Panch Mantras (five elements) of personal well-being which are the key elements that indicate our well-being in life?
The five elements that contribute to our personal well-being:
We can easily sense how important these are in our lives, and also gauge how any of these elements are troubling us or are of concern to us.We can also understand how we have been contemplating improving on certain aspects of our lives.
There are no absolute milestones to mark one’s satisfaction with reference to each of these elements. Most are subjective – meaning, we cannot quantify them. Nevertheless, we can judge them. After all, we do know when we are happy and when we are not. There are indicators of well-being in each of these elements. We will use these indicators to judge our well-being without getting into the trouble of quantification, using an objective and a universal scale.
There are no hierarchical levels in these elements to indicate which of them is more important when compared. Each of them is equally important and as meaningful and relevant as the other. Nevertheless, spirituality is considered to be of a higher order than the other four. This is because it is more subtle, abstract, and all-pervasive. This usually occurs in the later stages of our lives, when it is extremely common for individuals to ask questions and seek answers related to this element, such as ‘Where am I headed? Is there a meaning in what I am doing? And what is the purpose?’ These questions start bothering us.
We will now reflect on each of these elements in detail.
1. Comfort with wealth
The wealth provides us with a sense of security. It provides for our needs and wants, and that of our family members. It is required to fulfill our aspirations and those of our family members. A job provides money and helps us create wealth. For the work we do, we are provided a salary, a fee, commission, or some other form of remuneration. Satisfaction with the money we earn comes from more than one dimension.
Is the money enough to take care of my current level of needs and wants? Is my family and me able to lead a lifestyle we desire—home, entertainment, holidays, car, social life, gadgets, travel, schooling for children etc.? These needs are not static; they keep changing with time and usually become costlier. For example, when there is one more child in the family, the expenses increase. Therefore, we would also want our earnings to go up to keep pace with the increasing expenses, to manage our lifestyle.
The other aspect of our earnings is whether it provides for the security of our future. Are we able to save from what we earn, for our future? Is the earning enough to save a part for investing in assets of any form to secure our future? We know that our earnings will not always keep increasing, or there will be unforeseen expenses and we need to provide for them from what we earn today. When our earnings are just about enough to meet our current expenses, we are worried about what might happen in the future. Some jobs, look better than others as they take care of future needs better, whether in terms of social security plans or through wealth creation plans, such as stock options.
Money has another critical dimension – a sense of our worth. ‘How much I earn and how it compares with the others I choose to compare, is a measure of my esteem’. Most of the disgruntlement during the salary revision time comes not from the absolute increase one sees in his or her salary but from the increase of their peers. The increase is an indication of how one is valued, by the organization in comparison with the others. After a certain point, it becomes an indication of our worth in our own eyes and in the eyes of others.
Typical indicators to judge our comfort on wealth are:
- Am I earning as much as I think my capabilities and experiences are worth?
- Have I made enough savings to take care of my immediate needs?
- Am I able to afford a lifestyle of my choice?
- Do I have a reasonably healthy balance sheet— assets and liabilities?
- Do I see a reasonable income in the years to come and do I see the value sustaining from my career choice?
- Do I have a reasonable spread of savings in— different instruments very risky to lower risk?
- Do I have contingency plans made, including loss of job, accidents, illness etc.?
2. Comfort with health
Health has become a paramount consideration in today’s high- speed life. Even though better health care services are emerging, health is becoming a major concern. Chronic illnesses, such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, are increasing. Obesity, high blood pressure, back and other aches are more rampant—probably, because of our lifestyles and the stress in our workplace. Absence of illness is not an indicator of fitness—physical and mental. Year after year, ‘I will focus on fitness and I will get fit this year’ remains the most common resolution that people take on the first day of the year.
Health and fitness, and the job are very closely related, and one has significant impact on the other. Poor health affects our productivity and performance on the job. Jobs also affect health and fitness. If one is used to an aggressive work environment and a fast-paced work routine, health will eventually deteriorate. Consciousness about good health and fitness has been increasing over the years, but the ability to manage them is still lacking in most of us.
Health is also an area of concern from our family members’ point of view. In midlife, we not only have to tend to our health, but also that of our spouse, children, and aging parents. Parents require the maximum attention on health issues. They expect us to give them time, look after and care for their health, which include periodic checkups, medications and our presence when something goes wrong. More than anything else, it is about spending ‘time’ with them.
Apart from time, there is the cost of health care. With the discovery of newer and better cures, healthcare is becoming costlier. We need to factor in this increasing cost of medical care when we plan our future expenses.
Our examinations make time central to health care, rather than money. If only we could find the time for all those fitness regimens we think of, we would be a lot better. Is it not?
- Am I able to devote time for the upkeep of my health?
- Are there constraints on me due to my health?
- Do my family members need attention on health?
- Are there specific health related problems, which can affect the kind of work I can do?
- Is my family leading a healthy lifestyle?
3. Comfort with leisure
Human beings have multi-faceted personalities, with many talents and interests. These make us much more than the waking-working-sleeping bodies. We have varied interests—singing, writing, acting, watching movies, drawing, swimming, playing sports, reading, skiing, travelling etc. The interests we pursue make our lives colorful and worth living. As children, we paid more attention to our interests. We even had a games or activity period or class in our timetable, but as adults and more so as middle-career professionals, we are left with little or no time to pursue interests, besides other priorities topping our leisure interests.
However, those interests still linger with us. We talk about them from time to time, recalling the past and dreaming of indulging in them again. We realize that they are very much a part of us. We envy the Westerners who are off on Friday evenings to those mountains for skiing or to the beaches for scuba diving. They seem to be able to take breaks from their work to travel and pursue other interests.
