourists and my previous neighbors. The “answer” might just be on how we define “RICH and WEALTH”
If we have learned anything from CoVid and the social turmoil of the past few months, it is that no amount of money or material possession can grant us happiness. Millionaires trapped in quarantine their luxury apartments or homes, might be a bit more “comfortable” but certainly not any happier than the families supporting one another in small humble houses across Costa Rica. I think too many of us, self-included, correlate comfort and luxury with happiness in our daily lives and ultimately realize too late that in an endless pursuit of those “comforts” which only money can buy, we missed out on decades of happiness. Perhaps its time to redefine “rich” and “wealthy” in our own lives and those of our communities to prioritize, health, family, a sense of community, personal relationships and happiness at the top of the list, with the type of car we drive, address, brand of clothes we wear and jewelry at the bottom.
I am definitely NOT the person who wants to give up the fruits of hard work, the satisfaction of success and many of the luxuries and freedom it can provide. That being said, one of the things I LOVE about my life in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica is that I am constantly reminded that every dollar earned doesn’t equate to another day lived, another smile, another memory with my wife and kids. BALANCE and a focus on redefining “RICH” to include those elements, which when we reflect on our lives from our last moments are those that will truly define our wealth and legacy.