Why wait for a meaningful life?

The Royal Commission & the Purpose of Aged Care

How did you feel when the final report of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety was released? After such a long time coming, and so much distress expressed, perhaps it was a relief? Whilst the future remains unknown, it was encouraging to see the importance of a meaningful life acknowledged. Indeed, the Commissioners have stated that the purpose of the aged care system, should, amongst other things, assist older people to live a meaningful life.

Why wait for the government to act before we embrace this idea? We could argue that any other kind of aged care, especially when engaged in long-term support of people who depend on their services, is unethical. We know aged care services struggle with the limitations of funding and resourcing for proper training. Another upside of the Royal Commission is the acknowledgement of these gaps. We also know there are thousands of people with a great passion to make a meaningful difference to the lives of others. Let’s bring that passion to the fore, don’t wait for government.

If you are already strong in this space, ask ‘What else could we be doing?’ If it’s a new idea for you, don’t shy away. By our very nature, humans are meaning-making. Perhaps begin with the Map of Meaning question if you don’t know where to start. Ask your team, ‘What’s been most meaningful for you in the last week?’  and if you feel like some further inspiration, check out the excerpt from Berkley University’s ‘How to be happier in the four realms of life’ written by author, Jill Suttie

The main realms of happiness in life

The world is full of distractions, which can keep us from focusing on what matters most for our happiness. While many things carry importance for life—like good health, having fun, or taking care of finances—the main keys to happiness involve relationships and what brings meaning, write the authors.

“Our lives are spent in connection—to other people, to our world, to nature, and to the divine—and the more we do to improve those connections, the better off we are,” they write.

Here are some of the ways they suggest we can augment our happiness within the four main areas of life.

Family relationships. Family relationships can be messy, and conflicts abound even in the most harmonious families. That means that it’s important to apply skills like meta-cognition and nurturing positive feelings, while also finding ways to get through conflicts and preserve our relationships.

Most conflicts involve differences in unspoken expectations, write the authors, which can lead to resentment when those expectations aren’t met. Having more regular conversations, letting go of perfectionism, and treating family members with respect and appreciation can go a long way toward avoiding relationship problems.

For romantic partners or spouses, the very things that bother us can be viewed as strengths for a stable relationship, they argue. Having complementary traits—like being the extrovert to your introverted spouse, or being more spontaneous when your partner likes to plan—can be better for long-term relationships than having too much in common.

“If you have been in a relationship for a long time and are struggling to keep it together, you might have assumed that you simply aren’t compatible enough,” they write. “More than likely, the real problem is that you and your partner have not been working to turn your differences into the complementarity a healthy relationship needs.”

Seeing our loved ones go through struggles can bring down our happiness. In that case, it helps to nurture our own happiness, avoid taking their negativity personally, and try to help alleviate their pain—maybe by surprising them with something kind or fun to do.

Friendships. Strong friendships are important to introverts and extroverts alike, and they account for much of our happiness. While deepening friendships is a good way to be happier, even having just one very close friend you trust and love can make all of the difference, say the authors.

Close friendships take some effort, though, and may involve more than having fun together. Deeper friendships are made through expressing affection, being vulnerable, and showing up when your friend needs you. Though online communications may help when nothing else is available (like during COVID), the authors warn against relying on texts or social media alone. Face-to-face contact is usually best for our well-being, they argue.

“Technology that crowds out our real-life interactions with others will lower our well-being and thus must be managed with great care in our lives,” they write. “Solitary and screen-based diversion lower happiness and can lead to mood disorders such as depression and anxiety.”

Having more humility—recognizing that you don’t have all of the answers—can lead to happier friendships, too, they write. If you can be less attached to your own opinions and stay open to learning from others, you’re bound to be happier, which helps attract others to you.

Work. Some of us have limited opportunities when it comes to work. But it’s good to recognize what you love about your job—whatever it is—and to understand its meaning in your life, write the authors. Even a not-so-great job may provide intrinsic rewards that make you happy—like the meaning it has for others or the kind people you work with—that can at least offer some sense of fulfillment.

“Engaging in work with your whole heart is one of the best ways to enjoy your days, get satisfaction from your accomplishments, and see meaning in your efforts,” they write.

While work we love is good for our happiness, we shouldn’t overwork as a way to avoid painful realities. Many people dive into their jobs to distract themselves from feelings of depression, anxiety, boredom, or loneliness. And, just like other addictions, workaholism can harm your overall happiness even if it provides temporary relief.

Transcendence. Transcendence is a feeling of being part of and connected to something greater than ourselves. Whether we find it through religion, meditation, or experiences of awe, it’s important for us to sometimes look beyond our everyday concerns and focus on the greater meaning of life. Transcendence or awe can help us feel a sense of meaning and purpose and protect us from depression, which brings greater well-being in our lives.

How to experience more transcendence? By stopping our ruminations about the past or future and engaging more in the present—perhaps through meditation or taking a walk in nature. Being in nature is of the most-researched ways of making us happier and healthier, possibly through its ability to inspire awe. Whatever the case, though, transcendence is part of a more meaningful life.

“If you walk the transcendental path, you will get happier, but only if getting happier is not your goal,” write the authors. “Your goal must be seeking truth and the good of others.”

In each of these realms, write the authors, the greatest happiness comes when you act from a place of love. Life may be unpleasant or stressful; you may feel yourself losing certain abilities as you age; you may act out at times in fits of anger and hurt the ones you love. But, if you keep coming back to loving your family, friends, work, and the world at large, you will be heading in the right direction.

“The key to progress isn’t perfection, it’s to begin again, and again, and again. Every day is a new day, and another opportunity to pick up the hammer and go back to work,” they write. “Just remind yourself that the life you want is built on love, and start again.”

Source: How to Be Happier in the Four Realms of Life ( published October 4, 2023


And that sounds like a good place to be…to start again and build on a basis of self compassion first.