If asked to comment on your standard of living, what would you say? Would your mind quickly go to money – to your financial situation? I would be surprised if it didn’t because that’s how we think about it: in monetary terms. But it’s not an end in its own right, rather it is the means to an end: a happier, more fulfilling life. The usual assumption is that we can only be truly happy in our lives when the numbers are high enough.
However, that simply isn’t true. Numerous studies have shown that whilst wellbeing does appear to be contingent on having enough income, (the threshold differs from country to country), when we get beyond a certain point, our levels of happiness and satisfaction reduce again. It is thought this could be because higher-income earners are more driven by material gains and social comparisons and then there is also the fear of losing it all.
This means that even people with enough material wealth to acquire and experience virtually anything they need and want, are seldom as happy as they would like to be. They aren’t immune to living their lives in the paradigm of ‘it will all be ok when…’, or ‘I can do what I love once…’. Not today, not no tomorrow, not next week or even next month, but at some hypothetical point in the future. And it is precisely this way of thinking that robs us of our true standard of living.
What if a new definition, the true definition of ‘standard of living’ was simply the extent to which we love our life? Not in the future, but right now. The number of seconds, minutes, hours in every day when we are fully present and alive to that moment? When there’s nowhere else we would rather be? When there’s nothing else we would rather be doing? When there’s no one else we would rather be with? When that moment holds our total and utter attention and we are not feeling resistance to what’s going on? When we are loving today and not waiting to start living our best lives later?
Some people argue ‘but that’s quality of life’. Yes and there’s something extra, something rich (pun intended) and tangible about a standard that we can deliver on for ourselves and for the people in our lives. To most, this definition seems wonderful but also idealistic and unrealistic. This doesn’t surprise me either. When I ask people the question ‘if you could spend today doing anything you want, what would you choose to do? Would your job be on the list?’. The answer is rarely yes and even when it is, it’s hardly ever at the top. If I expand the timeframe, eventually most people bring in some form of work as they acknowledge their drive to do something intellectually stimulating and meaningful with their time. What’s interesting though is that it’s rarely their current role.
In the course of my work I hear people say things like ‘If I could, I’d leave this job tomorrow but I just can’t afford to do that’, or ‘whilst I quite like my job, what stresses me out is the direction my organisation is going in, but I can’t afford to rock the boat,’ or ‘I am struggling to achieve work/life balance, but if we want to have this standard of living, that’s the sacrifice I need to make’. And I am often told about the amazing vacations in paradise locations, (the luxury breaks that are meant to make all the hard work seem worthwhile), where people invariably find themselves present in body, but not in spirit.
I do understand because I’ve been in that situation with the crazy job, the crazy hours, the increasingly crazy demands and the seemingly golden handcuffs. However, helpfully for me and more importantly for our clients, I can see how it is possible to improve our standard of living in and from this context. For some people, it means enabling them to love their current job. For others, it means supporting them to see that they already have everything they need to do what it is that they truly long to do and that change is possible now. Sometimes, it’s somewhere in between.
The great news is that I’m far from alone in my mission to help people do what they love and love what they do. In September I will be attending the Soul Purpose conference in New York – an event that will bring over 60 leaders together to connect them to their next act in purpose and impact. By creating the conditions and space for them to realise the new possibilities that exist both within themselves and around them, along with the tools to transform those new possibilities into reality, I’m confident that we are about to see many more standards of and for living raised in all sorts of wonderful ways.
For more information check out: www.soulpurposenow.com
With huge thanks to Kirk Souder for the invitation.
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