When I ask people about their ideal life, what it is they long for - the answer is usually pretty simple.
Most people say they just want to be happy. After they list the long, complicated and convoluted reasons for their current unhappiness, they usually come up with a small handful of areas in their lives that might need a little tweaking to get them where they want to go.
What often surprises them is the ordinariness of what brings more daily joy. Some examples?
1. More time with the kids, the spouse, or the dog
2. Less stress at work or ‘busyness’ in business
3. More connection with the inner self
4. Less screen time and more exercise
5. More time playing, less time working.
Do these sound familiar? Most people aren't looking to find a cure for cancer, feed the world’s hungry, or make the next great scientific breakthrough. And, even if they are, just like the rest of us, they want to have a little more meaning in their day-to-day lives and a little more personal happiness between getting out of bed in the morning and getting back into bed at night.
There are basically six dimensions or areas of life, that taken together, make for a balanced and happy life. As we start the new year, it's a great time to take stock of our own level of satisfaction in each of these areas.
The technique I like best is a simple ranking on a scale of one to ten, with ten being the ideal or the number that represents full satisfaction with that area of your life. The six areas are:
1. Business, career or current role
2. Home and physical environment
3. Personal growth and spirituality
4. Health and wellness
5. Relationship with self and others
6. Fun, play and creativity
The numbers can be pretty revealing and also provide a great starting place to set goals to increase your happiness level. Obviously, the areas of your life that rank below five need some attention. Areas with high numbers, or full tens, point you to strategies to sustain the satisfaction level.
Wide spreads in numbers can be interesting, too. For example, if you are a ten in the Business and Career category and only a one or two in the Play category, it could indicate a lack of balance and it might be time to look for ways to bring more fun and creativity into your world. You get the idea.
Increasing daily happiness becomes an exercise in tweaking up our numbers. It's not necessary to go from zero to ten. All that's needed is to begin gently moving your numbers up the scale. What would it take to go from a 2 to a 2.5 for example?
What’s important here is to look for balance and small joys in our everyday, ordinary, routine existence. We feel better and happier when we experience our lives as full, rich and diverse. We can get there by focusing attention on the areas we’ve neglected. Taking stock using a simple ranking system like this gives you a picture of where you are now and tells you where to start.
To use the earlier example, if you're looking for a little more fun and creativity, maybe all you need to do is take one dance class, write one poem, or book one dinner date. Start where you are, and take baby steps in the direction you want to go. It works like the Butterfly Effect, where small changes create big impact. Flutter, and the world will change.
What do you notice about your numbers? What baby steps do you want to take to increase personal happiness?