How Do You Measure Your Life? 6 Possibilities

Take a minute today to ask yourself how you measure your life. Only then will you know how you want to live, and can begin now to create a life of meaning. This post covers 6 possibilities. Spoiler alert: the last three are more meaningful.

“I still think we are afraid to die because we are still trying to figure out how to measure our lives. In years? Achievements? Friends? Popularity? The thing is we cannot know if our life has been worthwhile until we figure out how to measure it.” – Father David

1. Chronological age

The most common measurement of life is chronological age. Societies are considered more developed if the lifespan of their population is longer. Living a long life is considered an achievement, and people can become famous simply by living long enough. Examples include Mariam Amash at 122 years Edna Parker at 115 years.

Striving to live a longer life has much of the modern world exercising more and watching their diet. Yet we intuitively know that there must be more to life than mere age. Surely the only reason to want to live longer is to give ourselves time to do the things that truly matter.

“It’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” – Abraham Lincoln

2. Material wealth

Many people measure success by the size of their house, their car, their paychecks, and their bank accounts. We envy those who make it to the list of wealthiest people, and wish we were one of them.

There is nothing wrong with being materially well off. When you provide goods and services that benefit others, you will generally be rewarded financially. This is right and fair. It’s when this becomes the sole yardstick of a successful life that things become a little skewed.

“Material abundance without character is the path to destruction.” – Thomas Jefferson

3. Achievements

“A life spent worthily should be measured by deeds, not years.” – R B Sheridan

The desire to achieve drives us to spend long hours at work climbing the corporate ladder. Scientists devote years of their lives researching a specialised niche in order to achieve a breakthrough. And athletes punish their bodies beyond endurance to win the gold medal.

We should certainly strive to do something useful with our time on earth. At the same time, there is more to life than what you achieve. We are human beings, not human doings.

4. Legacy

“The great use of life is to spend it on something that will outlast it.” – James Truslow Adam

The Nobel Prize is a famous legacy. Alfred Nobel read a mistaken orbituary of himself which mentioned the invention of dynamite as his main achievement. Nobel decided that he wanted to leave the world a legacy of peace and contribution, not the legacy of death. Hence his Nobel Foundation which inspires so much good work today.

We can’t all be Alfred Nobel, but we can decide what kind of legacy we want to leave. Perhaps you will raise a happy child. Or you may build an organisation that will carry on the work you started. Your legacy could simply be a memory in others’ minds of the kind of person you were, as a role model for their own lives.

To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

5. Personal creed

You can  have a personal creed and live by this every day of your life. A personal creed is your own measure of your life, on nobody else’s terms. Creeds that are poetic and inspiring include Edgar Albert Guest’s My Creed, and Rudyard Kipling’s If.

“There is not one big cosmic meaning for all; there is only the meaning we each give to our life, an individual meaning, an individual plot, like an individual novel, a book for each person.” – Anais Nin

6. Transcend measurement

There are two ways to think about life – as duty to perform, or as pure gift. If you regard life as a duty, you will need to measure how well you are performing.

Life as pure gift does not need to be measured at all. It just is. You just are. You could do nothing with your life and it would still mean something, because you existed.

“Lo, blessed are our ears for they have heard;
Yea, blessed are our eyes for they have seen:
Let the thunder break on man and beast and bird
And the lightning. It is something to have been.”

– G.K.Chesterton

Please share this:

11 replies on “How Do You Measure Your Life? 6 Possibilities”

Hey East Meets West,

Good reminder about living the moment rather than trying to capture it but lose it in the process. I’ve never been one for taking pictures and used to feel that I should because everyone seemed to be. You’ve just reminded me that I shouldn’t start!

Hi Daphne,

I think I’ve more or less stopped trying to measure my life. Nowadays I just try to live it. Remembered what someone said once when we were on holiday snapping pictures of everything we saw. We thought we could immortalise what we saw but while trying to do so, we didn’t see it with our own eyes.

East Meets Wests last blog post..Making my own Five Stones

Hello Linda! Thanks for visiting. Yes it’s important that we live each day, and enjoy just being alive instead of rushing off to do the next thing on our list. Hope your week will be full of ‘lived’ days!

