By Clifford Jones
It was early in the morning just a few days ago when I found myself sipping coffee and facing one of life’s great questions: Why am I here?
If you’re like me, maybe you find yourself asking the same question. As I sat there early that morning, my mind raced around a recent business challenge. It dawned on me that I was not really happy about where I was emotionally, at that moment, nor with the decision I had been wrestling with over a technology partner.
But letting it drag me down overall seemed foolish. So I decided to take a closer look.
I stopped to ask myself, “What am I really measuring today that I am not happy at the moment overall?”
When it comes to investing our money we want to know we’ll get that money back some day along with a positive return. There is a simple formula for return on investment when it comes to money. But what about life?
What do we really want when it comes to investing our time, the countless waking hours we devote to our businesses, careers, education and life’s work? Most of us just want to be happy overall. And to be happy overall we need to look at the individual elements that contribute to being happy or not happy. Then drill down from there.
Making a list
In trying to figure out the ROI for my life, I decided to measure my overall happiness and joy, and created a list of categories in the same way I would determine key numbers for my business.
I started with the assumption that I can’t do better than 100 percent on any given day. I also built into my simple formula the categories I felt best represent “whole living” or having a complete life as a small business guy and entrepreneur. Not that it’s any better or worse than life in the corporate lane. It’s just we all have our pressures and challenges to overcome as we grow. My primary filter is mostly around loving what I do in my work: business development, sales, marketing, training and coaching small companies and entrepreneurs. I need to love what I do for work every day, because then everything else in my life tends to flow better, including cash.
Here are the 10 categories I came up with that may apply well to you. I total the categories and see where I am in each morning. Once I can see the big picture in that moment, I can drill down into challenging areas of my life with more clarity.
During my quiet time in the morning, when I get ready for the day ahead, I can carefully contemplate each area of my life, reflect on where I am most grateful and focus on getting clear in my mind and heart about the decisions of the day. I can pray for added guidance, set more powerful intentions and trust that my decisions will work out for the best. My life gets better. I trust my decisions more. I feel clear in my head and heart when I take the time to do this.
This measures how I’m feeling spiritually. It’s No. 1 for a reason. It doesn’t matter what your religious beliefs are. Most of us seek alignment with a higher power, and when I feel centered spiritually, then I feel better about everything else in my life. It’s a big category for me.
This relates to my thinking and what my self-talk sounds like. I can be my own worst enemy when I get down on myself because I am super competitive and driven to succeed. That comes with expectations and attachments, which can lead to disappointment. This category also relates to my education, daily reading, meditation practice, clarity of thinking, presence, confidence and overall mental fitness.
This is the measure of how I am feeling physically. There was a time I lost the ability to walk upright and had to rely on a walker to get around. Before this, I was a champion athlete in high school, college and adult. As a result, I don’t take fitness for granted. This is about feeding the best foods into my body, drinking enough water, sleeping well, keeping stress low and energy consistently stable and high.
This is huge for me because I’ve been married for 30 years and blessed to have two amazing sons and a very loving, supportive family. As any parent knows, raising children is quite a journey. Talk about spiritual growth potential! So I measure this category with extreme reverence, especially when gearing up for a family reunion or the holidays.
5. Artistic expression
All humans have innate, artistic ability to think and create pretty much anything we want. The key to this lies in our ability to believe it! I measure this because as a kid I always thought I was terrible at art. I couldn’t read music notes, play an instrument, dance, or draw well. Let’s just say arts and crafts is not my gift. And I beat myself up about it a lot until I realized my talent and interest in writing more. Today, I love to write and create marketing campaigns. This is a big category for all of us if we want to keep growing our brains.
6. Social equity
This includes friends, social reach and access. I keep this independent of family because I believe our net worth, how we do financially and socially, is a direct reflection of who we hang around the most. In other words, who we hang around affects everything about us! Choose your friends wisely, right? This measure is important because if you are a leader you will see tons of happy people following you. If you think you’re a great leader and you don’t have anyone following you, think again. If you have social equity you have access to more people and opportunities so it’s important to measure this independent of family.
My father always preached the importance of cash flow. When running my business and my family finances, I focus first on cash flow. This is the difference between what we make and what we spend. If we manage making money well and keeping expenses low, we create wealth. I want to be happy making money, also! So keep a close eye on cash flow.
If we are truly happy in our work and productive, most of us accumulate wealth. Wealth is what we are worth on paper. It’s also how we feel and see ourselves, which is why I build income and wealth into this mix in the middle. Money is a byproduct of many things. Wealth is a measure of how we manage our money and everything before we make a penny at work. Wealth here is about the measure of money.
This is a category most people obsess over. My opinion is the happier we are in our business or career, the more likely we’ll have a higher income and the ability to build a lifestyle that’s comfortable and desirous. I need to be happy in my business, which is why I left a safe career when I was 30 and jumped into entrepreneurship and building small businesses.
10. Service to others
I can be a selfish person consumed with my own needs and goals. But when I focus on being of service to others, I get great joy and satisfaction. I used to do it out of guilt and obligation. Now I take on my service commitments with gratitude. This is a very important measure to me, and one area I will definitely get better at over time.
This is how I now measure my return on life. Use it as you wish. Share it with your significant other, kids and friends. Play with it a bit to make it your own. Once again, I use this each morning as a gauge. I assign a number of one to 10 to each category and then I total the numbers. This serves as a powerful process and visual reminder of where exactly I can be most grateful and where I need to seek the most guidance and support for feeling better overall about my progress. Each measure impacts the whole.
Can any of us get to 100 percent? I don’t know. For me, I am reluctant to assign a 10 to any single category, even though some of mine warrant it. I just prefer to believe there is always potential following my nines. The bottom line is I am a very happy, grateful guy most days and this is one powerful way to remind myself of how blessed I am. I hope you find it useful also.
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