The kids in the family also demand our time and attention. They want us to be part of their interest—be it watching them play tennis, or being in the audience when they play a part in the skit on their school’s annual day. Of course, we also enjoy every moment of their development and participation.
However, like most other things, this also demands time. And this is the time that we use to juggle between our work and indulging in our interests or in the interests of our family members. We slowly and greatly hesitate to ignore these interests for the sake of our job.
Maybe there is also a need to anchor our lives to something more permanent; a thing that will stay with us long after our job is gone. These interests will help us to be productive and full of life when our other professional talents are no more required.
- Do I feel I am able to devote time to my other interests and hobbies?
- Do I feel I am able to devote time and energy to the pursuit of interests and hobbies of my family members?
- Do I have certain unfulfilled desires that trouble me from time to time?
- Does the family give signals and vibes that I have slipped in fulfilling of their desires?
4. Comfort with relationships
Man is a social being. We crave for social affiliations. We long for that emotionally connect with other human beings. The emotions that the relationships bring give us joy (and pain too). Our closest relationships are typically with our family members—parents, children, spouse and siblings. Apart from the family, we have a close relationship with our friends whom we have known for many years. Also in our workplace, we develop relationships—some close, some not so close. We would be lost without the emotional support from these relationships. Life would be empty without them.
Relationships are very demanding. They are full of responsibilities and commitments. We need to be able to give. We need to take. We need to be there with them when needed. We need to participate rather than go through the motions of a relationship. Nurturing relationships needs time.
‘He is never there when I want him’, ‘I do not find time for my children’, ‘He is always flying and I see only once or twice in a month’, ‘Both of us are so caught up with work that we don’t have time for each other’– we hear all this so often. Many of us have lost not knowing how to cope with this lack of time. Our intentions are good—we do want to nurture the relationships, but somehow we do not seem to get there and get it right. Yet, there are so many others who do manage their relationships very well. They seem to have time for their spouse, children, parents and friends. They take vacations periodically. They make these things happen naturally. We envy them. Somehow they have managed to say ‘no’ when and where it matters, thus creating time for themselves and their loved ones.
Our work does have an impact on our relationships, whether by making demands on our time or keeping us away from family and friends. At times, work demands so much of our energy that we feel too drained to participate in the moments of togetherness. Relationships also have a reciprocal effect on work. If relationships are sour, then our productivity and performance are adversely affected. However, always blaming work for not being able to give our relationships enough quality time and effort makes us sound helpless. Are we?
A typical assessment of comfort on relationships:
- How comfortable is my relationship with my spouse? How does he or she feel about it?
- How comfortable is my relationship with my children? How do they feel about it?
- How comfortable is my relationship with my parents and other family members? How do they feel about it?
- How comfortable is my relationship with my friends? How do they feel about it?
- Am I investing quality time and effort with each of them?
5. Comfort with purposefulness
Middle age sees us frantically searching for answers.
Our experiences of over thirty years in the world—the changes in time and occurrences of infinite events; our professional occupations; our personal journey; fulfillment and non-fulfillment of our material, social, and emotional needs—all raise these questions with us. ‘Where am I heading?
Is this is what I want to do? Is there meaning in all this? What is the purpose?’
They trouble us. We read and ponder the writings of the wise.
We associate with communities of like-minded explorers. We practice religious rituals. We attend discourses. We meditate. We introspect. We philosophize. Well, the eternal quest is a process, which demands more of us, yet seems to keep us doubting and away from the destination of self-realization. Yet we move on. We know it is there. We reach out farther and dig deeper.
In the scheme of this spiritual plane, sometimes the work we do does not make sense. Sometimes it does. There is always this running cycle where our thoughts conflict with the pattern of the day and then sync with harmony. Sometimes we try to keep the question of the purpose of our work in focus and succeed. Sometimes we fail and feel low.
Our work or job does not hinder our spiritual journey. It is a part of the journey. Work is central to our spiritual quest. Work is a part of the process of spiritual enlightenment. Perhaps, work is spiritual enlightenment. Working while seeking, or seeking while working will go on—that’s the real truth.
Some observations on the Panch Mantras of personal well-being:
We notice some underlying constant factors in at least four of the five elements, i.e. Health, wealth, relationships, and leisure. They are time and money. These two seem enough to manage the well-being of the four elements. I earn enough to be able to fulfill my needs, take care of the healthcare needs of my family and self.
I manage my time well enough to devote it for nurturing my relationships with family and friends, and I am able to spend time on my hobbies and other interests.
In a sense, management of money and time are the underlying factors of our well-being. The Divine is very democratic with respect to time—every human being gets the same twenty-four hours. Yes! The same seven days a week and 365 days a year. Nobody gets more or less. Yet, some people seem to be able to do so much more, accomplish so much more in this fixed ration compared to many others who seem to be constantly slipping. Those who lead a happier life are able to manage their time well in accomplishing their professional goals—they find time for their family, periodic vacations, regular health checkups of their parents, their gym activity, watching movies, reading books, and attending seminars. Others envy them and wonder how they are able to get it all right.
As the world becomes more complex and choices increase exponentially in every facet of life, including communication media, gadgets, forums, entertainment, media, we are forced to make choices of what we can and cannot do with the same 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. We have to decide the quantum of time we can spare for our fitness, our family, our interests and our guests.
Disciplining ourselves to invest or allocate this equally rationed resource—time—will be of crucial importance in differentiating happier for the not so happy.