Life Can Get Better and Better

NEWSFLASH!  I’ve just posted an audio version of this blog on Soundcloud:

I’ve been working for years on the concept of “Living Organisations” and “Living Leadership” within those organisations.  Many of my friends, however, are not in large organisations.  As such they were interested in something that could assess and then boost their own vitality.  So here is the: Life Quotient for Individuals

Living a life to the full is about living in two worlds – the world of thought (where your values, beliefs, and attitudes define your vitality and joie de vivre), and the material world (where your daily habitual actions determine the results you enjoy).

For these reasons, the Life Quotient questionnaire takes into account your internal and material worlds.

There will be 7 headings, with only 3 statements under each heading.  These are numbered for clarity.  A short expansion follows each heading and statement then you will be invited to give your rating from ‘0’ – no box for this, just don’t tick any – through to ‘5’ which is the strongest level of alignment with the statement.  I’ve given some examples of what each rating might mean, but I would prefer you to go with your own internal sense of where you are on a 1-5 (or 0, if you’re really not at all aligned with the statement.)  This means that the highest score in any one section is 15.  Your total Life Quotient will be out of a maximum of 105 points – giving you a rough percentage of just how alive you are (according to this model at least!)

1 Movement

All living organisms live, and move, and have their being.  There is a sense of liberty (and thus of a life-to-the-full) around mobility.

We are either moving towards something we want, or away from something we don’t want.

These three statements focus on the positive aspect of what we do want.

1.1 I am moving towards a clear purpose for my life

Without doubt, a life-to-the-full is a life ‘on purpose’. In the words of Henry David Thoreau:

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.”

Having a purpose is without life though if it isn’t accompanied by corresponding movement towards it. Thoreau went to the woods – he took the action required.

Or equally eloquently as the New Testament puts it, “Faith without works is dead.”  Our purpose needs corresponding action.

The first steps, then, in pursuing a life to the full, is deciding on a purpose.  All other steps involve moving towards that purpose.

Live life deliberately

Each statement section is closed with a 1-5 rating – just tick the box to indicate how strongly you agree.  I’ve added some statements to this first 1-5 to make the process even clearer.

1.1.1  [    ] not particularly true for me – I don’t have a purpose

1.1.2  [    ] I have my moments where my purpose is clearer and I take some action

1.1.3  [    ]  Sometimes I head towards my purpose and sometimes I don’t

1.1.4  [    ] I have a clear purpose and I am regularly pursuing it

1.1.5  [    ] My purpose is clear and I take daily action towards it

1.2 I move towards my specific goals on a daily basis

You can’t happily be living one day and dead the next – not if you are to live a life-to-the-full.  So we need to take consistent, habitual action towards our goals on a daily basis.

This involves:

  • knowing our goals
  • tracking our progress (movement)
  • taking action day-by-day

This is more granular than the Big Picture Life Purpose of the first statement – this second statement is about taking daily action towards fulfilling smaller goals, giving you a sense of constant momentum that is picked up in the third statement that follows.

1.2.1  [    ] e.g. I occasionally have goals

1.2.2  [    ] e.g. I have seasons when I am quite good at goal-setting

1.2.3  [    ] e.g. My goal-setting is sporadic

1.2.4  [    ] e.g. I regularly follow a plan for the day that includes goals

1.2.5  [    ] e.g. I set, track, and take action on my goals day to day

1.3 I feel I have a real sense of momentum towards more of what I want in life

It can be said, “as with the outer world, so with the inner world.” Movement is propelled. Something drives it. Consider the literal meaning of “motivation” – there’s movement in that word!

So, to enjoy a life-to-the-full, we must feel motivated, or as I have put it here, have a sense of momentum towards more of what we want more of in life.

