How do you measure ‘quality of life’? Nothing to do with euthanasia, simply curiosity about how you and I, the ‘average person’, determine the quality of own life. What criteria do we apply to gauge whether we are happy with our lives or not? Do you base it on circumstances, which care variable and make for a sliding scale? Or do you use set system or criteria and check your life against it?
Multiple Choice Question
Here are four approaches to evaluating quality of life. See which one you would describe as your own, or perhaps a combination of two? Do you:
(a) compare yourself to people whom you know, who are similar to you
(b) consider worldly values – definitions of success and beauty – and see how you stack up
(c) look at your life and evaluate it on the basis of some internalized but unquantifiable value system
(d) have a set value system, unchangeable and unchanging, against which you measure your life
I will admit that I try to live by (d) though it’s an outgrowth of (c) though, I confess, I often I default to (a). I can’t speak to (b) as it has been a very long time since I have even remotely cared about contemporary, cultural standards.
Board of Directors
Here is a recent scenario that illustrates the process I recently employed as it relates to gauging my quality of life and, really, my satisfaction with my life as it is.
I live in a high rise condominium and we are electing new board members at our annual meeting. Two of the applicants are women who, in their day jobs, do the same work that I do and hold the same title: Executive Assistant. One works in banking, the other did not specify her industry in her bio. Both women are younger than I am. The non-banking EA is prettier.
Immediately, I assume the one in banking makes more money than I do. And I assume the prettier one has a more interesting job. Then I think: I know how demanding my job is and I would never run, so how do these women find the time to be on the condo board? Furthermore, one of them owns two units – she lives in one and rents the other. Must be nice to make so much money – I’m just getting by maintaining my own unit. I admire their commitment and desire to contribute as condo board members, to make a difference. I’d like to do more with my life, not sit on a condo board, but something meaningful that would contribute to the greater good and benefit others – just not sure what… Then I go off on a tangent thinking about my current challenges or disappointments, which takes me lower down the satisfaction scale.
Assessment – based on the aforementioned 4 approaches
- Applying the measurement described in point (a), I would consider myself under par, practically a failure. If these two women are my peers, then they are ahead of me and doing better.
- Applying the measurement in point (b), these women are on the right track, holding a high level position and still able to advance if they desire, whereas I have stalled or, perhaps, become derailed. At my age, I’m not shooting for promotion, say, to Office Manager. I did that for 8 years back in my 30s and the role is much more complex these days. No, I won’t make my mark on the job, and I am not likely to become wealthy. I don’t really care, as I don’t use this as a method for assessing the quality of my life.
- Applying the measurement in point (c) is more of a personal and subjective thing. My life is what it is partly because my value system was too vague when I was younger. Things I prized in my 20s and 30s (meeting Mr. Right and settling down to life with him) became less important in my 40s and now don’t matter at all. The question to ask here is ‘Knowing what I know about myself and my life, how am I doing? And how do I feel about it?’
The answer will vary on any given day but, in summary, I’m doing OK (not great but not terrible). If I focus on the positives and maintain an ‘attitude of gratitude’ I’m doing great! I’m healthy, I have family and friends nearby, a good job with decent benefits and superior colleagues. All my needs are met and I even have money in the bank. Yay, me!
- This is where I live. I am a Christ follower, committing to living my life according to the example Jesus set in his life, as which is described throughout God’s Word, the Bible. The best part of living by approach (d) is that it too is a moving scale. I say moving not sliding. Even though sometimes it seems like I take two steps forward then fall three steps backward. But it’s temporary, and often a matter of personal perception as opposed to God’s standards. God is more patient with us than we are with ourselves. That’s partly because He sees the end from the beginning, and we don’t.
It’s a high calling and even though I feel as though I fail more often than I succeed, I know I am moving in the right direction.
I like to think of myself as George Bailey in the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” – though on a smaller scale. I think I have made a difference in some peoples’ lives and I work toward doing it more and for the rest of my life. My heart’s desire is to hear Jesus say to me, “Well done, good and faithful servant” when I move from this life to the next.
I try to ‘set my mind on things above and not on earthly things’. What is seen is fleeting and passing, what is unseen is eternal. Who was it that said (and I’m paraphrasing), ‘I would rather live my life as though God is real and be wrong, than live my life as though he doesn’t and be right’. My motto, then as the Apostle Paul writes in Colossians chapter 3, ‘as (one of) God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, I clothe myself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. I bear with others and forgive them as I hope they will forgive me, and as the Lord forgave us. And over all these virtues I put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.’
The details matter less than the cumulative qualities of a well-lived life. So I’m working on it… and enjoying the journey day by day. I urge you to do the same.
PS. Since writing this, something of a catastrophe happened! It doesn’t alter anything I wrote here, but it sure tests
Hmmm. A lot to digest here.
I would say c and d, too. In fact, all my life I have felt luckier than most people and that has not changed regardless of the fact that my finances have slipped far below what would have been predicted given all the assets I started out with.
That is largely because I have truly never met a single person I would want to trade places with. I see women with tremendous resources all the time. None of them have more education, are more attractive, or really are nicer or more talented. Some of them are quite ordinary in every way and yet married men with a lot of money. I find that amazing, as I have to admit, I expect wealthy men to choose the cream of the crop among women. But they often don’t.
I am a Roman Catholic and I pray and try to follow Christ’s example. He had little or nothing in the way of trappings. I don’t even know what he really looked like, although I assume being Aramaic, he looked nothing like most depictions we see. He certainly did not have a formal education of the type we measure ourselves by today. Yet he changed humanity forever.
Why in the world would I use any other criteria to judge myself or others? I believe he must have been completely humane. He would never espouse so-called conservatism (here in the US) with selfishness at its core. I cannot imagine him shooting or killing anyone or any creature. According to many sources, he did not eat meat. He is the only model I compare myself too, as an adult.
At one time, I might have been more superficial, but happiness to me means being healthy and having a clean, safe, attractive place to live and a high quality of human interaction with people I like. I think that is the best I can do!
As usual, a thoughtful and authentic response. Thank you Beth. What got me on this train of thought is looking around at people – colleagues, neighbours, people in the news – desperately seeking “happiness” in success, possessions, experiences. Things we can’t fully rely upon because they are so changeable. As Jesus taught that the person who builds his/her house on the rock can withstand life’s storms, not so the one who builds on the shifting sands of culture and stuff. I think what you describe in your last sentence is, in fact, joy. Deeper, intentional and something we choose. A life of quality. Enjoy it!
Wasn’t it Paul who said he was happy in a hut or a castle? It made no difference because his happiness came from within, not without. I want to be that way. I have experienced some real setbacks in life and tried to take them in stride, thinking that they can either crush me or strengthen me. It isn’t easy, but that is what I try to remember.
And, as we get older, our physical advantages fade as well. If we identified too much with them when we were young, we will be increasingly unhappy as they diminish. I don’t want that to be my future.
Instead I value striving to be more Christ-like to the extent it is possible. And to be grateful for what I have, which is always changing and always enough.
I agree, Beth. It’s less about what we have and do than how we embrace and use it. I want to be more like Paul as I work on becoming more like Jesus. That is the highest standard and nothing this world offers can compare or satisfy!