From early school days starts our training; to build careers and survive through life. The entire focus tends to be on how to win or “do well”– at school, at college and then at work; so that one has sufficient resources to lead a good life.
A good life, by standard definition, includes, having a good job or a well running business, enough, or more than enough, bank balance, a family with spouse and kids and being able to experience the good things (read fancy goods and services) the world has on offer; and of course, resources enough to make the next generation also capable of the same good life or more!
But, in the process we develop a tendency to get stressed in trying to meet these goals; either because of parental or peer pressures or self imposed targets that seem beyond reach.
Early or Mid-Life Crises and late life regrets
This stress leads to health and relationship issues quite early in life; and there are enough stories frequently in the newspapers, about these. People somehow manage through these and reach their “life goals”, only to realise, much later in life, what they have totally missed out; but cannot retrace their steps.
Steve Jobs is a great example of a great achiever whose positive quotes about achievement are legendary. But he also had this to tell his biographer, towards the end of his life.
“I wanted my kids to know me. I wasn’t always there for them; and I wanted them to know why and to understand what I did.” The biographer went on to ask him if he was glad that he had kids, and Jobs said, “It’s 10,000 times better than anything I’ve ever done.”
So the irony in his life- he believed the greatest thing he did was to have kids, but they were the ones who he neglected through out his life.
So what could be done to not have these stresses, early or mid life crises or late life regrets?
Defining a good life – a first step towards a personal philosophy
The definition of a good life for one person need not be the same for another; that’s the core learning and understanding each person ought to get as early in life as possible.
How does one build one’s own definition of a good life? A definition that helps define a personal philosophy as the guide to life.
In our education and upbringing, what we often don’t seem to get, are inputs that could help us define for ourselves what’s really meant by a good life. What are the options we have in life to choose from; to give greater meaning, satisfaction and fulfilment to ourselves, as we live through life?
To build one’s own definition of a good life, one first needs to understand one self; and equally important, understand others; an input sorely lacking in our education system. Not understanding oneself early in life makes people chose paths that may lead to success in endeavours, but not still deliver personal satisfaction in life. Understanding others and relationships helps us know where to draw boundaries to ensure one takes an objective decision at every stage without succumbing to pressures.
In ancient times, the Indian education system, what people with current day “enlightenment” ridicule as religious mumbo jumbo, was designed to actually bring focus on oneself (through meditative practices), become aware of one’s duties towards self, family and community (by following scriptures) and look beyond earthly existence to focus on the creator and the creator’s creation, to understand the meaning of life.
The world was probably a better place to live in every sense – personally, socially, as well as, ecologically.
Modern education has eliminated these inputs totally; and it has not replaced them with any other contemporary source of mandatory learning about human behaviour and purpose of existence, to discover oneself, understand others and design a purposeful existence.
Building a personal philosophy of life
The earlier a person is exposed to some thought process that enables understanding self and others, the faster the person will be able to evolve a personal philosophy of life. A philosophy that then becomes the guiding light for every decision taken to steer life towards a more fulfilling experience.
The personal philosophy should define one’s stand in terms of
- Values to stand for
- Life Goals to set for oneself
- Principles to apply at every stage of decision making
- Methods to apply to achieve these goals
- Managing relationships and boundaries
Quite similar to how a good corporate defines its Values, Vision, Mission and Processes.
Personal Development Programs as a source
It is not to say that there aren’t modern theories of human behaviour and goals. Today, modern behavioural theories for personal development are brought into play mostly while helping individuals going through personal issues. But these come into application for the individual a bit too late in life; after having hit a crisis point.
People also tend to gravitate towards scriptures such as the Bhagavad Gita, a great source for inputs on personal development and values; but even that tends to happen quite late in life.
If only each individual had gone through a parallel line of education in personal development, we would be more aware at each stage of life and take decisions with awareness and responsibility, automatically leading to greater satisfaction and lack of regrets.
While it is ideal to have the education system take everyone through this process, it is not too late, if one wakes up to this need, to join relevant training programs that enable this clarity to emerge.
Trainers in different domains are offering programs for individuals; based on ancient scriptures or modern theories; and some which transcend both. But it is only a select few people who really come forward to attend these and take advantage.
Most others are so deeply stuck in life’s routine that they don’t seem to be even aware of such opportunities.
Organisations could help by organising periodic personal growth programs for the employees. But training programs are rarely organised for all employees or, if at all done, are mostly work focused.
Wake up to this reality; work to build a personal philosophy; define and live a truly good life.
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