One of the tools that Ed Diener (one of the recognised founders of Positive Psychology) created is the Ladder of Life.
Basically you think of your life as a ladder consisting of 10 steps. At the bottom of the ladder is a life so far away from what you’d like to be living and the top (tenth) step on the ladder is your ‘best possible life’. As a starting place I reckon it’s a great way to take stock of their truth about your overall satisfaction with life.
Yes, it’s subjective. Yes, it’s open to different interpretations because people interpret their lives differently because of their culture, experiences and personal situations. Yes it lacks in specific definitions of what aspects of life we are really measuring and therefore makes it more difficult to draw conclusions that can be validated scientifically. However, to paraphrase Ed Deiner, it may not be perfect, but it’s certainly in the category of ‘good to know.’
The exercise is not asking you to consider ‘perfection’ or ‘the perfect life’. It’s asking you to be practical about your ‘best possible life’. So it requires deeper thinking about ‘best possible’ life and not to go off on a tangent of comparing your life to that of others that is beyond ‘possible’ given your current and potential future resources.
When I consider past, present and future scores for the ladder of life, I’ve concluded that my rating on all three is around the 8.5 mark (and I realise that there’s no half steps on the ladder).
Now I share that with you for no other reason but to have the following discussion.
I do realise, as the research suggests, that I may only be remembering the good bits of the past, and may not be very accurate at predicting how I will feel in the future, however, this is not ‘pin the tail on the donkey’ as I’m not blindfolded… I’m rating the 8.5 with my eyes wide open and thinking deeply about the activity… and I recommend that you approach it in the same way.
A couple of years ago now, I defined a happy, flourishing and prosperous life for me as being intentionally grateful for the past and what it’s taught me; being intentionally grateful for the present and what it’s teaching and providing me; and being intentionally open to the future and pursuing personally meaningful lifestyle experiences that enhance my health, mind, relationships, soul, sense of self and overall wellbeing.
I’ve mentioned in previous posts that even when Liz (my wife) and I were down to our last dollar, we’ve rarely got caught up in the ‘keeping up with the Jones’ mentality… it’s always been make the best out of every situation we can. Sure, not always successfully in every situation, but overall, certainly for us (as I checked in with Liz on this as well), we’ve always looked at being blessed because of our relationship and at least for us, that’s what counts more about overall life satisfaction than anything else. Perhaps this is where the consistency across past, present and future scores is coming from with me. Liz and I have been together for 30 years, and knowing that our future, whatever it brings, will be lived together, that makes for a pretty high life satisfaction score for me.
What about you?