As a human species, we take life for granted. We are not intrinsically taught to value our own life, cherish our human existence and create for ourselves the conditions we need to thrive. In contrast, we are conditioned to live our lives in accordance with societal norms, to reach outside of ourselves in search of fulfilment and to spend our precious days distracted by trivial pursuits. We are not taught to ask the deeper questions and venture into our own subjective inner process to discover for ourselves how to generate meaningfulness and create a quality of lived experience that reflects the greatness and potential we yearn for in being alive.
We exist in a world that revolves around the maximization of financial profits, and this profit-driven system determines our cultural values, paradigm and worldview in service to its agendas. Courageous people around the world are waking up to realize the ways our economic systems are undermining our actual experience of living well and are standing for a new way of being, which prioritizes Life — my life, your life, all life — as valuable.
Humanity is undergoing a rebirth. The old systems are dying and decaying and in this transition new systems are emerging. “The good life” is ripe for a redefinition, as the stories of progress and The American Dream fall flat, far from delivering their promise of a world that is fair, healthy, and free. It is increasingly clear that inexhaustible consumption, a culture of consumerism and materialism, nuclear family isolation, individual success and the climb to the top of the corporate ladder are no longer serving the ultimate pursuit of happiness.
‘Quality of life’ has been most commonly used to refer to the field of geriatric and palliative care, and is often defined by the absence of health threatening hazards, disease or medical issues. Its meaning has become largely associated with those who have been identified as having a poor quality of life, and is used to indicate a value for improvement.
Quality of life also appears in the context of intentionally designing spaces and places that encourage livability and enhance the citizen’s experience through good design and public policy. Our environments most certainly influence our experience of life, and can be designed to elicit behavior change, support an active lifestyle, increase beauty, as well as fostering both connection to community and nature.
However, our quality of life isn’t founded on good environmental and urban design alone, nor is it the process of aging gracefully or how well we die. Our quality of life is rooted in how well we live, what resources and opportunities we do or do not access, and how we experience all of our determinants as well as choices in the precious time we are alive.
As our human civilization prepares to undergo massive transformation, it is critical that the term quality of life be reborn to illuminate our experience of being alive, and as such, become the central metric to determine the success or failure of our societies.
QUALITY OF LIFE FOR OURSELVES
If we, as a society, aim to prioritize quality of life as a value for all, we must prioritize quality of life for ourselves first. It is our responsibility to discover how to maximize and enhance the experience of being alive, moment to moment, before we can understand what it takes to create societal systems designed to support others in thriving.
What makes you feel alive, satisfied and purposeful? What is most precious and meaningful to you? What relationships do you want to have with other people, with nature, with your physical body? How do you want to use your time? What do you want to create? What do you want to be able to offer others?
The answers to these questions get us closer to realizing what it would take for us to experience a thriving quality of life, and for many, it may be a substantial journey to create the life experience that reflects every individual’s ideals. As we undertake this unique inquiry process into our personal desired reality, it is critical to remember that quality of life has far more to do with our experience of being rather than our experience of having.
Equally vital for the true embodiment of our quality of life, is the personal exploration into our suffering to heal the cultural programming, traumas, limitations and intergenerational patterns that have made a thriving quality of life seem unattainable.
Without a focus on personal growth and transformation, we unconsciously perpetuate our fear, addiction, abuse, the suffering of our parents, and biases carried through our lineage, accepting all of these as normal and passing this behavior and belief system to our children.
As we wake up from the slumber of unquestioned norms that have resulted in our acceptance instead of our thriving, we also realize we are indisputably interconnected to each other. As we choose to rise in our individual quality of life we show the way for others to do so as well. Yet, we cannot create for others what we do not personally understand. If we envision a world where quality of life for all is valued, we must come to understand it well, through resolving aspects of ourselves that are subconsciously creating pain, and consciously generate love, connection, well-being, fulfillment and peace.
We all have the potential to generate the happiness quotient and integrate together with family, community and our world, to maximize our greatest outcomes for optimal quality.
