Intellectually, I understand that life isn’t as complicated as we seem to think it is. I’ve been told the same message from multiple gurus who just sit and smile and say, “Let go! Let go of your intense need to control every aspect of your life. Let the worries go. Let the problems go. Once you start letting go and trusting yourself and the universe, things will fall into place.” Essentially, stop acting like a whack-a-doodle control freak and be more Zen.
But then the scientist in me hates to rely on easy answers (because obviously, I enjoy complicating my life). So I do what I do best: I look to the no-nonsense data we collect from our studies at Queendom. Because nothing works better than cold, hard data objectively and indifferently spun out from a cool and clinical number-crunching statistical program.
Analyzing data from 1,123 who took our Life Satisfaction Test, I focused my analysis on two distinct groups: Those who are satisfied with their life and those who are not. I wanted to see what the satisfied people were doing that I wasn’t.
Here are the areas where these two groups differed the most:
Sense of Accomplishment
Score for satisfied group: 80
Score for unsatisfied group: 27
Satisfied people take pride in their achievements, whether big or small. They are determined to leave behind a legacy, whether it’s in the form of a lucrative business, a social change they initiated, or by raising a happy family.
Sense of Belonging
Score for satisfied group: 75
Score for unsatisfied group: 31
With the advent of social media, making connections with like-minded people has never been easier, and satisfied people take advantage of this. They make it a point to expand their network, which in turn contributes to their sense of belonging and social support.
Sense of Purpose/Meaning
Score for satisfied group: 92
Score for unsatisfied group: 45
Being stuck in an unproductive rut can be disconcerting and discouraging. Satisfied people make it a point to regularly set goals for themselves, whether it’s championing a cause, volunteering, or engaging in creative projects. A goal doesn’t have to be exceptionally challenging as long as it is personally meaningful.
Score for satisfied group: 85
Score for unsatisfied group: 32
Health really is true wealth, particularly when it comes to a person’s mental state. When faced with an issue that is affecting their happiness (e.g. depression, anxiety, grief, loss, etc.), satisfied people find ways to cope, whether it’s engaging in mindfulness practices or seeking the guidance of a therapist. To them, investing in their mental health is worth the effort.
Score for satisfied group: 78
Score for unsatisfied group: 30
In spite of the challenges they are go through, satisfied people always strive to find the silver lining. They focus on possibility rather than problems, and believe that there is a lesson to be learned in every experience. They have a hopeful and upbeat outlook.
Score for satisfied group: 78
Score for unsatisfied group: 38
Satisfied people possess a great deal of resilience and a fighting spirit. Obstacles and hardship rarely sidetrack them for long as they tend to bounce back quickly. This isn’t because their life is easy, however. They have a good set of coping skills and recognize that resilience and mental toughness can only be developed through hardship.
Sense of Pleasure
Score for satisfied group: 77
Score for unsatisfied group: 44
Satisfied people make fun a priority in their life. They regularly set aside time to engage in activities that bring them joy – time that unsatisfied people may see as wasted and that could be better spent on productive activities. However, when leisure time is postponed, as is often the case with workaholics, burnout may develop as a result.
Score for satisfied group: 34
Score for unsatisfied group: 75
Satisfied people will give problems their due consideration, but they refuse to dwell on worries or on the negatives. They recognize that ruminating does little for their peace of mind and contributes even less to resolving a problem. In contrast, people who are not happy with their life have a tendency to over-think issues and to keep their mind focused on the past or worrying obsessively about the future.
Now, it’s important to understand that the relationship between these factors and life satisfaction is circular. Having an optimistic attitude can certainly contribute to a greater sense of contentment, but the case could also be made that people who are already content tend to have a more positive attitude. That being said, this study makes it clear that improving these areas of your life certainly couldn’t hurt. Having a goal or a purpose, for example, working on your mental health, or focusing on the blessings in your life rather than the grievances could go a long way to improving your outlook. In fact, many of the life satisfaction factors covered in our study are about focusing on and changing the inner self.
And here’s another interesting tidbit from our study: Of the 19 factors we assessed, money came in 18th, indicating that it has little impact on life satisfaction. Essentially, while having money can make your life easier, it will not make you happy – especially if your mental health and relationships are not up to par, and your life lacks a sense of meaning and purpose.
When I imagine myself proudly presenting this data to Eckhart Tolle, my ultimate guru, I can picture him smiling…then regretfully shaking his head and saying, “That’s all well and good, my dear, but life is much simpler than that.”
“Let go of thought, become still and alert, and don’t try to understand or explain.”