A deeper happiness in life

By Christopher Peck

“Be happy while you’re living, for you’re a long time dead.” –Scottish Proverb

Just as we did with wealth in January, we can use the Wheel of Life to expand our view of what happiness is. In the same way that personal wealth is much more than what’s represented on a bank statement, happiness is much more than the fleeting satisfaction we get from a good sandwich. This idea might suggest a mature experience of knowing one’s mission in life, succeeding at pursing that mission, having a solid primary relationship and many friends and family, having sufficient financial resources to live well according to your own standards, to be making a contribution and leaving a legacy one can be proud of, and living in right relationship to the living world that sustains life. Health is fundamental of course, as is ethical living. And underlying any notion of happiness is the contentment that comes from a life lived well.

The internal individual quadrant, and the “State of Being” slice in particular, is where we normally think happiness resides. (See link above to the earlier post for a picture of the Wheel, with its quadrants and slices labeled) But full happiness requires that each and every slice of the Wheel of Life be humming at a relatively high level. Within the State of Being slice though, it’s not just happiness, it’s also a sense of opportunity, balance, and contentment that provide the basis for blessedness, or a “well-lived” life.

An extension of this, in the exterior collective quadrant, is the realization that what our assets are doing, out there in the world around us, is also a key contributor to our sense of self, and of our well-being.

If your assets are doing harm in the world, that will “bring you down.”  And, to be really happy, to be thriving with a high degree of well-being, your assets must be as active “out there” as you are “in here,” cultivating positive change and nurturing relationships. We’re connected to all of life, and our happiness is muted by the degree to which we do harm, to ourselves, and to anyone or anything.

Moving around the Wheel of Life some more, we see how fundamental good relations with friends and family and a significant other is to happiness. We’ve probably all had the experience of being alone while doing something amazing, and it feeling a little hollow, “if only I had someone to share this with!” Aristotle and the ancient Greeks felt strongly that one could not be happy living apart from people. Again, this relational element to life requires our investment of time, energy, and good will; it’s an investment that is likely to pay dividends far more valuable than those coming in from your portfolio.

So much of what makes us happy and wealthy has nothing to do with money or material. Invest your time and life energy around the full Wheel of Life, to reap a life of wellbeing, of deep satisfaction, of contribution and wealth, a life of blessedness. 

To wrap up this brief reminder that our sense of happiness can and must include much more than the contents of our portfolio, let’s take on an elephant in the room that often dominates our thinking about wealth: the idea that more is better.  We want to maximize financial returns, work out more to keep building muscle mass and body tone and endurance, and enjoy more or better quality material possessions as the years go by.  Or do we?  What if “more” isn’t always better?  Balance is better.  An optimum mix of financially-rewarding work, quiet time alone, rewarding relationships, and healthy activities is better.  Living a life of purpose, according to what one actually believes and desires for self, friends, and the planet is better.  

This is where taking some time to reflect on the Wheel of Life can lead to some enlivening new insights about where you may want to devote more of your attention, focus, and energy. As you look at each slice of the Wheel, you’ll find that there is an element of contentment contained in each; and the more you commit to cultivating all the slices, the broader and deeper will be your well-being, your health, your wealth. Consider this a little nudge in that direction, toward this holistic sense of well-being that we might call a good life.

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Christopher Peck

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