One of the most important aspects in life is what you focus on. Your thoughts tend to shape what choices you make and what actions you take.
More specifically, when you want to achieve a goal or pursue a dream, you often look at others who are doing and being what you want to do and be. The first thing you often see is the material things or privileges they enjoy. If you’re not careful, you can cheat yourself. How? By not looking at the effort someone put in to get where they are (the cause) and only looking at the result (the effect).
A successful person drives a certain kind of car, or so you’re led to believe. So, if you want to be successful, you should drive that type of car. You buy the car, subconsciously thinking that you are buying the feeling of success and fulfillment that you have when you reach a goal. Or you’re hoping that buying the car or suit or whatever will catapult you into success. Rarely does this happen.
That top-of-the-world feeling that so much of advertising promises you will come when you buy a product can’t, in reality, be bought. It can only be earned through learning, practice, work, and follow-through as you do meaningful work. That’s the cause of success, whether it’s in school, a career, or a relationship.
This may explain Old Money’s nonchalance about so many material possessions: they’re nice, but they’re not the cause of happiness.
Note also that cause is generally less obvious and less public that effect. Cause is also more time-consuming. For example, a professional actor trains, studies, auditions and rehearses for years in obscurity. Suddenly, he is an “overnight success” and he attends an awards show for one evening and accepts an award for his performance in a film or a play. The work (the cause) goes on for years. The recognition (the effect) lasts for a night. And even if the actor becomes rich and famous–a more permanent effect–the cause continues because the work continues.
So look for the cause of things and pay less attention to the effects. It’ll help you make better choices.