The links between money, meaning, and happiness are ampli½ed in a world where work has become the organizing center of life. The things that we used to count on as moorings - extended family, neighborhoods, participation in community affairs - no longer carry the same sway in helping us decide what matters. Money rushes into those gaps with a clear and simple standard. In today's culture of success, we - consciously or not - plug ourselves into this equation: "Money plus success equals happiness." A more honest model might be "Money, success - then happiness." The problem is that we confuse what money does well with what it does not do at all.

Money does two really big things. First, money buys breathing room. It buys you the time and options that you don't have when you're constantly working to pay the bills. Second, money buys what I call "containers." A container is anything that you acquire - whether it's a new house, a job change, a sabbatical, or even a new ½tness level - with the expectation that something will happen.

You tell people to "follow the money thread." How does that turn those containers into vessels of meaning? More often than not, money is the silent subtext at play in our relationships, our work, and our decisions. But this is what I hear from my clients, whether they're technology entrepreneurs, intense competitors in a big company, or public servants: "I want you to know that the reason I work 50, 60, or 70 hours a week isn't about the money." They say the reason is about "shaping the global story of my industry and making a big footprint on the world." Or, "it's about the challenge." Or, "it's about making the world a better place." Well, no. What you do 50, 60, or 70 hours a week is work - for money. Why is that so hard to say?