6 Signs You’re Living a Psychologically Rich Life


“Can we do the death exercise?” a client asked me.

I hesitated a moment. This was unusual: it’s usually me that comes up with the exercises. And, if I was going to suggest this one, I wouldn’t describe it like that. It sounds a bit, well, bleak.

“You know,” she persisted. “The one where you look back on your life from your deathbed and ask if you’re happy with what you’ve done.”

The deathbed perspective is sometimes used in therapy to help people find more meaning in their lives. To figure out what (and who) matters to them so they can, where possible, make adjustments — before it’s too late.

Looking at life backwards can be useful but you have to be careful how you go there with clients because it can throw up a lot of regrets. And that can make people feel more stuck than when they walked in the door.

But I do love helping people find meaning in their lives. To figure out what lights them up, makes them feel rich; to helps them think about the trail they’re leaving behind. It’s my favourite part of the job.

How Do You Want to Be Rich?

Yes, that’s the right question. Not whether you want to be rich — but how? If wealth for you is all about money, all power to you. Don’t read this, it’ll bore you.

But if your idea of wealth is bigger and broader than that, if you rank the quality of your life and your relationships, and how you use your time, over your financial investments, then this is for you.

I’m not saying money is not important — it is, and life is particularly stressful — even devastatingly hard — when you don’t have enough.

But true wealth isn’t found in banks or stocks or bitcoin or the stash you have under your mattress (bad idea, btw). It lies in the way you approach life, the way you see the world, the way you find meaning.

Here are signs that you have a rich inner game and, when the game is over, you’ll be happy.

6 Signs of Psychologically Rich Life

“I have a simple philosophy: Fill what’s empty. Empty what’s full. Scratch where it itches.” — Alice Roosevelt Longworth

1. You have a solid reason for getting up.

I don’t do words like passion and purpose. I know they are good in theory but, when people don’t feel they have them, they feel worse. They feel like they’re on a perpetual hunt for something they can’t see, let alone find.

You don’t need a big, grand reason for getting up. You don’t need to spring out of bed with your battery charge on 100%. Who does that anyway? You just need a good, solid reason for being here on Planet Earth. Like doing your work well, feeding your family, making your art, serving your community, looking after your neighbours. Just something in your life that makes you feel okay, that you are making your contribution to the melting pot of the greater good.

2. You sink into the little pleasures of life.

Novelist and philosopher Iris Murdoch said this: “One of the secrets of a happy life is continuous small treats.” I love that. I also know that in the pandemic-smashed world of the last two years, many of those continuous little treats have been taken away — and that’s been hard on our mental health.

But, still, amidst all the struggle, there have been some good times, some fun, even joy. Show me the person who can immerse themselves in the little, often daily, pleasures of life, and I’ll show you a happy one.

3. You create warmth in all your relationships.

This doesn’t mean you’re all touchy-feely and go around hugging everyone you meet. Weird. And, in 2022, very, very wrong. But you are empathetic, interested, a good listener; you are the person who tries to warm up the lives of everyone who matters to you. Actually, even people who don’t.

4. You give yourself fully — but not insanely — to your work.

You lock in on your work. Whether you’re in a job you love (lucky you) or a job you don’t love (it won’t be forever) or a job that is a step on some sort of ladder or a means to an end — you give 100% to it. That doesn’t mean working crazy hours or answering emails at midnight. That’s slightly insane, not to mention unhealthy.

Work is a wonderful way of stimulating and challenging ourselves and feeling a sense of pride and achievement. But if your life is a subset of your work — not the other way around — then you’re getting something wrong.

5. You use curiosity to keep yourself alive in the world.

You are interested. In everything. Or at least lots of things. And that makes you interesting to be with. Even to yourself.

6. You don’t engage in, and get distracted by, The Rant.

The Rant is everywhere. The Rant is people talking, yelling, writing, posting, tweeting their own opinions and — in doing so — trying to bully others into believing they are right or cool or a leader or Someone Who Should Be Listened To. Sigh. How boring. And, also, misguided. People can’t be persuaded to other views against their will. It just won’t happen. If anything, they’ll cling even tighter to their own thoughts and ways. To persuade people to do anything you need to get inside their own cage and find out what’s happening in there, what motivates them, what they value.

Engaging in The Rant is distracting, it scatters your attention, it stops you from doing wholeheartedly what you’re meant to do — or anything.

So don’t rant. Please don’t rant. Just quietly state your opinions and let the rest of us decide what to do with them.

In the end, there’s one goal for all of us. To have lived well — fully. So forget about stressing over fame and fortune for a while. Instead, wind up the heat and ask yourself the same question my client did: Will you be happy when it’s over?

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