The Five Resources That Matter More Than Money

For those who are struggling to make ends meet or are in financial straits, it’s easy to think the first place to start is to cut your expenses to the quick, deprive yourself of all of your enjoyments, and become a financial flagellant. But that is due to a gross misunderstanding of the causes of financial weakness, in that when we talk about being “in debt,” we think only of money. If you’re scratching your head at that statement thinking, “Yeah, duh. What else could it be?” prepare to have your mind blown.

I used to have the same response to such a notion: Debt and equity, deficits and surpluses… are money terms, right? Yes, and no. These are words related to resources, meaning anything that is limited in quantity that can be “invested” to create value. Money is a type of resource, but it is primarily a byproduct of how you manage other resources. If you take care of your other resources, money will flow naturally.

What’s more, I often hear people talk about how poor they are, and I recognize that the poverty they speak of is a reflection of their hearts and minds, not the amount of money they have. It is because they think of money as the only resource that makes them poor. If they realized the wealth of resources they have that are merely poorly managed, they would recognize the abundance they already possess. If you want to be abundantly wealthy, then focus on managing what I call the “deeper” resources of life, the kind that we all have in varying degrees of abundance.

1. Time

Let’s take another common resource: Time. It’s a limited resource that you spend, just like money. The only difference is you can’t get any more time than you have. You can reallocate it and you can decide what value you’re going to fill it with, much like you do with money. But you can’t make any more of it. Can you be in debt with your time? Sure you can. By saying you’ll give more than you can. That’s the definition of debt. Giving more than you have.

Can you live in equity with your time? Yep. Leave yourself unallocated time you can invest in making progress. The same behavioral dynamics apply to how we manage our time resources as to how we manage our financial resources. If you live in time debt, you are living in a survival mindset, just trying to get everything done that you have to do, leaving nothing left to invest in progress. And if you’re in serious time debt, you probably struggle financially as well, because time is a “deeper” resource than money.

2. Physical Energy

Physical energy is another resource we are responsible to manage effectively. Our quantity of physical energy is certainly a variable quantity, depending on what we eat, how much we sleep, how well we sleep, how active we are, and our fundamental physiology, most of which we can control. So not only can we make decisions to increase our physical energy, but then we can invest it carefully. And as with any resource, we can overcommit and be in debt physically. An easy way to understand this is to think of the times you’ve asked your body to write checks you can’t cash, and you kick into physical survival mode. This is when you start binge-drinking energy drinks, exchanging long-term progress for short-term survival. And this isn’t about judging energy drink usage. Debt is the excessive draw on your personal resources to solve problems now that will cost you more later, and it’s what steals the holistic prosperity available to all of us.

3. Focus

So let’s go deeper. Time and physical energy are still relatively superficial. Focus is a resource that is even deeper. Don’t think focus is a resource? Have you ever set time aside for a particular task but you were distracted the entire time and didn’t make any progress? I have. I’ve done that to my kids many times. Like a good dad, I set the time aside but like a human dad, I was depleted of focus energy, so I wasn’t able to really fill the time with value for them. It’s different than being tired. It’s a question of how many plates you can have spinning in your life. If you have too many things that you’re trying to keep your head wrapped around, you are living in focus debt. You’ve committed more focus energy than you have to offer. Living in focus equity is when you leave space in your focus capacity to invest in priority directions, ensuring that you have enough and more. Does that mean some focus might go to “waste”? Sure. But I’d much rather have extra than not enough.

4. Talents

We all have natural strengths and abilities, proclivities for particular skills, passions for various interests. These talents are gifted to us as accelerators of value creation, and it is our job to steward them and develop them. So many simply ignore or waste them instead of taking that responsibility seriously. But talents are assets and resources to be managed, invested in, and developed. Some have more talents or greater talents than others, but we all have them and have equal responsibility for the ones we have. If you take this seriously, you maximize the other resources you are responsible to steward.

5. Emotional Energy

Emotional energy is deeper still. In his Abolition of Man, C.S. Lewis suggests that emotional energy and alignment is essential in producing right actions. The heart is the engine of action. And according to my worldview, it is the second deepest resource, and one we most badly neglect. In the same way as we can train our bodies to have more capacity for physical work, our hearts can be trained to have greater emotional capacity. But because we allow our emotional resources to get committed to attending to historical pain, bitterness, guilt, and despair, we don’t have the capacity to use our time, physical energy, and focus for progressive purposes.

It’s easy to believe the lie that bitterness and judgment for our parents doesn’t affect our everyday lives or that unresolved pain from a five-year-old divorce has no impact on how tired we feel at the end of the day. But in the same way you must understand how money operates as a resource, you must understand the dynamics of emotional energy to be able to manage it well and create surplus. The above examples are emotional debts that have not been repaid. Most everyone has experienced paying off an emotional debt: It’s called forgiveness. It’s not fair; it seems counterintuitive; but releasing another (or yourself) from judgment is the only way to reduce your emotional debt. It hurts do let go of judgment because judgment is your path to protect ourselves from it happening again. When we release it, we run the risk of it happening again.

When we judge, we bind that judgment up with bitterness or resentment or anxiety in our hearts, and it takes up emotional space, reducing our overall emotional capacity. This is the same as financial debt with money, tying up a portion of our financial resources to service the debts we’ve incurred.

It might sound crazy, but when I counsel people who are seeking solutions to address their financial debt crisis, I often end up discussing their unforgiveness with them, especially towards themselves. As odd as it might sound, my experience is that when you feel emotionally overwhelmed, you tend to also attract financial debt as you seek to supplement the emotional shortcoming. It might look like a boat or a new car or new clothes or sodas from the gas station every time you stop for gas… We look at these things as disconnected, but that’s simply not the case.

As the core engine of motivation (aside from instinctual responses), by overlooking this near-foundational resource, the whole resource pyramid becomes compromised. So instead of using our surplus of time to work on a pet project or taking our kids to play at a park on a given evening, we watch a movie or a show or two (or six). You might be physically full of energy, but when you run out of emotional energy, it takes more physical energy to do the same things. You get worn out faster as you ask your other resource types to compensate for your lack of emotional availability. You take on financial debt to compensate for your emotional shortcoming. You can’t focus because the stillness required to do so makes you feel the pain and anxiety you’ve muted with distraction so you fill what would be quiet focus time with noisy activity.

Manage The Abundance You Already Possess

We’ve become confused as a society to believe that money is the fundamental resource, the primary standard of progress.

But you can operate differently. You can become a societal dissident for the good. You’re a deeply wealthy person if only you change your reference and manage the abundant resources you already have. If you measure in dollars, you lose. If you measure by the deeper resources, you have plenty. No more excuses of not having enough. Time to do the hard work of managing and investing well what you already possess.


This article was originally published by Kurt Theobald,

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