1.3.1  [    ]  Somewhat

1.3.2  [    ]  Occasionally

1.3.3  [    ] 50/50

1.3.4  [    ] Yup, I have some sense of momentum but I’d like more

1.3.5  [    ]  I have a real sense of momentum

2 Nutrition

Nutrition has several purposes:

  • To give us energy
  • To supply the building blocks for growth
  • To be an enjoyable activity.

What gives people energy? In a word, “Attention”! Solitary confinement is designed to be unpleasant because the sensory deprivation shrivels the soul of any normal human. So, are you getting enough positive attention?

To grow, we need information – we need feedback – we need communication.  So many people feel starved of sufficient interaction with others.  For this reason, I include ‘communication’ under nutrition.  We’ve all seen people suddenly ‘light-up’ when they get a communication from someone they love.  Communication is a nutritional life-force.

2.1 I believe I receive sufficient positive attention

The emphasis is on the ‘positive attention’ – some people get unwelcome attention – that’s not what we’re interested in here.

Without enough positive ‘strokes’ (as they are known in Transactional Analysis), our nervous system suffers. Appalling experiments on primates (of which I do NOT approve) showed actual neurological damage to young primates who were deprived of positive attention. It is apparent that even negative attention is better than no attention at all, as every tempestuous toddler demonstrates at some stage in their development… and some executives never grow beyond this stage!

This is so fundamental to our well-being that I invented a new currency of attention, the Neuro, to encourage people to pay more attention to one another.

2.1.1  [    ] I’m starving for attention!

2.1.2  [    ] I get some attention – but not nearly enough

2.1.3  [    ] I get a fair amount of attention but I’d like more

2.1.4  [    ] I am recognised and valued for who I am and what I do

2.1.5  [    ] I get lots of attention and feel highly valued and appreciated

2.2 I am entering into sufficient interaction with others

Interaction with others is nourishing.  It edifies us – an old-fashioned word for’ building us up’.  So then, attention and interaction energise and edify.

2.2.1  [    ] I pretty much keep myself to myself

2.2.2  [    ] I occasionally do the interaction ‘thing’ but I don’t really like it

2.2.3  [    ] I can do ‘social’ and I can do ‘solitary’ – I’m not really bothered

2.2.4  [    ] I am regularly getting healthy interactions with others

2.2.5  [    ] I am interacting daily with others in a way that energises me

2.3 I make sure I boost my energy on a daily basis

The end result of good nutrition is a sense of energy – vitality.  Many people seem slothful – living their lives in a state of low-energy. Dynamic people, on the other hand, have a certain ‘Spark!’ They’ve got some ‘Oomph!’ to them!!

They’ve got confidence, a healthy glow, self-assurance that is the sign of a good diet.

One major way to achieve this is to make sure you have a daily diet of inputs that energise you.

This goes way beyond the positive attention and interaction with others that we’ve mentioned previously.

For the more introverted amongst us, energy comes from times of quiet reflection – this is food for the soul. Many religious disciplines talk of having a “Quiet Time” in order to nourish the inner life.

I feel I would be unwise to be prescriptive here. You alone know (or are beginning to learn) what really energises you. Music plays an important role in the nutrition of the souls of many. Most of us can boost our energy by listening to some music with which we have positive associations.  If you’d like to dig deeper, we now know about the phenomenon of “entrainment” where beats-per-minute have been shown to impact our metabolism, work-rate, and state-of-mind.  Just consider how challenging it is to drive slowly when you’re listening to your favourite fast-paced music.

The important action to take here is to make sure we are proactively feeding on that which energises us on a daily basis. I’d recommend three good ‘meals’ a day!

2.3.1  [    ] I’m not particularly energetic

2.3.2  [    ] I have some good days, but mainly days when I feel ‘flat’

2.3.3  [    ] I’m about 50/50

2.3.4  [    ] I more often energised than exhausted

2.3.5  [    ] I am consistently feeling full of energy

3 Reproduction

Many of Nature’s cruel dramas are played out over the issue of who gets to mate with whom. Even plants are very competitive when it comes to making sure their genetic distinctiveness is passed on to the future.

