Pausing amidst the whirlwind of life to ask yourself what you actually think about your life is kind of a best practice for people who want to make the most of their time before they die. We’re all ticking timebombs, so shall we get on with these little assessments, and then the business of building unfathomably satisfying lives? Onward!
Life Evaluation #1: The Cantril Ladder
The top of this ladder represents the best possible life for you, whatever “prospering” looks like in your eyes. The bottom of the ladder represents the worst possible life for you (as the ladder says… “hopeless”).
Now ask yourself these two questions:
- On which step of the ladder would you say you’re standing on right now, at this very moment in time?
- On which step do you think you will stand about five years from now?
There are three zones you can fall into:
- If you have poor ratings of your current life situation (4 and below) AND negative views of the next five years (4 and below), you’re in the “Suffering” category, and unfortunately your well-being is at high risk. If this is you, let’s get you some well-being TLC, asap. You might want to consult a mental health professional to talk to about feeling hopeless.
- If you have moderate views of your current life situation (5 – 6) OR moderate or negative views of the next five years (6 and below), you’re officially “Struggling”, and your well-being is considered moderate or up and down. Researchers say you have more daily stress in your life, you worry more about money, and you take twice as many sick days than those healthy “thriving” people. Well-being researchers also go so far as to say you’re more likely to smoke, and you’re less likely to eat healthy foods. Does this sound like an eerily right horoscope for you?
- If you have positive views of your current life situation (7 and above) AND the next five years (8 and above) you’re “Thriving.” Yay, you! Your well-being is robust and reliable. Studies show thrivers like you report more happiness and interest in life, with way better health to boot. We’re all kind of striving for thriving, right? And for most thrivers, being in this category is about continuously pushing the numbers up incrementally, too. You don’t just get to the thriving part of the ladder, put your feet up, and light a smoke. That’s why so many of you are reading this article right now— because you’re interested in the business of thriving. Read on. But first, because as a human you have that need to know where you sit in relation to everyone else on the planet, here’s a little picture of where people rate themselves on the ladder all around the world:
Life Evaluation #2: The Psychological Well-Being (PWB) Scale
Ed Diener’s official scale involves a 7-point scoring situation, but we’re all in a hurry over here to get on with living life to its fullest, so we’ll cheat with an abridged version.
To what extent do you agree with the following statements?
- I lead a purposeful and meaningful life.
- My social relationships are supportive and rewarding.
- I am engaged and interested in my daily activities.
- I actively contribute to the happiness and well-being of others.
- I am competent and capable in the activities that are important to me.
- I am a good person and live a good life.
- I am optimistic about my future.
- People respect me.
Did any of those questions give you that rosy glow, because you know you’re acing that well-being corner of life? Dynamite! Zero in on those areas and do them more often.
Did any of the questions give you that sinking “oh jeez” feeling? Yeah, you’re not alone. Pick one area/ number on the list, and commit to one small thing that might put a dent in that worrisome feeling. For example, if #5 gave you that gnawing feeling because you haven’t been feeling so successful at work, maybe you register for a course that’ll boost your knowledge and confidence. (I’m working with a great client now who is all over the free tutorials on YouTube to master PowerPoint, for example. This is making her approximately 179% more comfortable with her presentations at work, which is decreasing her pre-meeting anxiety by about 1,790%. That scores a definite point for well-being.)
Ways to Boost Your Evaluation of Your Life
Looking for a lift from where you’re sitting on the ladder today? Looking to edge up a notch on the PWB scale? Of course you are, Sparky. I’ve yet to meet anyone looking to descend a rung or two, and you’re all about self-actualization. Rest assured that completing these exercises has already done a good thing for you… you’ve heightened your awareness of where you might want to adjust your life. Awareness is the precursor to change.
Next up is getting inspired to do something, to take some kind of action in an attempt to thrive-ify yourself. Be careful not to fall into the always-unhelpful all-or-nothing thinking trap — believing you need to radically overhaul enormous chunks of your life — because that ultimately leads to the disempowering decision to do nothing amidst the swirl of overwhelm BECAUSE HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO QUIT MY DEAD-END JOB AND LOSE 43 LBS. AND FIND ALL NEW FRIENDS WHO ACTUALLY CARE ABOUT ME? Let’s break this down into the most manageable bites you can possibly take. If you think you might need a new job, brush up your resume as your one thing to do. If you want to lose 43 lbs., pick one indulgent habit and reduce it by a third this onth (like having Funyuns once a week instead of three times, or maybe just having 1/3 less than your usual serving. Two-thirds of the Funyuns can still be fun.). If you’re looking for new friendships in a virtual world, your one single step forward could be to join a neighborhood Facebook group (or better yet, get a dog who forces you to interact with masked humans at the dog park. Bonus: you’ll also receive the pleasurable companionship of something with a pulse.).
It’s at this point I’m thinking you’ll want to download my free “Guide to Being Totally Alive” for ideas, tips, and tricks on widening your life with vitality, and deepening it with meaning. Any chance you can grab to climb up even one rung on that ladder—to level up your well-being—is worth it. Life’s too short to not aim for thriving in even the smallest ways we can muster. Cheers to a prosperous life, friend!