What Makes An Outstanding Life?

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Most of us have the desire to live an OUTSTANDING life. We want more than we have now. Continually we are bombarded with messages telling us what we need to do to live an outstanding life.

Advertisers say it is simply a matter of buying the right car. Are you telling me that my lifestyle won’t change as soon as I purchase the car? Social media says it is accumulating more fame and wealth. Am I told old to live like a rock star?

All fantasy and joking aside, I am just like you, looking to improve my life. I am looking to make better choices and engage in more productive activities.

How we approach our lives is the key to living an OUTSTANDING life.

What does your best possible future look like?

Indulge me and take a few moments to answer this question: What does your best possible future look like?

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That question freaks me out. All the factors to consider. My age, education, life expectancy, potential and other factors. Stuff that when I think about it, I get uncomfortable.

Does that question have the same effect on you?

One thing I know is that I want my future to be outstanding.

Another thing I know is that we have something in common. We all strive to improve our lives.

All that time spent studying. All that time spent at work. Even the time spent exercising or meditating. Isn’t that all to improve your life?

An OUTSTANDING life 

For some people, that desire may be a small flame gently flickering. For others, it may be an all-consuming inferno.

That desire drives us to look for ways to improve, to get better, to gain an advantage.

outstanding view of life on earth
“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” – Charles R. Swindoll

But I have a guilty secret. Those programs that promise to help me make money, lose weight, or strengthen my relationships are snapped up by me in a heartbeat.

Bouncing from ‘quick fix’ to ‘guaranteed result’ hoping for some magic elixir to solve what ails me.

These critical areas of my life get treated as if they are independent entities, but they are not. Maybe, I do that to focus on one smaller thing rather than the larger and scarier picture.

If you watch the news, you will see lots of stories about well-being. We are bombarded with advice about positive lifestyle choices.

Simply put, wellbeing is about people and creating the conditions for them to thrive.  It’s about your quality of life.

Issues such as prosperity, positive physical and mental health and sustainable, thriving relationships.

A good day leads to a good life

Despite the landslide of information about lifestyle, the Western World continues to be more sedentary and obese.

Increasing numbers of people suffer from unregulated stress, too little sleep, a high-fat, high-sugar diet, and so on.

Gallup surveyed over a hundred countries to find out what habits create well-being. The study concluded that having a good day leads to having a good life.

In other words, habits that make you feel good right now are the essential elements of a long, healthy life.

All of us have an ingrained tendency to seek immediate gratification.

And this need for instant gratification frustrates the people interested in our well-being.

Instant gratification

Instant gratification is the desire to experience pleasure or fulfilment without delay. It’s when you want it, and often you want it now.

To get it now means we trade off our longer-term goals.

man flying through life
“Learn to enjoy every minute of your life. Be happy now. Don’t wait for something outside of yourself to make you happy in the future. Every minute should be enjoyed and savoured.” – Earl Nightingale

Want an example? In the survey, only 10% admit to buying candy. But if asked if they take the candy when it is put in front of them, 70% say yes.

When it is easy to get, we succumb to the immediate gratification that eating the candy brings.

What harm will it do?

Trust me; I get it. I get all too well. The candy was right there. It looked so delicious. What harm will a few pieces do?

It’s not candy for me but chocolate chip cookies. Especially if they have soft centres. We all have our weakness!

Let’s think of this a different way. You are on your lunch break and have the intention of ordering a salad.

An excellent idea that will help you in your desire for better health.

You walk into a fast-food outlet. When you get to the counter, what do you order? If you are anything like me, it is most likely a burger and fries.

You have an exercise regime. With the real intention to improve your health over the long haul.

Given the choice between going for a jog and crashing on the couch to catch Game of Thrones what do you choose?

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Short versus long-term

Immediate gratification makes people opt to catch up with John Snow’s latest exploits.

This lack of discipline places improving our health firmly in second place.We allow short-term decisions and desires to over-ride our long-term wellbeing.

Cake, retail therapy, alcohol, television, etc. all triumph, especially if we are unhappy or depressed.

But we can take immediate gratification and turn it on its head, making short-term satisfaction an ally rather than an enemy.

So what makes for a good day that will also lead to a good life? Habits that make you feel good right now are the essential elements of a long and healthy life.

Having a good day leads to having a good life. Click To Tweet

The research

Gallup scientists have been exploring the demands of a life well-lived since the mid-20th century. As part of this research, they conducted a comprehensive global study of more than 150 countries.

This provided a viewpoint into the wellbeing of more than 98% of the world’s population.

In the initial research, they asked people what “the best possible future” for them would look like. They found that when evaluating their lives, people often give disproportionate weight to income and health.

