As you find yourself taking some deep relaxing breaths over these summer months, it's a good time to check in and ask, "How's my life going? On a scale from 1 to 10—from Argh! to Yes!—where would I rate my life satisfaction?"
Once you've settled on a number (your first gut instinct is usually the best), consider what it is about your life that makes it wonderful, so-so, or lousy. What are the factors that contribute and detract from your well being? It's good to know exactly what helps to keep you on track, especially when trying to troubleshoot what's not working.
Below are two lists, one from each of us, that describe a few of our personal metrics for happiness. In other words, we've found that these things contribute significantly to our personal happiness. Not surprisingly, especially given that we live and work together, the lists are similar in lots of ways; however, there are differences, especially when it comes to people needs and how we like to organize our time. Can you guess which list is which?
–8 hours of sleep –8 hours of sleep
–1 hour plus of exercise a day –Exercise every other day
–Salads and fresh fruit, predictable –Vegetarian stir fry, lots of variety
–Clean, neat and attractive work space –Uncluttered work space full of light
–Connecting w/a min. of 1 person a day –A few social interactions a week
–Laughing, the more the better –Having interesting discussions online
–A mixture of creative, routine, –A big block of time to devote to an
intellectual, and physical activities intellectual project or puzzle
–Several planned social events each –Enough unscheduled time to "get
week bored" once a week
–Participating in community volunteer –Learning new skills and information and
projects and helping others sharing it with others
–Finding creative and fun ways to –Finding creative and fun ways to
improve quality of life for others improve quality of life for others
What these lists, not to mention real research, show is that there are some universal factors, AND there are also lots of variations on a theme when it comes to how we fulfill our needs and how we prioritize them. For example:
This is one of those universal factors since just about everyone needs 8 hours of sleep for optimum health—really. Not 4, 5, 6 or even 7, but 8 whole hours. Without this, life is more of a slog. Unfortunately many people in the U.S are chronically sleep deprived having set priorities higher than getting sufficient shut eye.
Not surprisingly the Slow Living Movement has its roots in Slow Food. So many qualities of the good life are possible through good eating: health, creativity, connection, balance, joy. Despite our relative abundance, the time we spend sharing good food with friends and family has actually declined the last few decades, while our consumption of anything microwavable and drive through has shot up.
Much of our quality of life is based on how we experience time. Like Goldilocks we are sensitive to life moving too fast, too slow, and just right. Each of us has very particular ways we like to spend time (e.g. alone, with others, thinking, being physical, etc.) as well as a preferred pace and variations on that pace. There are many ways to design our time, and having the freedom and the ability to fulfill our time needs is absolutely vital to creating the good life for ourselves.
People who have goals that are bigger than them and contribute to the betterment of the world tend to be happier than those who don't. What do you aspire to in your lifetime? To be a good parent/ partner/citizen/boss/employee? To create something useful/beautiful/unique/influential? To connect/improve/see/communicate in ways that bring joy and meaning to others? Related to this is our need to be recognized for our efforts towards our aspirations. Ideally, we dream, we follow our dreams, and we are seen for our dreams.
Other important categories to contemplate are what we need for our emotional and physical well being. Again, the options are vast for each category and the goal is to discover what specifically works for you. Lots of friendships, or several close ones? Interacting on Facebook or in real time? Getting together to do things or to talk? Friend–filled weekends, or social events throughout the week?
The better we become at identifying the key metrics that contribute to our personal happiness and using them to design our lives, the better our chances of proclaiming "Yes!" to the question "How's your life?"
What are some of your metrics in the following categories?
Sleep: How many hours, when, and in what circumstances?
Eating: What foods, when, and in what circumstances?
Quality of Time: How do you like to spend your time daily, weekly, annually?
Emotional Well Being: What do you need in terms of relationships, and to feel balanced and healthy? What makes life fun and good for you?
(ex: Watching lots of movies!)
Physical Well Being: What do you need to be healthy? What kind of surroundings and environments work best for you? How do you know when you are physically healthy?
Aspirational: What contributions do you want to make to your family, community, or the world over your lifetime? How do you know when you are moving towards these goals?
Pick 3 metrics, write them on piece of paper, and track them every day for one week. Also rate that day in terms of satisfaction.
Mon Tue Wed Thurs Fri Sat Sun
Did I get 8 hours of sleep? Y Y N
Did I enjoy one good meal? N Y   N
Did I laugh out loud at least once? Y Y N
Day's rating (1–10) 7 8 5
Tracking in this way tends to focus our awareness, and it also helps us to see patterns. You can use this new awareness to continue to experiment and discover which metrics are really important for YOUR version of "Yes!"
Wishing you good dreams and good times,
Beth and Eric
This monthly slow essay is from Beth Meredith & Eric Storm of Create The Good Life.
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