In the terms of the late Stephen Covey, this is about leaving a legacy – making a lasting difference.

If movement was ‘on purpose’ – reproduction is about leaving the artefacts that maintain your vision long after you’ve been promoted to the next life! Stephen Covey’s work is a perfect, shining example.

We talk of “procreation” when we think of breeding. Our model is more metaphorical, so we will talk of “creation” and “creativity” instead… planting the ‘seeds’ of your thoughts in the minds of others.

Many great religious leaders have chosen not to procreate. Are they any less alive? I don’t think so. Their legacy remains.

I mourn the passing of the late, great Sir Patrick Moore.  He is a great example of a non-religious figure whose natural enthusiasm and articulate communication skills ignited thousands of young minds with a desire to delve deeper into astronomy.

3.1 I am very creative

Creativity in Nature is all about seeds. Our ideas are seeds, and those who live a life to the full have lots of ideas, dreams, and visions. They then use movement to take action towards fulfilling these ideas.

How many people say, “Oh, I wish I could play an instrument”? Or “I wish I could draw”?

Expressing your god-given creativity (remembering that most religions have the Creator as their divinity, and believe we are made in the divine image) is a force of life.

My belief is that everyone is creative – they may just have to find the way – the ‘signature style’ for themselves.  I personally have some challenges around singing in tune – and I don’t paint very well (yet), but that doesn’t mean I’m not creative.  I express my creativity in other ways.

3.1.1  [    ] Not particularly creative

3.1.2  [    ] Odd moments of creativity

3.1.3  [    ] No better or worse than the average person when it comes to creativity

3.1.4  [    ] I have spurts of creativity

3.1.5  [    ] I am regularly creative

3.2 I readily share my ideas with others

Reproduction in Nature is rarely an individual activity. Plants share pollen, and the birds, bees, and chimpanzees are all ‘doing it’.

For our metaphor, let’s suggest that a life-to-the-full cannot be a life of isolation.  It is a life of interaction.  Creative ideas and outputs have to be shared if they are to germinate and take root.

3.2.1  [    ] I keep my ideas mainly to myself

3.2.2  [    ] I share my ideas with a few close colleagues or friends

3.2.3  [    ] If opportunities arise, I share

3.2.4  [    ] I seek opportunities to share my ideas

3.2.5  [    ] I use every method I can (e.g. Social Networking) to share my message

3.3 I am enthusiastic

“My enthusiasm is contagious”

Our metaphor of non-physical reproduction is completed by the vehicle that transports the ideas. This is, without doubt, our natural enthusiasm.  Enthusiasm is the engine of dissemination.

I hope that all of us have had the joy of meeting a teacher or enthusiast whose very energy was enough to kindle our interest – or even light the fire of the same passion within us.

That History Teacher, the Maths Teacher, the English Teacher who switched you on to a subject – rarely was it because of the content, but rather because of their passion.

People who live a life to the full are full of passion… it’s a life force.

Enthusiasm =

Fascinatingly, renewing our divine associations with being a creator, “Enthusiasm” literally means having god within. The idea is of being in an ecstatic state through being filled with the divine spirit – and god is the life-force. Nice.  I also like the concept of being ‘animated’ – often another sign of passion and vitality.

3.3.1  [    ] I’m not a very enthusiastic person

3.3.2  [    ] I occasionally get excited about matters

3.3.3  [    ] I have moments when I can get animated on a subject

3.3.4  [    ] I’m pretty perky – I love the subjects I’m interested in

3.3.5  [    ] I can’t help myself, I’m so enthusiastic that it bubbles over

4 Excretion

Stuff happens… but to avoid being poisoned by the toxic waste that life inevitably produces you must be able to:

  • learn
  • let go (and move on)
  • avoid it next time.

Portia Nelson’s biography in 5 chapters articulates this perfectly for me:

Chapter I

I walk down the street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I fall in.