The Wellbeing Finder

In response, Gallup set out to construct a comprehensive measure of individual wellbeing. They designed an assessment composed of the best questions to create the Wellbeing Finder.

After analysing the Wellbeing Finder data, five distinct statistical factors emerged. These five are the elements that differentiate a thriving life from one spent suffering.

The five elements are interdependent.

If we focus on any single element in isolation, it can lead to feelings of failure. But, we all tend to do it. We all fall into that trap.

So what are the five elements of a good day that will also lead to an OUTSTANDING life?

The five elements of an OUTSTANDING life

These elements are the currency of a life that matters. They represent five broad categories that are essential to us.

  • The first component regards how you occupy your time or simply liking what you do every day: Career.
  • The second component regards having strong relationships and love in your life: Social.
  • The third component regards effectively managing your economic life: Financial.
  • The fourth component regards having good health and enough energy to get things done on a daily basis: Physical.
  • The fifth component regards the sense of engagement you have with the area where you live: Community.

While 66% of people are doing well in at least one of these areas, just 7% are thriving in all five.

If we’re struggling in any one of these domains, as most of us are, it wears on our daily life. When we strengthen any of these areas, we will have better days, months, and decades.

Living effectively

But we’re not getting the most out of our lives unless we’re living effectively in all five.

And when we are performing well in all five elements then we are living an OUTSTANDING life.

Outstanding human life
“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” – George Bernard Shaw

Thriving and not merely surviving in all five elements is the key to living an OUTSTANDING life.

Although these elements are universal across faiths, cultures, and nationalities, people take different paths to increase their well-being.

For many people, spirituality is the driving force in all these areas. They consider their faith the foundation of their daily efforts and one of the most important facets of their lives.

For others, a calling, such as protecting the environment, inspires them each day.

While the things that motivate us differ significantly from one person to the next, the outcomes do not.

CAREER

If you do work that you love and are passionate about, that is found to be foremost among the factors for well-being.

Fundamentally, to keep humans happy, we all need something to do and look forward to each day. This is why work is important to our well-being, and depression can set-in when out of work.

The Economic Journal published a study of 130,000 people over several decades. It showed that unemployment is the ONLY major life event that people do not get over within five years – surpassing even the death of a spouse.

This is particularly the case for unemployment more than 12 months.

“Do you like what you do each day?”

Only 20% of respondents gave a strong “yes” to this question.

Being disengaged from your career means you are more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression in the next year.

What if you have a boring job?

Then it’s recommended that you spend a few hours a day away from work doing something you love. You could find someone who shares your passion, whatever it is, and spends time with that person on a frequent basis. A walk is good as you chat about what you both love.

SOCIAL

Your life’s most memorable events and experiences (best and worst) tend to involve someone else. We often underestimate the impact of our closest relationships.

Emotions are scientifically proven to spread from one person to another. A happy friend causes you to smile, which improves your day and you go on to improve someone else’s.

We synchronise moods with those around us. Your odds of being happy, if a direct contact is happy, increase by 15%. If a friend of your contact is happy, your odds still increase 10%. Even if a friend’s friend’s friend is happy, you are 6% more likely to be happy. Not impressed with 6%?

A $10,000 increase in salary is shown to increase happiness by 2%.

The health and wellbeing of people significantly affect that of their connections.  When you improve the wellbeing of one person, then it will have a marked effect on their connections.

Real life domino effect

If your best friend has a healthy diet, you are five times more likely to have healthy eating.

If your spouse becomes obese, you are 37% more likely to become obese.

These connections are a stronger predictor than your parents and genetics.

Relationships serve as a buffer during tough times; they assist with resilience.

outdoor social life
“The greatest gift of life is friendship, and I have received it.” – Hubert H. Humphrey

People with very few social ties are twice as likely to die from heart disease or catch colds – even though they have much less social contact!

To “have a thriving day” we need 6 hours of social time a day. Social time at work even helps significantly. Even idle chit-chat has been shown to improve productivity.

FINANCIAL

This is an important contributor to well-being, but how much you have isn’t the main thing.

Beyond having the wealth to purchase necessities, the greatest influence on happiness is spending money on others.

A Harvard Study in 2008 showed that when given up to $20 to spend on oneself, a charity or others, those that devoted the money to a charity or others received a significant boost in wellbeing, compared to no increase in those who spent it on themselves.

What can you do with your money? Buy experiences rather than things.

Buying a flat-screen TV may bring a shot of enjoyment, but what if you purchase a vacation in the Bahamas? You get three stages of enjoyment: anticipation beforehand, immediate pleasure in the present and fond memories afterwards.

Status Symbols

We strive to possess “status symbols” such as the latest TV and mobile phone. These help us to overcome feelings of loss of status or failure.

