The 4 Pillars of the Good Life and Why You Can’t Compartmentalize

It was Friday and I forgot to bring my lunch (I hate it, when I do that!).

My coworker Blake (also without lunch) asked me if I wanted to go to The India Palace.

We grabbed plates and quickly started demolishing mouthfuls of basmati rice and tandoori chicken. In between bites of naan we started talking about our current life struggles including our financial, personal and spiritual goals.

Common conversation topics for me.

Image From RovingI

Image From RovingI

Blake who is 24 and recently went back to school to finish his degree was suffering from “burnout”. The late nights and early mornings involved with working full-time and going to school full-time were starting to take its toll. He was tired, confused and trying to figure out how to achieve a sense of normalcy with a crazy workload.

All of the high performers that I know go through various stages of burnout. We take on too much and then get burned out. To make matters worse, we start beating ourselves up when we are not “grinding it out” and bulldozing our way through obstacles.

Does this sound familiar?

Our discussion progressed and eventually I asked the question:

“So Blake…. How do we stay happy and enjoy life, when our lives are so busy and there are so many distractions which pull us away from the things that we truly enjoy?”

Typical question for me.

It’s a simple and general question that usually generates a simple (not specific) response.

  • If you talk to someone in a paleo or vegan diet cult, they’ll ask about your food. You’ll hear questions like: “are you still gluten-free?” or “have you been eating too much dairy?”
  • If you talk to a financial person, they ask you about your current financial situation. “How’s your budgeting these days?” or “Are you in credit card debt?”
  • If you talk, to your mom, she’ll probably tell you to find someone special to spend our life with.
  • If you talk to a psychologist (a good one), they will tell you to just enjoy all of the small things in your life.

Here’s the truth: All of these ideas are great but individually they suck.

They all must be practiced together.

The 4 Pillars of the Good Life and Why You Can’t Compartmentalize

I have been reading most of  the books off of Tai Lopez’s book list and they are all fantastic recommendations. One of the main takeaways for me, is that we must take a holistic look at our lives. When I say “Holistic” I mean an all-encompassing look at our lives. Each area of our lives must be treated with the type of respect, love, care and focus that we put in others.

The 4 Pillars of the Good Life:

  1. Health
  2. Wealth
  3. Love
  4. Happiness

 

Where are You Out of Balance?

Where are You Out of Balance?

In my early 20’s I was solely focused on achieving optimal health. This meant I would spend 10+ hours a week in the gym, 40+ hours a week learning about nutrition and health, sleeping 9+ hours a night and eating food that would make Dave Asprey Proud!

I was so healthy it made me sick.

I was the judgmental person who was always eating the right thing and was constantly worrying about how my choices were affecting my health.

Because I was so Over-The-Top with my health, I neglected the other 3 areas of my life and was extremely unfulfilled.

In other words my life lacked, balance purpose and meaning. I was rich in terms of health, yet poor in wealth, love and happiness.

Not a way to live.

Questions, ACTIONS and The Scale?

Let’s take another look at the 4 pillars of the Good Life:

  1. Health
  2. Wealth
  3. Love
  4. Happiness

One thing I have learned is that we cannot compartmentalize and find happiness in just one of these areas. For example, in my early 20’s I was completely focused on health and neglected the other areas.

The result: I was an unhappy mess…

Another example: The Wall Street Investment professional who is worth 2 Million, yet has such bad diabetes and heart health that he can’t enjoy time with his grandchildren. The lifetime of stress and his choice not to be happy has nearly killed him.

When one of the pillars falls, the entire structure crumbles.

Ben Austin Blog Collapsed Structure 4 Pillars

If the picture feels like your life, there is work to be done(Image from Parry)

The 4 Pillars Rating Exercise (AKA ACTION TIME):

Goal Number 1: Find the Areas which need work

The goal of this exercise is to see where we can put more focus and make improvements. The goal is NOT to beat yourself up or to compare yourself to your peers (Facebook already does this for you).

Goal Number 2. Rate yourself:

The first time your go through this exercise, use a binary rating system only. Give yourself a 1 if you are doing a good job. Give yourself a 0 if you have been failing.

Be brutally honest.

Health:

Step 1: Rate Yourself a 1 or 0 for your health. Have you been eating real food, sleeping well, living a low stress lifestyle and taking time for yourself?

Step 2: Seriously… take the 10 seconds it requires to think about it.