I am lost … I am helpless.

It isn’t my fault.

It takes me forever to find a way out.

Chapter II

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I pretend I don’t see it.

I fall in again.

I can’t believe I am in the same place.

But it isn’t my fault.

It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter III

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I see it is there.

I still fall in … it’s a habit.

My eyes are open.

I know where I am.

It is my fault.

I get out immediately.

Chapter IV

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I walk around it.

Chapter V

I walk down another street.

4.1 I proactively seek to learn from my mistakes

A Chinese proverb says, “If a man strikes you on the cheek, shame on him.  If the same man strikes you twice, shame on you!”

Life strikes us on the cheek.  Sometimes it’s our fault, sometimes it isn’t.  In terms of living a life to the full, the blame is irrelevant, the key is in what you learn and what you do next.

Those who do not learn from their mistakes (and the mistakes of others) are destined to repeat them.

4.1.1  [    ] I keep making the same old mistakes

4.1.2  [    ] I think to myself, “I should have seen that one coming!”

4.1.3  [    ] I’ve had enough knocks in life to learn a thing or two

4.1.4  [    ] I’m getting wise to certain situations and people now

4.1.5  [    ] I’m excellent at avoiding making the same mistake twice – in fact, I think ahead with this in mind

4.2 I am able to let go of the emotional baggage of errors

We’ve all met people who have been ‘poisoned’ by life. Most, however, haven’t been poisoned by life so much as being poisoned by clinging on to their reaction to what happened.

Bitterness is a poison.

The next step in living a life to the full is to let go and move on!

This takes a high degree of emotional maturity (see ‘Growth’) but is added here because of the impact of the retention of such poisonous attitudes on our vitality.

Forgiveness is tough, but unforgiveness is far tougher.

4.2.1  [    ] I hold on to things that have upset me

4.2.2  [    ] I am nobody’s fool… I seek to pay back those who’ve wronged me

4.2.3  [    ] Sometimes I just forgive and forget and move on

4.2.4  [    ] A mistake is a moment in time – I learn from it and earn from it

4.2.5  [    ] As long as I’m learning and changing, there’s value in errors

4.3 I am able to use my experience to avoid such waste in future

People say, “Forgive and Forget” – but that, to me, is insanity. We must remember the lessons learned or else how shall we avoid similar dangers in the future?

Learn from it and earn from it!

4.3.1  [    ] I seem to waste so much time and effort

4.3.2  [    ] There are so many areas of my life where things could be done better

4.3.3  [    ] I’m getting better at reducing waste

4.3.4  [    ] I’m happy with how I’m learning to reduce waste and boost productivity

4.3.5  [    ] I have become more and more efficient and less wasteful as a result of what I’ve learned over the years

5 Growth

In Nature, signs of life in the growth arena are height, strength, territory, and size of the group you are a part of. The latter two are outside the individual so are not technically the life-signs a biologist would look for, but they are signs of vitality.

For us, we are interested in the maturity of growth shown in:

  • Strength
  • Knowledge
  • Wisdom

5.1 I am growing stronger day-by-day

Individuals cannot be fully alive and enjoying a life to the full unless they are physically healthy – a healthy mind needs a healthy body.

To score a maximum of ‘5’ in this area, you must be fit and healthy, and pursuing health and fitness on a daily basis.

Clearly there are issues as we age, so this is about being the best that you can realistically be at your current time of life.

5.1.1  [    ] I’m not particularly fit

5.1.2  [    ] I occasionally take exercise and pursue fitness

5.1.3  [    ] I’m pretty average compared to others of my age

5.1.4  [    ] I’m in good condition for my age

5.1.5  [    ] I am very fit and healthy – above average for my age

5.2 I am learning more and more, month by month

Continuous learning is ageless – and, in fact, should only improve with age since you have more knowledge to associate new knowledge with.

“To those who have, even more shall be given.”