Sometimes, these activities can often put us into debt, compounding problems. Financial wellbeing is really about a sense of financial security and lack of worry, rather than absolute measures of wealth.

It is the perception that you have more than enough money to do what you want to do. In fact, focusing solely on the accumulation of wealth can even reduce our wellbeing.

The fundamental tenets of Financial Wellbeing are:

  • satisfaction with your standard of living
  • expenditure on experiences rather than material goods
  • giving to others

PHYSICAL

Every bite and drink we take has a net positive or net negative impact on our health.

There are hundreds of moments each week where we make these seemingly insignificant decisions. Having a few fries seems to have no immediate net adverse effect, but over weeks and months it all builds up.

Instead of punishing yourself for falling short of some ideal diet and fitness program, use immediate gratification to your advantage.

Ask yourself, “If I eat that fatty lunch with the sugar thing for dessert, how will I feel in two hours?” Compare the prospects of a fat hangover and sugar drowsiness with how you will feel if you have salad and a piece of broiled fish instead.

Feeling light and energetic is immediate gratification that is just as pleasurable and longer lasting than a five-minute sugar high.

The same holds for exercise. If you take a brisk walk for 20 minutes in the morning, it will set an energetic tone for the rest of your day.

20 minutes of exercise is proven to improve your mood for up to 12 hours. Two 20 minute walks a day are even better.

As far as specific recommendations, we are advised to buy healthy foods and refrain from buying processed and artificial foods. Omega-3 oils as in salmon, nuts, and seeds and also unsaturated oil such as olive oil, are also good.

Sleep helps you reset

Get enough sleep to feel well rested, around 7-8 hours for adults but no more.

Average sleep in western society is reducing each year: now 6.7 hours, below the 7-8 hours needed to “reset” the brain and body. New research shows the brain finds solutions while we sleep.

They sleep well to process what they learnt the day before and get a good start to the new day. This sleep helps them to look better, feel better and live longer.

Meditation is being scientifically shown to have a similar impact upon neural pathways to aid decision-making, problem-solving and health.

Again, the goal is to eat, rest, and be active with having a good day in mind, nothing more elaborate.

People with thriving physical wellbeing exercise regularly and are in a better mood all day. They make net positive food choices and have higher energy and sharper thinking each day.

COMMUNITY

This one element can be the differentiator between a good life and a great one. It starts with a basic sense of security where you live – regarding crime and environmental contaminants.

People like somewhere aesthetically and socially pleasing – parks, trails, playgrounds, social locations & nightlife.

life symbol
“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” – Confucius

The key influencer, though, is community involvement: belonging to groups that help others and the environment. Welcome to the concept of “WELL-DOING”.

When people with thriving wellbeing are asked about their greatest contribution they’d made in life, invariably they mentioned the impact they’d had on another individual or group of people.

The gift of time

No gift is as valuable as our time. When we do things for others, we see how we make a difference.

This gives us CONFIDENCE in our ability to create change.

Johnson, Beebe, Mortimer and Snyder (1998) showed that adolescents involved in volunteering have higher future aspirations, higher self-esteem and increased motivation towards schoolwork.

It is reasonable to extrapolate that the impact upon adults will be at least equal to these outcomes.

Longevity is increased when people engage in altruistic behaviour.

In fact, as Harvard political scientist Robert Putnum described, “if you belong to no groups but decide to join one, you cut your risk of dying in the next year by half.”

Thus your groups and community involvement could simply focus on your existing interests – sport, art, craft, dancing etc. – to have a positive impact on your Community Wellbeing.

Peer pressure

The biggest influence on a person’s actions is peer pressure.

Most people didn’t quit smoking because of the long-term health issues; they did it because friends stopped, and restaurants, pubs and employers literally left them out in the cold.

Your success rates with weight loss, alcoholism etc. are all significantly improved if you undertake the challenge with others. If you join a weight-loss programme with three friends, your odds of maintaining weight loss improve by 66%.

Assemble each day

Living an OUTSTANDING life is not a solitary project. Click To Tweet

You have seen that the interconnectedness of career, social, financial, physical and community that make for a good day and then for a good life.

Take your shot
“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” – Maya Angelou

To create a good day we need to thrive in all five areas. Combine career, social, financial, physical and community and then share this with our family, friends and co-workers.

The majority of us keep postponing the good things we know we should be doing. But if you want to change your life you can start by having a good day.

Make having a good day your goal. That short-term goal will reap immense long-term benefits as your good day leads to an OUTSTANDING life.

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Look at your strengths and develop an action plan to BOOST them!

Look out for future posts where we will discuss ways to thrive in career, social, financial, physical and community. If you want to know what to read next, then try this.

Drop a comment below, and let me know what your strategies for thriving in these five areas are and what does your best possible future look like?

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David Brett-Williams