QUALITY OF LIFE FOR ALL
Every individual’s quality of life is fully integrated with the quality of life of all. To witness suffering in the world around us and be unable or unwilling to alleviate it is to challenge our own sense of dignity and empowerment, which degrades our own quality of life as a result. To disassociate from the suffering we see and not acknowledge or attune to the pain in others, is to fragment ourselves from the intelligence of our own heart and disconnect us from our inherent mutually interdependent nature.
If we are not participating in the liberation of others’ suffering, we are undermining our own experience of being alive. As the parents of the future and those here to lead the way for the generations who follow, it is our responsibility to support the whole of humanity and help ensure a safe and viable future for our children and all life on earth.
For those of us who choose to participate in creating a world where the improvement in quality of life is accessible to all, we must lend our support to transforming the existing societal systems of power that have used people as cogs within a machine rather than relate to them as independent beings each with inherent worth and aspirations. It is time to take responsibility for our lives and the lives of others, and participate in re-establishing the foundation of human civilization to replace the ‘profit growth imperative ’ with ‘improved quality of life imperative’ as the central organizing principle of our culture, economy and social systems.
OUR QUALITY OF LIFE IS POLITICAL
Quality of life has not been a primary political topic of conversation, and it is time for that to change. Quality of life offers a lens to assess the effectiveness and success of our elected leaders, the driving force of our economies and our entire societal system as a whole.
Improving quality of life for all gives us a central political goal that can, and should, shape our thinking, voting, spending, advocacy and activism.
What if our health systems, education systems and social services revolved around the holistic well-being of each person; not reducing those they serve to symptoms and transactional remedies, but deeply considering every person’s sense of belonging, happiness, purpose, fulfillment, physical vitality and aspirations?
When we ask ourselves, “What is actually hindering or supporting the quality of my experience of being alive?”, our answer will lead us to better understand what matters to us most. And what matters to us most should become the focus of our political activity. Improving our quality of life, and the quality of life for others, serves as the most useful driving force of our activism.
It is time to look at our school boards, city councils, local policies and national legislation through the primary lens of ‘quality of life’ to assess the value of how our decisions directly impact the experience others have of being alive.
INDICATING THE HEALTH OF SOCIETAL SYSTEMS
As we experience the world today, we see and feel the negative impact our social, economic and political systems have on the quality of all life on our planet. What we may, or may not yet see, is that we are part of a complex system of dynamics, interconnected, integrated into the whole of life. Like cells in a larger body, we are inextricably part of a living ecosystem, co-arising through our relationships with each other.
When we see ourselves as part of a living and interconnected whole, it becomes obvious that when one part is affected, the whole is affected. Social issues like depression, suicide, violence, substance abuse and child abuse are not inhernently personal, despite often being ascribed as such. They are systemic. They reflect the breakdown in our current system and indicate our need for transformation, to restore balance and wholeness within ourselves, our communities and our world.
Our quality of life can be seen as an emergent result of how well our greater societal and ecological systems are functioning. These social and ecological systems are mutually informed by the choices we make and the ways in which we perceive our available choices. In order for our personal quality of life to make an impact on the quality of all life on planet earth, we need a new worldview and decision-making metric that allows us to measure success based on our collective impact on what matters most.
We are born with the inherent power of choice. While many institutions benefit when we accept the prescribed choices for us as consumers and citizens, enhancing our quality of life isn’t an over-the-counter remedy or decision we leave to someone else to determine for us. It is a choice we make in every moment, that informs how we relate to our circumstances and who we choose to be in the face of challenge, adversity and fear. It is our worldview that determines how we relate to the world around us and whether or not we interpret disharmony, discongruity and destruction as an impassable failure or an opportunity to rise, act and co-create what we want and what we choose.
OUR EVOLUTIONARY EDGE
We don’t yet know how to create a society that revolves around quality of life. We need to experiment, discover it together, and share what we are learning with each other. We can restore balance to our current local, national, and international systems, stand courageously for the change we want to see, and rebirth our values, our behaviour, and our attitude towards our collective quality of life. We can create a future where the improvement in quality of life for all is central to our decision-making process and a core value we can achieve.
All of life is in our care, and it is our responsibility to make choices that care for all of life.