Hi Daphne!i like no.3 on “achievements” in particular!I cannot agree more with what you have written especially the last sentence,’At the same time, there is more to life than what you achieve. We are human beings, not human doings.’How true!It is important that we ‘live’ each day!

Thanks for your kind words Daphne about nudgeme – yes, certainly helping people to value themselves more is a big part of what I do – and its blogs like yours that contribute to helping people to value themselves more too, and think about what’s really important.

I too love the Chesterton quote esp “It is something to have been” – I will definitely be using that in my work.

Looking forward to your next posts!


Hey Lydia, the Chesterton quote is one of my favourites. Isn’t it awesome? Thanks for the story about Paul Newman. It would be wonderful if more people said the same thing. Maybe we can by saying at the end of each day, “It’s a privilege to have lived today.” I will start doing that. I like your point about transforming the earth. We have so much potential to do that, which we often don’t use and sometimes aren’t even aware of.

hi Daphne, love the Chesterton quote and the section on life as a gift. Among the many obituaries that came out after Paul Newman’s death, I read one that described how on an evening before he died, he was sitting in his garden with some family members when he looked around him and said: It’s a privilege to have been here.
yes life is a great gift and the work we are called to do here on earth is also a gift, for it is our opportunity to transform the earth and doing so gives us a sense of meaning and purpose.

Tamsin, welcome back!

Wow that was a detailed and thoughtful comment. Thank you so much for taking the time.

I’m sure you know more than I do about helping people to value themselves more. This is what you do as a life coach right? I visited your site again (I really enjoy hearing your audio) and you’re doing good work helping people to know what they want, what matters to them, and nudging them along until they achieve it! It’s very meaningful work that you do.

Do read the Tibetan book. My short review does not do it justice. I’m glad that you are comfortable talking about death, and that your family environment supports that. You are right that discussing death is a wonderful way of appreciating life and loved ones more and live each day to the full.

Thanks again for dropping in. You always make me feel that the hours I spend writing are worthwhile. Have a great weekend too Tamsin!


Hi Daphne

I’ve been away for a few days and only catching up now with my reading – and what a treat to have 5 or so posts of yours to read, all of which I thoroughly enjoyed. I esp like your idea of people having their own personal creed as this would also act as a quick reminder of what’s really important to them. I agree with your comment above, that we all need to value ourselves more, and get better at not comparing ourselves to others or society’s take on what’s an achievement or not. It is because we are all unique and have our own filters on the world due to our own very personal experiences, that makes comparison a waste of time – something about embracing difference in all this and our own unique contributions, rather than all trying to live up to a particular set of measurements.

I also really enjoyed your crit on The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. I’m a big advocate of learning as much as we can about death in order to help make the process, when it comes, as comfortable as possible for loved ones, and to help us deal with our own grief. We’ve always discussed this openly in my family, and I think that also helps act as a reminder to live each day to the full and regularly tell and show your family how much you love them. I feel that also helps guard against any possible future regrets of having not taken the time before to say things. It sounds like a very interesting read so I’ll be putting it on my book list!

Have a good w/end Daphne and well done on your blog, it really is very inspiring and thought provoking and I enjoy my daily fix!

All the best


Hi Catalyst,

As I was writing that point, I realised that if I could transcend measurement myself I’d be close to nirvana! It’s only human to measure and compare, yet so unnecessary and silly as you pointed out. We need to remind ourselves of this now and then.

I actually think that we are more important than we believe, because most of us don’t value ourselves enough. Perhaps once we stop trying to ‘achieve’ in the eyes of others and ourselves, and accept that we are unique and incomparable, will we be able to contribute and make a difference in a truly meaningful and satisfying way.

Hey Daphne,

I love the last point about transcending measurement. It’s probably the one thing that I’ve struggled with most of my life – feeling as though I haven’t accomplished and achieved enough.

Viewing life as a gift helps you to see how silly it is for us to waste our time competing with everyone around us to gain recognition. There is no real prize in the end, and even the truly rich and famous are no more human than anybody else. We are only as important as we believe, and we can’t ask more from ourselves than to do our best given what we have.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *