Measuring emotional wealth

Whole economies pay attention to financial wealth; but are not very good at measuring emotional wealth. Photo by Morgan Housel on Unsplash

Beyond the idea of financial profit, there is emotional profit.  The difficulty, though, is that financial profit is easier to quantify.  Business people, for thousands of years, have learned to measure profit in terms of numbers.  We know that £10,000 is more than £1,000.  We can proportionally analyse relative profits, and decide what activity is making more.  When conceiving emotional profit, we need to develop ways of assessing and measuring results, so that our emotional wellbeing has as good a chance of being prioritised.


How can we go about measuring the emotional effect of our actions?  Options include:

  1. A quantitative happiness quotient.  We could ask ourselves, on a scale of 1 to 10, how happy we and others are.  We can then attempt to trace increases in happiness back to related actions.  As ‘happiness enterprises’, we can try to measure how our actions affect the quantified total happiness under our influence.
  2. A qualitative happiness assessment.  We could use our intuition and emotional intelligence to assess the emotional state of affairs around us.  Instead of using numbers, we could content ourselves with stories.  By listening carefully, we might see whether or not there is a sense of fulfilment around us.


One problem in assessing emotional profit, is deciding which variables to relate it to.  Options include:

  1. Stillness
  2. Tranquility
  3. Peacefulness
  4. Contentment
  5. Good humour/enjoyment
  6. Self-esteem/confidence
  7. Hope/optimism
  8. Fulfilment/aliveness
  9. Joy
  10. Ecstasy

These are all subtly different things.  Unlike money, which tends to be measured in terms of a constant, one-dimensional currency, emotional profit is multi-dimensional and complex.


Just as we have developed a rough idea of what financial wealth looks like (most people have an idea of how much income would make them comfortable, for instance), so we can begin to develop a sense of what emotional wealth looks like.

It is easy to be blind to emotional wealth – to consider unhappiness something the world does to us, and therefore something whose cause we have nothing to do with.  To a degree this is right.  (Similarly, I would not argue hard with someone who said their poverty was beyond their control.)

But just as careful accounting can help an individual to manage their resources better, so careful emotional stewardship can help a person to manage their inner resources better.


I help business clients as well as psychotherapy clients.  In business, the concept of profit refers to the management of affairs so that there is a net gain in resources over time.  Normally, it becomes obvious quite quickly when a profit is not being made – money starts to run out.  With mental health, the connection is not so easily made.  We lead lives which drain our emotional resources, but somehow don’t make the connection between the life we lead, and the state of ourselves.

It can really help to make that connection: to realise what we are doing that leads to us draining ourselves emotionally.


Take a look at your emotional profit and loss account.

What is your ’emotional income’?  Where do you get your emotional energy from?  Which people and activities help you to gain emotional strength?  This can include sleep, eating, being with helpful friends, being in a safe environment, a little adventure, being in a respectful environment…  It is worth spending time listing the people and things that help you.

Secondly, what is your emotional expenditure?  What saps your emotional resources?  Which people and activities take away your emotional srength?  This can include sleep deprivation, dietary chaos, being with unhelpful people, being in an unsafe environment, being held back from adventures that you like, being in a disrespectful environment…  It is worth spending time listing the people and things that you spend your emotional resources on.

Does the whole thing stack up?  …or do you need to make changes, to make sure your life balance works for you?