Over the years I have developed a philosophy that applies to maximizing the life experience and I often share my learning’s about this subject with clients, psychology courses I teach, and groups of people that invite me to speak. The 3 inter-related pieces to my model include happiness, health, and peak productivity, with each contributing to very important aspects of life. Interestingly, when examining these variables more closely, you can begin to see how a person can be “happy” yet not healthy or productive; or “healthy” and not happy or productive; or “productive,” yet not happy or healthy. Simply put, while each of these variables are inter-related, they are also independent of the others, and often we do well with one (or two), but are challenged to excel in all 3 areas.
- Happy. A persons happiness is rooted in countless activities and life experiences, and to the degree an individual is happy is often a product of aligning his or her values up with daily interactions and experiences. For example, if you enjoy gardening and are able to grow a garden, chances are your level of happiness will increase. My experiences have shown me that even if there are significant genetic predispositions for depression, they can be offset by proactively engaging in experiences that make us happy.
- Healthy. When talking about health, I break it into both physical and emotional health (holistic health). Staying physically healthy involves daily exercise, eating a balanced and sensible diet, and getting enough rest. Emotional health includes properly appraising stress, and developing the coping skills to respond to stress in positive and successful ways.
- Productive. All humans, regardless of race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation, strive to find personal worth and meaning in life. When we experience a sense of productivity we define our human identities, or our sense of being. Being “productive” is a relative term that should not be viewed only through the lens of making a lot of money, as productivity can be experienced in countless, less noticeable ways. For example, a parent can feel productive raising kids, a cafe worker can feel productive feeding people in need of nourishment, and a coach can feel productive mentoring young men and women both on and off the field.
Living a life that focuses on happiness, health, and peak productivity is an ongoing, fluid, dynamic process. This optimal life philosophy requires that we learn who we are, identify the things that make us go in life, and regularly engage in and prioritize activities that allow the best in us to come out every day. Notice that this approach does not concern itself with money or status, even though money and status are not viewed as “bad” in the abstract. What I have learned, however, is that money and status does not guarantee happiness or health, and may even present bigger issues with productivity as well.
Happy, healthy, productive is a way of life that all people can pursue, even people with limited means. In fact, to further make this point I can state firsthand that many of my clients over the years have been extremely productive and wealthy (even multi-millionaires), yet all their success didn’t help their level of happiness, and in some cases even lead to depression, substance abuse, and other reckless behaviors. Similarly, some folks find daily happiness, even though they have very little in the means of tangible goods and possessions. And finally, being productive in one’s job yet not feeling fulfilled by the work leaves a person exposed to issues with happiness and health, especially if the person self-medicates through drugs and alcohol in order to relieve the stress of an unfulfilling job.
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