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Four words that describe your life might be a road map to greater productivity and happiness. So many thoughts occupy our conscious and unconsciousness and cause us great concern often leading to anxiety. What if we could compartmentalize these four main areas of concern and create more space for creativity. When our mind is calm or has the right level of adrenaline we can enter flow states and reach peak performances, experience dopamine, and more easily find our purpose.

If you consider your greatest concerns underlying most of your behaviors and perspective, you will probably find these four themes:

  • Survival
  • Pleasure
  • Freedom
  • Death

The order is random but each has a basis in instincts that flow through most of our minds in various forms on a daily basis. Whereas the word death may not come to mind daily, we certainly are concerned with many defenses including home security, vigilance outdoors, driving carefully, concern about terrorists and criminals, countries that threaten with nukes, personal health, and so many other daily encounters which our personalities immediately characterize and prioritize to keep our lizard brain operating at a functional degree of adrenaline.

From the moment we wake up we are checking our phones, grabbing our coffee, thinking of our to-do-list, and planning our days. On the face of it we are pro-active but that is our strategy to remain in control of our time. Time is our most precious commodity and the targets of our focus determine how productively we will spend our day. Our short and long term thoughts involve remaining competitive in our work and pleasing everyone that is necessary for insuring our income, position, or market share. The fact that over 50% of Americans fail to take all their vacation time is a red flag for fear.

While survival is always on our minds, so is pleasure. Pleasures makes life worth living. We need pleasures because they are instinctive and they rationalize our sacrifices. We are constantly looking for every opportunity to get a little perk of dopamine. We get dopamine from food, sex, shopping, achievement, and many destructive habits such as anger, violence, and hatred. Our brain gets other happiness chemicals from exercise, caring, protecting, and contributing. Not many hours go by when we don’t have some thoughts about pleasure whether its a work break, planning a vacation, or getting together with loved ones.

Finding freedom is one of man’s strongest instincts. Everyone wants freedom. We think the lottery can deliver freedom even though most people that win are soon broke. We would love to be free in our work to handle problems the way we think it should be done and pursue goals that would make us feel worthwhile. Daniel Pink in Drive said we have the desire for autonomy, purpose, and contribution. We want to contribute to the bigger picture and we want to discover who we are and why we are here. It may often be wishing we had a day to ourselves but given unlimited time to ourselves, we usually look for something more meaningful. Retirement is supposed to deliver those golden years of just pursuing pleasures. Getting rich would also seemingly deliver us from our lives of constant worry.

Death is not a word that rises into your consciousness every day, but your actions and behaviors on the subconscious level flying by at the speed of thought belie your constant concern with safety. You have concerns of home security, commuting, traveling, criminals, terrorists, and hostile countries. Whereas our concerns each day might be subliminal, we know that injury from accidents, chance encounters with criminals, surprise health issues, and even destructive behaviors can lead to changes in our quality of life and longevity. Our powers of rationalization minimize most concerns but we rarely feel 100% safe all the time.

The four words that describe your life

What would life look like ideally? We would be rich, other people would handle our investments, we would sail on our yacht from country to country or island and deciding what to have for lunch would be our biggest worry. Not going to happen. We all want more free time. What we want is time to pursue what interests us most or best lends itself to feeling our life is worthwhile and fulfilling. We desire autonomy to express our thoughts and lives in the most meaningful way.

Be aware of the four areas of greatest concerns. Most of our thoughts lie within these parameters. List the concerns on a piece of paper that we feel are priorities in each of the four categories. Consider what our strategy is for dealing with each item in the subgroups. When an alarming thought comes to mind, immediately categorize it under one of the four categories and consider if we have a strategy in place to deal with it.

The four words that describe your life

Create our long term goals for each category. I am always concerned about death and quality of life and I have an excellent nutrition habit and exercise daily. I am concerned with any new activity that would create too much stress. I believe the experts that having good friends and family ties prolongs our life span. In my survival plan, I pursue my passions because I am difficult to defeat when I have total commitment to success. I live within my means. I don’t procrastinate. I am always learning and building my personal skills and knowledge.

In my second life since real estate, I have valued time over money which is my freedom. I seek meaningful activities, always want to contribute to the bigger picture, and look for challenges with reasonable risks. Looking for activities in which I have developed competence and can bar distractions, I enter states of flow which any athlete or person pursuing their passions will tell you, are states of bliss.

Your life doesn’t need to seem over whelming and out of control. You can be the captain and chart your course, hire the crew, make plans for contingencies, and apply all your skills to moving forward. After all, life is an adventure.