I asked my Instagram friends if they wanted $1,000,000 and why. I wasn’t surprised when most people said yes, they wanted the money… but the bigger question was: what would they do with that money? A few people said they would quit their job, go on a trip around the world… others talked about investing in startups or funding education and personal development in order to better serve others.

No one said, “no reason, I just want to have it,” which proves an important point.

We don’t want money in and of itself; we want money because of what we believe it can do for us: the experiences it will allow us to have and ultimately the feelings those experiences will bring. Usually it’s some form of relieving a pain or increasing a pleasure; essentially, moving us closer towards experiencing happiness and peace of mind.

Money, then, represents the possibility of the experiences and feelings we want to have in our life. Specifically, the possibility happiness and peace of mind. Can this be simplified to this equation: Money = Happiness? No…but this is where Lifestyle comes in.

Lifestyle is the way in which you live; it’s your routine, daily experiences. Many people take a passive role in creating their lifestyle; they conform to what everyone else is doing. They go to school in order to get a job, get a job in order to pay the bills and eventually retire – and it is only then that they will live life on their terms. Asking themselves, “Why am I doing this?” or “What do I really want to experience?” and “How can I create that?” often seem like questions that are too difficult to answer.  

I was one of these people who struggled to answer those tough questions. In my 20s, when asked why I decided to become a CPA, my answer was always: “My Mom thought it would be a good job for me.” Thank goodness she was right. It certainly was a great career path that fit my skill set and aptitude, opened a lot of doors and provided me with a great foundation from which to start my own business. I am so grateful for her wisdom and guidance. (Thanks Mom!!)

The problem is not that I became a CPA – it’s that the decision didn’t come from within me. I had developed the habit of looking outside myself to find the answers as to how I should live. Sure, there were certain decisions I made that came from my heart, but for the most part I allowed, even sought out, other people’s opinions to define who I was. At 29, I hit the breaking point and began my journey to create my life on my terms.

Up until recently I had also been chasing money as the solution to my unhappiness, feeling chained to high-paying jobs while worrying that I still didn’t have “enough.” I soldiered through the work-week, living for the weekend and dreaming of long vacations where I could escape my daily routine (my lifestyle!) to feel freedom and happiness. What I didn’t realize was that I could experience freedom and happiness in my daily life, and I didn’t need a million dollars to do it.

So back to the original question – what does lifestyle optimizing have to do with finance? As the novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand said, “Money is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as the driver.”

Money is the car. Lifestyle optimizing is taking the wheel. If you’re sitting in the passenger’s seat, you’re leaving your life – and happiness – to chance. It’s time to grab that steering wheel and make your life what you want it to be!

Interested in learning more about how you can organize your money to optimize your lifestyle? Check out my Financial Coaching Services or contact me directly with your questions.

Lisa Zamparo  is a  financial strategist and lifestyle optimist, as well as a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA), business coach and personal finance expert in Toronto who helps people make intentional decisions with their money. As a one-on- one coach, her personalized approach to financial planning helps her clients achieve their goals by aligning their spending with their priorities. As an inspirational educator, Lisa leads workshops  that infuse mindfulness principles with financial concepts delivered in a fun and approachable style.

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