Over the last year, I have been meeting a number of very “successful” people who are beginning to look more closely at the choices they have made thus far in life and those they are yet to make. I believe this stems from a gnawing feeling of unease that arises in the background as they reflect on their life, their family, their possessions, and their accomplishments.
One of the key metrics of progress and growth has been the “Standard of Living.” I believe, however, that it tends to capture more of the material side of life rather than the intangible aspects of life. Since one cannot measure the charm of life easily, the rational mind dismisses it’s importance. Too much weight is placed on the level of income, type of employment, quality of home, exotic nature of vacations, etc. This preoccupation only seems to increase the pressure on people to work more and make more income to pay for the things they think they need to feel successful. Many have bought into the myth that money buys happiness and improves the quality of life.
Several studies have shown that while money does help raise the quality of our lives up to a point, more money does not further improve it significantly. On the other hand, the hours and energy required to generate the additional income does chip away at the time that they could have used for social interaction, recreation or just living — being a human and using the time to connect with nature and observe the magic of life.
Children have the capacity to teach us how to appreciate the simplest of things. They live in awe of the tiniest details of life. A few months ago, I went to pick up a framed picture at a store. It was raining outside and my family waited in the car while I went into the store to see if it was ready. They needed more time to complete the framing, so I returned to the car. My daughter, who was eleven at that time, was beaming with joy as she pointed with great excitement towards the next car. I asked her, “What is it?” She said with a big smile, “Look at those two birds near the tire, they are so cute. And just a little while ago, a drop of water fell on the bird and it shook it off like this.” She demonstrated how the bird got rid of the water.
I was amazed with the amount of joy she experienced merely sitting inside a car in a parking lot watching two sparrows hide underneath the tire well to stay dry from the rain. I said to myself, “I want to make the time to watch such things and the best part is that it’s FREE.”
It is very important for us to define the dimensions along which we measure our own “Standard of Living.” We have the choice to define it either by the quantity of stuff we own or by the quality of the life we live every day. Just last night, I met a successful doctor who asked me what I did. I told him that I was a life coach and that I help people who are caught up in the doing of things and lose the charm of life in the process. He quickly identified himself as one of those people and shared with me that ten years ago he made less money, but his quality of life was much better. He was curious to learn more about how to get off the habit of being caught up with doing and making more as it was not improving his life experience.
A statement I heard from the late radio broadcaster Paul Harvey, famous for his “The Rest of the Story” segments, has stayed with me for years. He said, “Modern medicine has increased the quantity of life, not necessarily the quality of life.” While some may argue to the contrary, many would agree with him.
Would love to hear your approach to defining and raising your standard of living.
Peace and be well,