Sunday, March 4, 2012

My quality of life

I met up recently with an old friend overseas. It has been a long 3 years since I met him and every time we chat about old times, I learnt something about life and relish knowing my old self. People essentially change over time; the current self is vastly different from the old self a decade ago. We are changing without self conscious. Sometimes people like to cling on memories as memories remain but people change, isn’t it?

However, some things in life don’t change. A decade ago, I was driving a humble 6 years old Japanese Toyota corolla 1.3litre to school. Today I am still driving a Japanese make except with an upsize 300CC simply because there wasn’t a 1.3litre version. It is still trusty and when I see people on road with a brand new continental car breaking down, I will grin to myself and pat my steering wheel for giving me worry free driving experience.

I realize that my need for material wants have not changed at all over a decade. When I met up with my friend I was still wearing old winter clothing and eating cheap food. Over the years, the only thing that has changed was my bank balances. I remembered earning $2,000 a month eating the same hawker food, occasional restaurant and overseas indulgences. Currently I earn about $7,000 monthly, I am still eating the same, spending the same and having the same level of material needs. I must be a freak as my 3.5 fold increase in income does not translate to a better life style! I am probably spending more on investment only!

Why is that so? Hasn’t my quality of life improved over the years?

If we look at per capita GDP, my “quality of life” under official statistics would have improved tremendously; if we look at GNP, my quality of life would have remained the same as my spending hardly increase much; if we look at spiritual satisfaction, I probably have enjoyed my than 4 folds increase in quality of life.

I believe quality of life cannot be measured by the annual value of your home or the average household income. It is the same of Maslow hierarchy of needs: A blue collar worker can achieve self actualization needs while a CEO may still be struggling to satisfy the esteem needs level.

Over the decade, I have gotten a few postgraduate degrees, been through a few relationships and changed 2 jobs. I changed from a high paying job government bonded job to a new private sector entry level job before moving on to a managerial role to where I am today. My pay fluctuated from $2,000 to $6,000 back to $2,000 and to current levels. I changed countless boss in-between: Bosses that groomed me and bosses that made me burning mad and left the government service.

On hindsight, whatever I have gone through has not been in vain. If not what I have been through, I would not have survived in my current post and be where I am today. If not for my nasty bosses, I would not have met nice ones that were willing to groom me. Life is about trying out new things isn’t it?

Along the years, my pursuit of knowledge made me a calmer person; I get less irritable on unfair treatment; more tolerance for irritating colleagues and bosses; less vocal on things that simply cannot be changed overnight. I will still not spend more than $70,000 on a car and still a firm believer that money should be spent on things you used the most, not on what people will use to judge you.

I do not know if I would change a decade from now, whatever it is, I believe I will continue to enjoy life and enhance my quality of life, regardless of my earning capacity. It is not how much I earn but rather my expectations of life that dictates my perception of good life quality.