Thursday, October 23, 2008

Whither the Quality of Life

How’s Life ? All of us have been posed this question, at some time in our lives, if not almost every day by everyone we meet. And we usually shrug off the question with flippant dismissal. Very few of us are ecstatic or gush about how swell life is. Many of us reply with a weary sigh while some of us grimace with ill concealed pain. What we are really describing of-course is not life as in being alive and breathing, but instead, the Quality of Life we live.

I have often asked myself, what is the quality of life we seek, and could not help comparing life, to food, which is the easiest way to see whether we have or do not have, the recipe to make life tick. But lets talk about that later.

Childhood, the cradle of happiness...... seizing every moment !

Among the majority of us fortunates, childhood is when life is most enjoyable, as bereft of responsibility, all we have to do is savour every wonderful moment in time, to the fullest. We are taken care of, sheltered, fed, clothed, educated and kept in good health. Whenever we take ill, all we have to do is lie back and recover. Nothing clutters the brain beyond the events of the day. It is often said that a child is happiest because he or she lives in the present with both mind and body as one unit.

On our journey through life we begin transferring the state of mind to the past and the future, in opposition to the body, thus causing what is commonly called Stress. As young adults, life begins to bloom, as the mind and body are nourished with knowledge and metabolism, peaking to produce perhaps the finest co-ordination between the mental and physical states. Life is one great colourful flourish on the canvass of time. But what happens thereafter ?

The perilous path of maturity and focus....

Youth moves on to maturity and we begin to gain “focus” on our lives and what direction we wish our lives to take. Ambitions and achievements take the place of adventure. Dedication and devotion to purpose replaces dare devilry. Deliberate professionalism prevails over impulsive intuition, while Career quests overshadow the carefree spirit, forging character and mettle of leaders and entrepreneurs .

Coping with stress, chaos, work-life imbalances, pressures of the daily grind, people relationships, demanding targets, conflicting goals, aspirations and professional paradigms of an ever changing world can be not only a daunting and challenging task but also a mentally and physically sapping ordeal !

And the Quality of Life ?

Executive stress, burnout , suicide, divorce are some of the answers, unless life resembles a balanced meal. Aha ! you say, and how is that so ? Well, consider this . Sometimes we assume life to be , only that part which takes up most of our time. For the career chasers it is their vertical growth rate in the organisation or in their own business and for the homemaker , it is housework. All this reflects Quantity and not Quality. But not so with food !

The Quantity of Life ?

Almost anybody I know has dined out at a restaurant . When choosing where to eat , we invariably look for , not just good cuisine , but also the location of the restaurant, the parking service, the air conditioning, the music, the décor, the ambience , the nature of its current clientele and so on.. While all we really do is eat there. But the packaging and the surrounding benefits are so necessary and all so important to us. If so, then why do we judge life by just the food, or sometimes by just the main course ?

Why not package life such that even the most miserable meal or career glows in the ambience of the surrounding hobbies or career off-shoots? Whenever I’ve sat down to order a meal , I invariably look for the accompaniments, and often enough, it is these that decide the success of the meal. I cannot get into my steak , no matter how delicious it looks, without my baked potatoes, spinach and boiled veggies and that pat of golden butter oozing goodness. I know of a fellow who went berserk when he did not receive his pickles with the food. It simply shows that not always is the quality of food or for that matter, life, defined by just the main serving , but often enough, it is the tiny add-ons that really decide the lip smacking goodness of life.

Packaging the Zing !

What are these add-ons that put the zing into life ? This is for each one of us to determine and can often be an absorbing hobby or sport or music or any parallel line of activity that brings in tangible fulfillment. Sometimes physical evidence of effort ploughed in, does not reflect as much as we desire, in our basic square meal in life. So we choose to bring in activities of our own , which meet this need.

I often offset my reverses or lack of results at work by creating my own successes, unto myself, if not to anybody else, through penning my thoughts and experiences into tangible form , either in prose or poetry. Energizing yourself becomes necessary to sustain the quality of living in the main life zones, usually career and family life. Somehow , if we were as fussy about the add-ons to our lives as we are in choosing the toppings for our pizza, life could become one big delight.

Life is a choice, like it or love it !

Not all of us are fortunate enough to choose a line of work or career that dovetails comfortably with our skills or education or choice. Ideally , this is what we need to do, but haven’t we often been told at the restaurant, that the very item we wished to savour, is not on the menu of the day ? So do we leave the restaurant and seek another one where we find what we want, even if it takes all night ? The chances are , we don’t , and instead settle for next best ,or whatever else is available.

To reconcile to the misfiring of our carefully constructed plans, we can either open our minds to the new experience of what gets served in our plate, or disguise what we have with a whole lot of sauces and condiments , hoping to reconstruct something totally new , although with insufficient means to do so. Isn’t life often frighteningly like that?

When we approach the Quality of Life, we more often than not, consider the Quantity of Life as the Quality of Life , and here is where we source our judgements on what our lives are all about.

If we could only pause to listen to the winds of fresh thought whispering through our minds, we would certainly have cause for celebrating the true Quality of Life !

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