I only recently discovered that I am rich beyond belief. This was a shocking revelation to me and one that caused me to rethink everything.
According to GlobalRichList.com, I am the 2,974,323rd wealthiest person in the world. That puts me in the top 0.05% of all income earners on the planet.
The crazy thing is that I never thought of myself that way. Even when I was growing up with a single mom, living in trailer parks and tiny apartments, we were abundantly wealthy compared to the rest of the world. Here’s what the rest of the world looks like statistically:
- One-third of the human population lives on less than $2.00 per day. That’s almost 2,500,000,000 people.
- One-fifth of the world’s population lives on less than $1.25 per day. That is, by definition, extreme poverty.
- 10% of our fellow human beings do not have safe water to drink. Their water is filled with bacteria, disease, and other deadly substances. Each sip of water could be the one that kills them.
Why You Don’t See Yourself as Rich
By definition, the overwhelming majority of you reading this are rich. Even the 1,000+ readers a month in sub-Saharan Africa (a number which blows me away) are probably among the wealthiest people in their areas.
Most of us have access to unlimited resources and opportunities. Yet, we take so much for granted. We have clean water, enough food that the American wastes more than 240 pounds per year, and virtually unlimited access to information.
But you probably don’t see yourself as rich.
Why? Because there is always someone else richer.
Growing up, on the way home to the trailer park, I saw the nice houses with the perfectly manicured lawns and thought, “they are rich.” One day that will be me, I thought. One day.
One day came. But down the street there is still a nicer house on a bigger property with nicer cars. One day that will be me, I tell myself. One day.
The question is: When will that day actually come? There will always be someone else richer, so the obvious answer is never.
The Myth of Self-Improvement
For far too long, I bought into the lie of self-improvement which says that if I can just get a little bit better, my life will be more complete, more meaningful, and more fulfilling. That is simply not true, though. It’s an empty and ultimately meaningless pursuit.
Pursuing self-improvement isn’t about a bigger house, a nicer car, or a more luxurious life.
Ask yourself: Do I want to be the best me or do I want to make a better world?
It’s not about me.
It’s not about you.
It’s about all of us.
In the end, you have to ask yourself: Do I want to be the best me or do I want to make a better world? Which one has more meaning and purpose? Which one is more fulfilling and rewarding? Which one sparks more passion, energy, and creativity inside of you?
The Math of Self-Improvement
The crazy thing about my one day thinking is just how small it is. How much better does a bigger house make my life? Marginally at best.
How about a few million dollars? What if I moved from the top 0.05% to the top 0.03%? Would those things really make that much difference?
Those things would barely move the needle in my own happiness, let alone in making an impact on the world. Yet, I continue to strive for more, aim higher and higher, and push to reach the next level. I continue the quest to seek the elusive and mythical perfect version of myself. And I continue to fall short of whatever that might look like.
Have you ever felt that way? That you are putting so much effort into self-improvement but it’s barely effecting your quality of life or helping you to make more of an impact. It’s not giving you the fulfillment you are truly seeking.
Perhaps it’s because you’re striving for meaning and fulfillment in things when your soul is crying out for you to aim for something much higher.
With the effort you put into improving yourself 1 or 2%, you could improve the lives of thousands of others immeasurably. With the effort you put into achieving my own personal one day dreams, you could change the world today.
Don’t get me wrong…self-improvement is important. A better you means a better world.
But ask yourself if the effort is worth it. Ask yourself what kind of an impact you could have if your goal was to make a better world, not just to live a “better” life. You are already rich, now go out and make someone else’s life richer.
What can you do today to make someone else’s world better?
4 thoughts on “Why Self-Improvement Is Not About You”
Great points Matt. God doesn’t bless us so we can have more luxurious lives; He blesses us so we can have a greater impact on the world. Thanks for your clarifying thoughts here. Good work, as always.
I love this, Matt! Very challenging. We, unfortunately, are so isolated in the US from the “real world” and all the media around us keeps screaming that we don’t have enough. It’s like some kind of sick materialism disorder, similar to an eating disorder. A distorted view. And yet, Jesus didn’t even have a home to call his own most of the time…
As for your question, I think the best thing I can do is to try to hold more loosely to the things I tend to “want” and be more generous with my time, talent, and treasure. Every day there are decisions to be made. When I remember that I am merely a steward, it’s definitely a different mindset. What would the world look like if everyone held loosely and allowed God to distribute His wealth as He saw fit?
Beautiful Shawn…very well said!
This is one of my primary reasons for going to Guatemala.