What makes a happy life? This is a question I have been pondering for a while. Here are my thoughts on how to live a fulfilled life.
I didn't grow up in poverty.
I never worried about war or having to starve.
Yet, I wasn't rich. Without going into too much detail, my family is far from perfect.
My view on happiness and fulfillment comes from a position of privilege. This is simply because I was lucky enough to be born in Europe.
Being born into a well developed society, I had all the opportunity a person could hope for. I was born with all my basic needs covered.
Food availabily, relative security, good education systems, etc.
Compare my situation to someone born into war zones of the middle east, or impoverished areas in Africa.
They will first and foremost work towards fulfilling basic needs, such as food and security. Only after these basic needs are secured they can strive towards more.
Here is my take on what makes a happy life.
Maslow's hierarchy of needs is a theory that explains why people do the things they do. As you can see in the image below, it is a pyramid with different levels.
Starting with the essential needs at the bottom and moving up to luxury needs. The five levels are physiological needs, safety needs, love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization.
People must fulfill each need in order to move on to the next level.
In my opinion it's vital to be aware of our situation, so we can find appreciation for what we have.
In my specific case this means not having to worry about my basics needs, but being able to work on my psychological and self-fulfillment needs from the get go.
Being provided with all necessities means we can focus on health.
It's a privilige to optimise your nutrition and physical fitness with specific workouts, or even just doing exercise for fun.
Happiness and money are inextricably linked.
Money does make you happy.
Yet, studies show beyond a certain point income has no material effect on happiness levels. This is when the hedonic treadmill comes into play.
The hedonic treadmill, or adaptation, describes the tendency for humans to become accustomed to new wealth and possessions quickly, returning to a relatively stable long-term level of happiness.
For example, a large lottery win or inheritance may bring intense feelings of joy initially, but these feelings tend to fade back to our "baseline" happiness level within a short period of time.
Having money doesn't make us inherently happier for long, as we simply become used to it and take it for granted.
My way is to focus on gratitude and appreciation for the basic things I have in life.
However, this doesn't mean striving to make money is a bad thing.
We will expand on that later.
Minimalism is a lifestyle, originating from the idea of having fewer possessions and reducing consumption in order to focus on what is truly important.
Now, minimalism doesn't mean "own nothing" or "be cheap".
To me, minimalism is a conscious way of living, deliberately deciding whether I need something or not.
The things you own end up owning you. Jimmy Carr
This is one of my favorite quotes.
Whatever you own creates overhead and potential mental stress even if you aren't immediately aware of it.
To me, owning a ton of things is stressful. If I'm being honest, I don't need most things, nor do I get enjoyment out of owning them.
Less is often more.
I found minimalism to be a fulfilling way of life.
Less clutter and fewer things to me, means more freedom.
Healthy and fulfilling relationships are the bedrock of happiness.
As humans, we have an inherent need to share our lives with others. Strong relationships constitute support systems, a feeling of being needed and the feeling of "belonging".
Ambition ties in directly with self-actualization.
What is it you want to achieve?
This could be becoming a millionaire, travelling the world, or simply having a family.
No matter what you decide pursue, self-actualization is only possible after covering everything else.
Ambition and grit will get fill the top of the pyramid.
To me, awereness of where we stand and gratitude for the basic things we have is a vital step towards a happy life.
We often get caught up in the hedonic treadmill yearning for more. Yet, earning or having more, doesn't necessarily yield more happiness.
At least not for long.
Making conscious buying decisions is my path to less clutter, fewer anchors and less overhead.
This doesn't mean you shouldn't strive for more.
Goals, ambition and achievements can give our lives meaning. At the end of the day, money is one of the measuring sticks.
Health and relationships are the most important things to me.
There is no wealth if your body is broken and wealth is worth nothing if you can't share it with anybody else.
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