5.2.1  [    ]  It’s been a while since I turned my attention to anything new

5.2.2  [    ] I half-heartedly dig into the odd development book or website

5.2.3  [    ] I periodically get into learning something new

5.2.4  [    ] learning is a part of my yearly commitment

5.2.5  [    ] I’m hungry to learn more so I pursue learning regularly

5.3 I am developing deeper wisdom as the years go by

This is experiential wisdom – the quality of character often looked for in interviews. It’s about you having been there, done that, got the T-Shirt… and having become a better person for it! It’s about being more “grown up”.

It is impossible to rate yourself as a ‘5’ on this one unless you are proactively and positively reflective – learning well the deeper lessons in the school of life.

5.3.1  [    ] I am not particularly wise

5.3.2  [    ] I have moments where I’m surprised by my insights

5.3.3  [    ] I’m no wiser or stupider than other people around me

5.3.4  [    ] I’ve grown a depth of character over the years that I’m pleased with

5.3.5  [    ] I am sought out by others for my wisdom and insight

6 Respiration

Respiration is really about making a contribution – giving something back to the environment in which you live and move and have your being.

6.1 I make a positive contribution to my community

This contribution could be in the form of giving your time, money, or expertise (or all three) to community causes.

6.1.1  [    ] I look after me and mine, and not much more

6.1.2  [    ] I occasionally give to a good cause

6.1.3  [    ] I’ll muck in if there is a group activity for a good cause

6.1.4  [    ] I regularly give to good causes

6.1.5  [    ] I seek out ways to be involved with my community

6.2 I make a positive contribution to my social circle

We’ve all met people who take, take, take – but rarely give. They are asphyxiating to be around.

A ‘5’ on this aspect of Respiration is that you give other people air time – and space to breathe.

You’ve got to listen as well as contribute to breathe in and out!

6.2.1  [    ] I’m more interested in me than others

6.2.2  [    ] There are a few people I’ll give my attention to, but not many

6.2.3  [    ] I’ll go along with the gang if something is arranged

6.2.4  [    ] I like to hang out with my group and regularly suggest activities

6.2.5  [    ] I’ll arrange activities and get everyone together

6.3 I seek to make a positive contribution in every encounter

This culture-based frame-of-reference is a game-changer. If you are proactively seeking to make a positive contribution in any exchange with any person or group you meet, you’re heading for a ‘5’ here.  One of the nicest compliments I ever heard was about Vanda North.  Someone said, “Vanda is a fully paid-up member of the human race.”  That’s stayed with me.

By way of stark contrast, we’ve all met selfish, rude, or aggressive people – who are at a low-ebb when it comes to being truly alive.

I like the late Stephen Covey’s attitude: to always seek a win-win. This is the spirit of respiration.

(NB. Interestingly, many languages and religions use “breath”, “wind”, and “spirit” synonymously. We also have the fascinating concept of “inspiration” – literally, to breathe-in. But don’t just breathe in, give it out or you’ll burst!)

6.3.1  [    ] I am cautious in my encounters –  I don’t find many people trustworthy

6.3.2  [    ] I’ll give as good as I get – if people are fair with me, I’ll be fair with them

6.3.3  [    ] I’m often first to be friendly – until others let me down

6.3.4  [    ] I like to be a source of happiness in other people’s lives

6.3.5  [    ] I go out of my way to make other people feel good about themselves

7 Sensitivity

Sensitivity is about being connected – hardwired into your internal environment, and softwired into your external environment so that you are aware and alert.  This means…

  • I am connected (I am a networker)
  • I am alert (I have sensory acuity)
  • I am aware – (I am emotionally intelligent)

Sensitivity is the application of Social Intelligence – both in the Intrapersonal and Interpersonal aspects.

7.1 I am a great Networker – well connected within my community

This reflects the “strength of weak bonds” – the idea that we prosper when we have a multitude of ‘weak’ connections, rather than relying on a few strong connections.

