How exactly do you measure the worth of life?
Every single individual in a world of seven billion that exist on this planet, is looking to measure their life’s worth and its meaning. It is an intrinsically personal and naturally subjective topic, and differs for us all. Our aspirations and ambitions, the goals we set for ourselves and, especially, how successful we are in achieving them, all define the meaning of our lives.
On the other hand, we always to know the answer to this question on a larger scale, in order to figure out how successful a civilization is. The unit of measurement used here is called the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), a metric used to measure the output produced by a country by the labor and property in that country. It is a measure of everything a country owns. At the same time, this has pushed people towards a lifestyle marked by consumerism, a race to own the most and the best.
However, this leads us to the inevitable question: Does owning a lot of things automatically make a civilization successful? Is that how we can measure happiness?
There is no established way to quantify happiness, contentment and well-being, but these questions are pivotal to understanding whether a life is well-lived. This debate on the quality of life versus the standard of living has been prevalent in all discussions on the subject. The terms ‘quality of life’ and ‘standard of living’ are often thought to be interchangeable, but this is not completely true. Standard of living is a tangible, quantifiable term. The standard of living is based on socioeconomic factors, owned goods and possessions, based on your geographical location. The term represents that physical and material aspects of your life can be measured in units. Your standard of living is basically a judgment on the necessities of life that are available to you, relative to the society you live in. The GDP is used to measure overall living standards of countries. For example, developed countries usually have higher standards of living because they own commodities that allow them to have good healthcare and economic systems. People own more ‘things’ that are available to the public.
Quality of life, on the other hand, is an intangible element, immeasurable by units. For what unit can you quantify happiness or well-being with? In the words of Albert Einstein, “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” Quality of life is a highly subjective term used to measure happiness, and often comes into play when one is making financial decisions, but is in essence a non-financial component of everyday life. We often think about quality of life when we’re talking about our professional lives.
In a developing country like Pakistan, it is clear why the two terms overlap so frequently. All our lives, we believe that we must work hard in order to earn a high standard of living that will, in turn, increase the quality of our life. However, this is a flawed view of the journey to happiness that gives all the power to one thing: money. Standard of living and quality of life, if not mutually exclusive, at least go side by side — both must be present in their own capacities to ensure a well-lived life. Suppose you know someone who earns a considerable amount of money, above the generic market payroll; it’s a good amount, enough to sustain them and provide them all the necessities of life. But if they are always working, it leads to constant stress and lack of contentment; although they have a high standard of living, they do not have time for themselves. The quality of their life is suffering as they are never happy. On the other hand, you know someone else who earns maybe half of that amount in a less taxing job. Although their standard of living is not very high, they make time for their family and friends and they budget themselves well enough to be financially secure. This work-life balance affords them the happiness that is absent in the previous example.
We all, in our own ways, are victims of this mind-set. This mind-set must be adjusted to a degree. We believe that a high standard of living equals a high quality of life, but there are so many factors that require balance for you to achieve complete contentment. It does not matter how much you earn if you do not have the time to enjoy it; if the earning is affecting your physical and mental health then it is not worth it. Our visions of what success and happiness entail may be vastly different, but there are some things that we can all do in order to ensure that we can make that journey easier on our hearts and souls.
Know the Difference between Realism and Pessimism
Pessimism can never be a motivating factor. In order to expect good, you must be open to it. So many of the unhappy people I know who call themselves ‘realists’ loathe fighting for their happiness. Misery is comfortable, and it is not foolish to hope for the best and strive to make it happen. True, do not be blinded by naïve hope either, but know when you are being realistic and when you are just being pessimistic. Realism comes with maturity and allows you to set achievable goals for success; pessimism is a hindering factor to motivation.
Cultivate Healthy Relationships
One of the defining factors of a good quality of life comes from the quality of your relationships. Humans are social animals, creatures of society and connection. Your healthy relationships play a crucial role in your mental health. I mention ‘healthy’ here because you must understand that some of your relationships may be negatively affecting your emotional well-being. Learn the difference between them, and attempt to cultivate better relationships.
Find Meaning in Your Profession
Your professional life shapes you into who you are. People these days are working to make money. There’s nothing wrong with that, financial independence is a huge factor in our quest for a comfortable life. But work can drain you if you cannot find pleasure in it. I think we’re all familiar with the Marc Anthony quote that states, “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” There is some truth in this statement. Your work-life balance is pivotal to your emotional well-being. If you feel like you have lost the ability to connect with your profession, and are lost in the nine-to-five, go back to the reason you first started it. Try to find meaning in the work you do and how it is important. It is so easy to let routine make mundane the things that were special to you once. Revisit those ideals, and create balance in your work life.
Make Time for Yourself
I cannot stress this enough. It is easy to get pulled into the miserable comfort of the daily grind, but it takes a toll on you emotionally. You must make time for yourself to do things that give you pleasure. It can be baking, reading a book, going for a walk, cleaning up your room, taking a hot shower. A simple thing that has the power to recharge you and make you ready for whatever is in store for the day and the next. So many people sacrifice leisure time in the rat race to make more money, not realizing just how costly this sacrifice is.
Sharpen the Body, Sharpen the Mind
When was the last time you had a good night’s rest? Your body is the vessel in which you traverse the sea of life. Take care of it. Don’t let it overflow. Exercise regularly and make sure you have a balanced diet. The body and the mind are always connected. There is a reason emotional stress can manifest in the body in form of headaches or body pains. Make sure you take care of your body, and in turn, take care of your mind.
Everything in Moderation
Moderation is inherently important for our happiness. Understand excessive behavior. Know when your work is getting in the way of your emotional and psychological well-being. Set goals for yourself that are achievable and attainable. Reward yourself, but in moderation. Be smart about how you create balance in all aspects of your life to ensure a balance between your standard of living and the quality of your life.
We often lose sight about what is truly important in this life. All the money and financial security in the world cannot ensure your happiness if the acquisition of it is taking a toll on your mind. Remember to be kind to yourself. It is always the quality of your life that matters, not the standard of your living that ensures a life well-lived. HH
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