Today I want to speak about an activity from Martin Seligman that I found in his book Authentic Happiness. It is a technique that allows you to describe how you feel about your life and if you are happy about the path it is leading you down. He explains that figuring out how you feel at any moment will not give you an accurate picture of your life because sadness and joy can bias the results. Maybe you think you could have done better on a job interview and have a negative view of your life, or perhaps it is inflated because you started a relationship with someone. The technique’s name is “weighing up your life” and is done once a year.

How Do You Begin?

To begin, find a time shortly after New Year’s Day that is quiet and free from anything that may bias your view of your life. Seligman saves a copy each year on his computer to compare how he feels about his life each year. On a scale of 1-10 (terrible to excellent), he rates his life using several domains: love, profession, finance, play, friends, health, generativity, overall. You can create other fields if you feel they are necessary or create subdomains (Love could include family, friends, romantic relationships). Those categories are my focus areas, so I will not add or change anything. After rating up the areas of your life, explain why you gave each domain a specific number on the scale. If you want to take it one step further, create a drawing (it can be good or bad) that illustrates how you feel about that specific domain. If you thoroughly enjoy your job, this area could include colourful flowers and trees. If your job does not make you feel fulfilled, you can draw dead trees and flowers.

What Should You Do After Completing the Activity?

After identifying where you are at in life, if you believe any areas need improvement, it may be helpful to brainstorm several ways to accomplish these. If you think you are not having enough fun because you are spending too much time working, you could invest your time in completing hobbies or spending time with friends as an example. Understanding where you are in life enables you to think about and pursue things that can help make your life more entertaining. 

I like identifying which areas I think are the most important and dedicating more time to completing activities in the category. If I value generativity over finance, I could donate money to charities or invest in companies that positively impact the world. Another approach you could take is to allot more time in your schedules to do more things you value. To address the same example above, instead of sacrificing my finances to pursue my desires for generativity, I could spend time volunteering by picking up trash at a park, for example.

Another thing you can do is compare this activity to each year you do it to see if your life is moving in the right direction. You can take insights from each activity to construct a plan on how you will make this year better than the last. Your priorities could change from each year, but it is valuable to understand how each year is related to each other. Doing this permits you to know how to improve certain domains and helps you identify what areas require more time in your life.

What are Some Final Insights About the Weighing Up Your Life Activity?

Taking a bird’s eye view of your life will allow you to determine solutions to improve your life which is why this exercise is essential. Doing this activity also forces you to look back at your year, making me aware of my mistakes and highest moments. I think about how I can improve myself and am grateful for the various opportunities and changes I have made throughout the year. Hopefully, you can use this activity to help move your life in a positive direction and utilize your time in a way that gives you the most joy. I gave some examples of how I will use this activity over the years, and I hope you experiment to use this activity to its fullest potential.