7.1.1  [    ] I’m not particularly well connected

7.1.2  [    ] I know a few people and will respond well when people approach me

7.1.3  [    ] I’ll go to events and make an effort when I meet people

7.1.4  [    ] I’m prepared to initiate conversations with new people

7.1.5  [    ] I maintain my relationships, actively seek out new people, and create opportunities for new people to connect

7.2 I am alert to the opportunities and threats in my environment

All Living Organisms live in a context where they must be alert to opportunities and threats. Only in this way may they avoid being harmed and equally importantly notice where opportunities to thrive exist.

A key to rating yourself on this one is how much you live in the ‘Now’ – being fully alert in the present.  Daydreamers can get eaten.  Daydreaming is very important – in the right time and place.  Sensitivity requires a different level of attention and an external awareness.

If you find that you regularly miss cues in your environment – if you’re a poor listener, for example, then you are not yet at a ‘5’ on the rating scale.

7.2.1  [    ] I am often unaware of what is going on around me

7.2.2  [    ] I occasionally remember to pay attention – otherwise my attention wavers

7.2.3  [    ] I’m pretty good at listening to others – but I have to really work at it

7.2.4  [    ] I live in the ‘Now’ paying attention to my surroundings and looking for cues

7.2.5  [    ] I am a great listener and notice things that others seem to miss

7.3 I am aware and responsive to the feelings and ‘state’ of those around me

Emotional Intelligence is the ability to be sympathetic or even empathetic. It includes the skill to be able to ‘read’ others accurately – their body language, their non-verbal cues. It is also the ability to pick up the fuller message from their verbal cues – below the surface structure.

7.3.1  [    ] People should sort themselves out – I’m not a social worker

7.3.2  [    ] I occasionally pick up on cues that someone’s unusually happy or quiet

7.3.3  [    ] I’m quite good at reading others, though I often get it wrong too

7.3.4  [    ] I am naturally empathetic to others when I consciously work at it

7.3.5  [    ] I am sensitive to others and adapt to their needs when this is in their best interests

Conclusion

You are now in a position to gather together your totals, and see where your vital statistics take you.

  1. Movement.        My score for movement (out a maximum possible of 15) =
  2. Nutrition.            My score for movement (out a maximum possible of 15) =
  3. Reproduction.   My score for movement (out a maximum possible of 15) =
  4. Excretion.            My score for movement (out a maximum possible of 15) =
  5. Growth.               My score for movement (out a maximum possible of 15) =
  6. Respiration.        My score for movement (out a maximum possible of 15) =
  7. Sensitivity.          My score for movement (out a maximum possible of 15) =

My Total Life Quotient (out a maximum possible of 105) =

How do you feel about your score?

What action will you take to boost your Life Quotient?

Call to Action

Wherever you are on the Life Quotient scale, you’ll still benefit from the following actions:

  1. Clarify your Life’s purpose, then live ‘deliberately’ – setting and pursuing goals on a daily basis that are aligned with your purpose.
  2. Make sure you are getting inputs that energise you on a daily basis.  What are your energisers?  A special friend?  A piece of music?  Quiet time?  Social time?  Remember, three energising ‘meals’ a day is a good principle.
  3. Get creative!  Pick up an old-skill you’ve neglected or haven’t taken time for.  Learn a new creative discipline like singing, or dancing, or painting, or drawing, or playing an instrument.
  4. Review your setbacks and mistakes as soon as you can after they happen.  What can you learn from them?  How can you avoid repeating them?  Walk down another street.
  5. Learn something new.  Strengthen your commitment to exercise!
  6. Find new ways to give something back to your community and environment.
  7. Be more sensitive.  Consciously be in the ‘now’ with someone you want to connect with, and really listen not just to their words but the deeper message around the ‘text’.

Living a life-to-the-full, and helping others to do just the same, is a noble purpose… just in case you were looking for one!

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