Which currency guides your life?

Is it kudos, coins or caresses?


In one of Aesop’s Fables, “The Hare & the Hound,” the predator furiously chases the rabbit, fails and prepares to go hungry that evening. The fable’s lesson emerges when an onlooker taunts him with, “The little one was too much for you.” The hound replies, “Ah well, don’t forget it’s one thing to be running for your dinner, but quite another to be running for your life.” 

In my twentieth year, following a debilitating sports injury, the driving currency of my life began to emerge. Nursing the temporary loss of my sport and the permanent loss of a teammate, I transferred my achievement passion from gymnastics to French and classic guitar. This filled a need to move concentrated training hours from the gym to learning a new language and a musical instrument—I craved achievement.  

What drives your life? 

Currency of the head–You are a project person. A successful endeavor is your ultimate reward. You are happiest when your ideas and efforts come to life. If you won the lottery you would finish your project first, before collecting your winnings. What you crave most is “agency”—being actively involved in getting things done. 

Currency of the heart-–You are ‘in it’ for family, friends and community. Projects or dollars are fine only after you spend time with the people in your ‘clan.’ Nothing makes up for lost time or discomfort among the people closest to you. Few things in this world can cause you to miss your child’s piano recital, a niece’s championship soccer game or a friend’s theater production. 

Currency of the wallet–You learned early that money moves the world. A dollar is for counting and accumulating. The power that money confers makes nearly every sacrifice worth it. Agency is fine as long as the numbers add up. The dollars you access make up for projects on hold or missed family commitments. The more money you have the happier you, your family and the community will be. 

What’s your currency slogan?  

  • “I love a good project.” (Head) 
  • “Family, friends & community.” (Heart) 
  • “Another day another dollar.” (Wallet) 

For happiness solve for “X” 

In each equation of headheart and wallet currency, our defining outcome is fulfillment or happiness. Figuring out the math assignment to solve for x helps us to either escape Aesop’s hound or end up on the menu. Now, more than ever, each of us is grinding out a personal equation and crunching the numbers for the currency we want in our lives—the currency of life that makes us whole.

Cashing in your currency defines your happiness. The relentless achiever sacrifices all for a completed milestone—fluency in Paris; performing at a wedding. We feel relief and vindication when the job is done.  

The person who trades in heart currency doesn’t care if it was exchanged through the head or wallet as long as the outcome benefits someone they love. For them, this is happiness.  

The wallet person finds happiness in trending numbers. They create joy by turning numbers into dollars, yen, renminbi, euros or pounds. While others get to this point and think about what to do with the money, the wallet person has just crossed the finish line—mission accomplished. 

Whether it is fulfillment or happiness you seek, in order to find it, you must align your weekly, monthly and annual activities to the currency best suited to your nature. Without assigning good or bad to ‘head,’ ‘heart,’ or ‘wallet,’ the closest you are to your core nature the more authentic you can be in all that you do.  

The ‘Gratitude’ Test 

How do you know which is your dominant life currency? A slogan might get you close, but analyzing your gratitude will reveal your true essence. Write down eight things you are grateful for in your life. Next, check which ones are of the head, the heart or of the wallet. Finally, tally the check marks in each category. 

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Your gratitude totals may show a clear winner. If they are close or tied, only you know which carries the most weight in your daily life. There is no right or wrong, only alignment.  

What do you value? 

Head Heart Wallet 

-Effort is noble -Family is noble -Power is noble 

-Legacy is king -Humanity is king -Wealth is king 

-Money is ‘means to an end’ -Money is security -Money is the end 

-Solution = hard work -Solution = enough $$ -Solution = more $$  

Currency Alignment 

Those who find happiness have matched their life activities to the currency they value most. When this happens you reduce internal conflict and nearly eliminate stress. For millions across the globe, this ‘currency awareness’ can be the silver lining to a world-wide pandemic. 

Aesop’s ‘hound & hare’ fable might suggest that, like the hare, if you are to win that race for your life it helps to pick an arena where your natural currency is a personal advantage. 

Rick Griggs is a former Intel Corporation training manager and inventor of the rolestorming creativity tool. He runs the ten-month Leadership Mastery Academy. rick.griggs83@gmail.com or 970.690.7327. 

Categories: Business Insights, Management & Leadership