Should happiness or productivity be the measure of whether you’ve lived a good life?

Marty Nemko thinks that the answer is productivity.  As he points out in his latest book What’s The Big Idea: Reinventions for a Better America: “the extent to which you have left the world better is, in my view, the most valid criterion for assessing whether you’ve lived a worthwhile life.”

Instead of filling our lives with things that might make us happy in the moment like video games, movies, tasty foods, fancy clothes, vacations, or a nice car, he recommends that we live life by using The Meter.  The idea is simple yet powerful:

Selling drugs to kids would register a -10.

Playing a video game would register a 0.

Working to cure a disease would register a +10.

Marty thinks we should live our lives by always asking ourselves how our next activity would register on the meter.

I think that just about everyone will be unable to register a +10 or even a positive number on the meter with every block of time they have, no matter how hardworking or well-meaning they are.  However, I do see the value of repeatedly considering whether our next actions will add to, take away, or do nothing for society.  I also can see how productivity directed at making the world a better place might lead to genuine personal happiness and fulfillment.

What do you think?

© 2013 by Jonathan Wai

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