Monday, 22 July 2013

"Differentiating Standard of Living from Quality of Life"

"From the mainstream point of view, standard of living is everything in modern society. A high standard of living refers primarily to access to money and material wealth. By this measurement, we have enjoyed a very high standard of living in America for many decades now.
The average middle class worker lives in a comfortable home that would be viewed as extravagant from a historical perspective. The average middle class worker has access to clean running water, electricity, central heating and air conditioning, modern ovens, dishwashers, washing machines, and dryers. The average home is well furnished and contains at least one computer with internet access. Studies have determined that the average American household has 2.28 vehicles.
This snapshot points to a very high standard of living.
I suspect that, in our haste, we have sacrificed quality of life for this standard of living. Quality of life can only be defined by each individual but I would suggest that the term broadly refers to happiness and free time. In our rush to earn more and more dollars and buy more and more stuff we have forgotten about what is truly important.
I personally learned the importance of quality of life shortly after joining the rat race. I lived in a metropolitan area and worked at one of the mega banks downtown. I commuted to work each morning on the city light rail and my total commute time was roughly fifty minutes each way. Every morning I drove to the light rail parking garage, rushed on to the train, and spent the trip trying to drown out the noise pollution around me. Once downtown, we all flocked off of the train and rushed to our corporate buildings. Once at work, I spent nine hours a day in a dingy little cubicle that had an invasive fluorescent light right above it. My particular cubicle was one of many in a cube farm and I did not enjoy one moment of quiet or privacy all day long and I typically did not see the sunlight except for a brief moment here and there on trips to the restroom. After my nine hours in this pseudo-prison, I rushed back to the light rail station with my fellow rat-racers and proceeded to spend the return trip trying to drown out the noise pollution around me. Once back at the parking garage, we all flocked off of the train and rushed back to our cars to attempt to beat the traffic out. Roughly ten and a half hours had come and gone by the time I was finally back at home. I was compensated for exactly eight of those hours.
Needless to say, those days in the rat race wore me down very quickly. While I was able to afford a high standard of living, my quality of life was intolerable to me personally.
Now I am sure that there are many people who thrive in such a fast paced environment and for those people the corresponding quality of life may be acceptable and that is wonderful. But most of my colleagues at the office seemed to share my sentiments and so this article is written with them in mind.
I think that the most important thing for each of us to do individually is to determine what kind of life we would like to have. If you spend your time engaged in activities that are enjoyable and meaningful to you then your quality of life will be high.
We are conditioned to think that our material standard of living will automatically equate to a high quality of life. This is why we are told to get good grades in high school so that we can go to a prestigious university and then secure a high paying job as a doctor or a lawyer or a financier, or whatever it is. This view, however, assumes that a high income translates into a high standard of living which then translates into a high quality of life. But it’s not necessarily so.
At the end of the day, our time is really all that matters. At the end of my short time here on Earth, I imagine that I will look back and not care one bit about how much money I made. I will not care about what kind of car that I drove or how fashionable my clothes were. All that will be important, I imagine, is what I did to add value to myself and those around me. Did I take the time to develop wisdom and spirituality personally? Did I spend enough time with family and friends? Did I do enough to help those in my community or those in need? Was my life meaningful?
I suspect that, in my final moments, I will not care one bit about how high my standard of living was. But I imagine that my quality of life will mean the world to me."


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