The Wealth You Accumulate
Let’s rule out the obvious contender. My younger self’s answer to what I want to be when I grow up was, ‘the richest man in the world.’ Money helps provide basic necessities but does little beyond that.
Verdict: Bad measure.
The Places You Travel
I want my life to be an adventure, and traveling to far-off lands is probably the closest I have come to having adventures in real life. Travel has helped me grow more than anything else, but it is misleading to say that simply visiting new places makes you a better person.
Travel helps you grow because it makes you question your assumptions about people and life. At the end of the day, people everywhere are the same – they chase the same things, and have the same fears. The answer to your life doesn’t lie in Eastern mysticism.
The Epiphanies You Have
Our life is peppered with moments when we feel like we ‘woke up’ from an illusion, and things will never be the same again.
The moment you promise to always stand up for yourself. That time you realized that life always works out in the end. The day you made up your mind that you refuse to participate in the industrialized slaughter of 56 billion animals ever year. Your first good travel memory. That life-changing conversation.
Those days feel like checkpoints.
Verdict: Good measure.
The Things You Overcome
Overcoming fears and achieving things makes for a great Instagram feed. I want to believe it’s a good measure of life too. Shouldn’t your life be about achievements? We beam with pride when we show people our trophies. The happiness behind this pride comes from the attention more than the accomplishment itself. If nobody could see our social media feed, wouldn’t it look different?
By using achievements to measure our life we also invalidate our old underachieving self.
Being a caterpillar wasn’t a butterfly’s past mistake.
Verdict: A measure of hubris, maybe!
The Friends and Relationships You Foster
Your life is about you, not a pinball game of people you run into. Solitude gets a bad rep because of how inept we are at dealing with it, but it an essential element of our journey. It’s like a cold shower. It never gets easier. With practice we get better at dealing with it and can channel it into something productive.
Think of your life as a ship. Your friends and relationships are harbors. Ships are built to weather the storms, not bask in the harbors. Moby-Dick would be a lousy book if the ship never left the harbor!
Verdict: People are a side-quest.
Your Life as the Sum of Least Regrets
Growing old with regrets sounds terrifying. People often wish they had traveled more, worked less, or took more risks. It’s hard to proactively live your life in a way that you don’t end up with regrets. Unless you have seen the alternate reality you can’t say that your life would have been better if you had taken difference decisions.
Verdict: Not very useful.
Random Days of Happiness
When I look back to find my most treasured memories I find something odd. Those memories are composed of arbitrary moments on random days.
That one time in a coffee shop looking at bright yellow leaves; that one early morning that smells of geraniums; heading home on a dark, windy day in Wellington; my first day strolling around Toronto in fall wearing an overcoat; reading Virginia Woolf with a cappuccino, looking out at two kids fidgeting in a wagon.
These happy little moments don’t beget a reason to exist. They just are. If only life had more of these.
Verdict: Excellent measure!
Here is the thing: I am 26, and I don’t know squat. I am sure there are 10 more things that I am yet to figure out. Maybe that is what life is – finding most ways to measure your life?