Quality of life may mean different things to different people. A peasant living in a remote village in an African country may have a totally different set of criteria for quality of life when compared to one who lives in a suburb of Los Angeles.
But need for quality in certain things are basic — the fundamental human needs of living – food, clothing and shelter. Next in the list are the social needs — status, respectability in society, acceptance amid peer group etc. Then comes self actualization — your desire to show to the outside world your specific skills, uniqueness, out-of-the-ordinary capabilities for your self-satisfaction as well as for name and fame.
The above list is according to Moslow. But in India, the great spiritual masters of Hinduism say that there is yet another level in these needs. It is self-realization or (moksha, Mukti, Atma Sakshatkar, God realization etc).
When you have a “reasonably good” level of fulfillment of most of the basic needs, you can say that the quality of your life is good. Here, it is extremely difficult to clearly stare what the level of “reasonableness” is. It all depends on many psychological factors like desire, greed, tendency of comparing oneself with others, peer group pressure, influence of the spouse, demands of parents and children, common sense, level of mental balance, level of pragmatism in one’s outlook, extent of belief in God and His Will.
Assuming that you are falling short of your own expectations in many fronts in life, how will you improve quality of life? Here are my tips:
A) Food, Clothing and Shelter
Whether food, clothing or shelter, decide what is the level that will satisfy you. Make sure that you are not too greedy in your expectations and you are not trying to bite something which you can’t chew.
Then moderate them to one step down to a lower level intentionally and tell yourself that it is not always possible to get the best in life nor is it worth expending time, energy and effort in acquiring the best. Tell yourself that the hunt and the labor behind getting the best at times may rob you of many other simple pleasures of life, losing of which you may even regret later in life.
Now, go ahead to earn money by ethical and legal means to acquire and enjoy them. This way, you can definitely find your basic quality of life improving.
B) Social Needs
Set your own standards of social status and never compare yourself with anyone — your colleague, your spouse’s brother or a neighbor. If you think some one will not respect you if you do not possess such and such things in life, then decide firmly that his relationship does not matter to you at all. It does not mean that you will scorn at him; it only means that you are prepared to distance yourself from him without any ill feeling.
C) Self Actualization
Know your true capabilities and judge yourself as if a third person. Do you really think that you have the soccer playing skills to aspire for your place in the national team? Do you have the true potential, wherewithal, and conducive faculties to aspire to reach that position? Be pragmatic. If the answer is no, reduce your goals and aspirations. Be content in reaching a level commensurate with your true capabilities.
D) Self realization
If you have really understood that self-realization is the true goal of life, then you are such a person who bothers least about your quality of life! Realizing God or realizing your atman demands the highest level of sacrifice in life and that sacrifice involves materialism, status, prestige, relationships and so on. A self realized person sacrifices everything in material life to acquire the spiritual wealth which, he knows, is the very defining standard behind really true quality of life.