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Forecasting Your Quality of Life- How Tracking 3 Leading Indicators Can Guide You to Greater Well-being (Part 3 of 4)

I recently got a call from my accountant in California saying he needed a quarterly statement to wrap up my 2017 tax package. Rather than trying to find the password that separated me from the desired electronic document in my brokerage account, I was tempted to reply with my own Q1 2018 statement- winter is now officially over!   Living in San Diego, I know he does not fully appreciate the significance of the arrival of spring from a weather perspective but then I figured he probably didn’t want to be reminded of his mounting workload associated with the looming IRS April 15th filing deadline and having to keep track of clients and their missing documents.   Finally, I settled on having my husband come to the rescue. His passwords always seem to work.

Tax time can certainly be stressful—whether it means having one more important task on the “to do” list or having to face an unpleasant, financial reality check.  In my last post, I talked about financial well-being as one of the leading indicators of quality of life.  It is an important one because it defines our standard of living.  In a modern economy, most people are not self-sustaining.  We use money (credit for the time spent working) to buy the goods and services others spent time producing, those things that we need to survive and thrive.  But there are two important things that money can’t buy- long term health and deep emotional connection with others.

These leading indicators of quality of life derive more directly from an investment of the universal currency of life.  Time.  How we choose to spend time in both taking care of ourselves and in developing and maintaining healthy relationships with other people, has a huge impact on how we feel at any given moment as well as our orientation towards the future.  One of the most basic measures of how we feel is reflected in our energy levels. As I have mentioned in past entries, I struggle with winter.  One of the ways I cope, is to budget and plan for a short trip to a warm destination in March when I know I will be facing my lowest energy levels.  I register for a local race at the chosen destination so that I have the necessary motivation to exercise from Thanksgiving to President’s Day.

A few weeks ago, I went to San Diego to run a half marathon and visit with long-time friends who live there.  The race went well.  My 10 weeks of boot camp paid off.  I ended without injury, felt strong and finished with a personal record that was just shy of my target goal.  By the end of my one week stay, I was happy to have my full mojo back and that got me thinking about what “mojo” actually is. I really like this Merriam Webster definition for English learners –a power that may seem magical and that allows someone to be very effective, successful[1]. Investigations into such magical powers span the disciplines of biology, psychology and sociology but I think our own experiences can reveal some simple truths that can help us maintain this important form of energy.

Positive life experiences, like my recent trip to California, fuel a motivation that moves me to greater productivity and healthy actions.  Such pleasant experiences also increase the energy reserves necessary to feed those actions.  Conversely, negative experiences, such as a frustrating situation with work, or an argument with someone, can kill my desire to do what I need to do or zap my energy reserves and reduce my capacity to get things done.  I think of my experiences as being comprised of two elements: actions and reactions.

Actions include both thinking about things and doing things.  Reactions include uncontrollable feelings that are in response to actions (my own and those of others) and conscious decisions to act in response to those feelings.   My experiences represent a life-long, complicated interplay between my silent biochemistry, the energy transforming processes of the molecules that form who I am, and my awareness of what that all means to me mentally and physically.  When I am able to reasonably and accurately link the effects of my experiences in the past to the choices I have made in my actions and/or my reactions, I recognize the power I have to improve my life.  For me, this process seems easier with positive experiences than negative ones but it is my negative experiences that have a greater impact on my quality of life. Why is learning and making changes in response to negative experiences so challenging?

First the process of aging, constantly and at times drastically, affects our experiences.  Our reality is not static, it is dynamic.  Second, the negative effects of our experiences are not always acute or immediately recognizable such that we can readily link them to our decisions.  Rather it is the cumulative effects that are telling.   I have found that awareness is key.

Paying attention to how I feel and trying to understand why I make the choices I do, can compel me to seek reliable information.  But information is often not enough to motivate action.  What I have discovered is that taking action, even when I don’t feel like it, can stimulate motivation and an overall upward spiral in my mental and physical energy levels.   I also like to remind myself, as Ayn Rand so eloquently put it- “You can ignore reality but you cannot ignore the consequences of ignoring reality”.  That quote helps me frame my decisions more honestly- margarita or mojo?  I’ll leave you to ponder these thoughts and reflect on the incredible power you possess in improving your quality of life.  Make today the day you do something to take better care of yourself whether you feel like it or not.  Your mojo matters.  Remember:

  • Thoughts, feelings and actions are both the cause and the effect of your energy levels
  • Invest time in taking care of yourself
  • Don’t wait for motivation, decide to create it through action

[1] Mojo. (n.d.). Retrieved March 19, 2018, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mojo