Quick question: how many people do you know whose life ambition is to make a whole lot of money?

Probably quite a few; I can think of a dozen without even trying. It’s a very common theme to want lots of dough, especially in the consumer-centric United States. Having lots of money is associated with having lots of class, style, sexy friends and fancy cars. Rich people eat the best food, travel in private jets, wear the most daring clothing and life the fullest lives.

And in some cases, this stereotype is true. Some people who have lots of money also lead very full lives, enjoying almost every moment, waking up in the morning and looking forward to the day.

In many, many cases, however, rich people are unhappy. Very unhappy. So unhappy in fact, that they end up getting themselves into all kinds of scandals, constantly seek new and dangerous situations and essentially throwing themselves at anything or anyone who they think will make them FEEL something.

But why!? Why would these people who have all this money — which is ostensibly the yardstick of a person’s success — want to do these crazy things? Why can’t they just be happy?

It’s because they are treating money as life’s purpose, rather than as the means of achieving a richer life. Instead of thinking “what can I do with the money that I have?” they are thinking “what can I do to get more money?”

This kind of lifestyle is a dreadful misallocation of a person’s most valuable resource: time.

If you want to have a healthy relationship with money, look at it as an IOU. Your paper currency is a representation of your effort that you can exchange for the effort of someone else. You are converting your hard work into things that you want and experiences that you want to have. Going after money for money’s sake is a waste of time and effort.

At its best, money allows you to influence events and move the world, even if just a little bit. One hundred dollars, thoughtfully applied, can lead to the most important experience of your life. On the other hand, one million dollars that is wasted away on pointless frivolities could go completely unnoticed in the grand scheme of things as well as your own mental scrapbook.

So before you start making goals that include ‘making $1 million’ or ‘getting a job that pays me $100,000 per year,’ think it through and be sure you know what the trade off is.

You don’t want to be stuck trading your most precious commodity — your time — in the pursuit of paper IOU’s. Governments can always print more money, but every second you spend is a second you can never get back.

Money is a means, not an end. When spending your time, always make sure the exchange rate is in your favor.