Step 3: Is your health something you have neglected? One thing I have learned from watching loved one suffer through debilitating illness (see my about me) is that it’s nearly impossible to live a good life when you are sick. Therefore we all need to make sure that we are doing everything in our power to stay healthy.

If you gave yourself a 0, ask yourself: “Where have I let my health slip and what can I do RIGHT NOW to get back on track?” I’m not asking you to get up and run a marathon (that would be a bad idea).

Instead, ask yourself: “What decisions can I make today which will have the greatest positive impact on my health?”

Recommended Health Resources: The Bulletproof Diet ( the best in my opinion)

Wealth:

Step 1: Rate Yourself a 1 or 0 for your Wealth.

Step 2: No I’m not kidding…. take the 8 seconds it requires to do it.

Step 3: Is it wealth or financial success you have put off? If you are in a hole (I’m not qualified to have an opinion about finances so here’s my suggestion): read both I Will Teach You To Be Rich (Ramit Sethi) and Money: Master the Game (Tony Robbins).

Ask Yourself: What choices can I make today to set myself up for long-term financial freedom?

Recommended Wealth Resources: I Will Teach You To Be Rich by Ramit Sethi

Love:

Step 1: Rate Yourself a 1 or 0 for your current love situation. Do you have someone who loves you unconditionally? Have you nurtured this relationship?

Step 2: Yes this means you should do the exercise in step 1….

Step 3: Is it love? You don’t need to talk to someone with a  PhD to understand love. Ask your Grandma what her definition of love is. I guarantee her answer will make you light up like a Christmas tree.

Ask Yourself? How can I give more and allow myself to be vulnerable with the people who really care about me.

Recommended Love Resources: Go talk to your Grandma

Happiness:

Step 1: Rate Yourself a 1 or 0 for your Happiness. How happy have you been the last week, month, and year? Be honest.

Step 2: Is it happiness? In the book “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing Bonnie Ware spoke with people on their death beds and then wrote out the lessons she learned. The 5th most common regret was “I wish that I had let myself be happier”.

We get stuck on old patterns and ways of thinking even if they are not serving us.

One profound truth, I have learned is that happiness is a choice.

We choose whether or not to enjoy what happens to us. If you take responsibility for everything in your life (including your happiness) you’ll find yourself enjoying the little moments.

Recommended Happiness Resources: The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom By Jonathan Haidt

Is Your Structure Solid Or does it need some work?

Take your 1 or 0 from each category (health, wealth, love and happiness) and multiply them together.

Example: 1 x 0 x 1 x 1 = 0 (this means there is work to be done)

or

1 x 1 x 1 x 1 = 1 (Congrats!)

The final result should be either a 1 or a 0. If you gave yourself a 0 in any category, go back and ask yourself Why?

If you got all 1’s congrats! Give yourself a pat on the back and then start to set your sights a bit higher. You can still keep improving.

Wrapping Things Up:

Blake and I finished our delicious Indian food (seriously so good!) and were ready to head back to work. Like most situations was no simple “1 Step” solution for him for getting back on track. Blake is a high performer and needs to do work in multiple categories in order to feel good about himself.

It’s part of his makeup and part of who he is.

Looking back at The 4 Pillars:

  1. Health
  2. Wealth
  3. Love
  4. Happiness


These Pillars give us a framework to look at and then work from whenever we feel out of balance or like something is off.  

Where are You Out of Balance?

What is the ONE area you are going to work on?

About Ben Austin

My friends call me the illegitimate love child of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bill Nye. I’m a bodybuilding-yogi-science loving-foodie bringing an engineering approach to lifestyle design. Join me as I analyze the systems that go into optimal mental and physical performance and explore the stories and tactics of people who set the standard for the rest of us.
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  • Gregory Witkamp

    Nice post Ben. This is a great way to visualize why you might feel like crap.

    • Thanks for the comment Greg!

      The 4 Pillars gives people a simplified framework to self diagnose and start focusing on the areas of their life that need some extra Attention.

  • Nora Austin

    I really enjoyed reading this post! :) It made me really think about the 4 pillars in my life! Thanks! :)

    • Thanks Nora!

      I’m Glad you were able to take something away from it.

  • mcgovern312

    Fanastic break-out. Seriously excited to start really digging deep. So excited I’ve already started my outline…sparing the gritty personal details :)

    • Nice Martin! and Thanks for sharing the outline.

      I found myself doing a similar outline recently and I kept asking myself: “What am I going to create?”:

      This question led to some pretty intense Q and A with my subconscious.

  • Hey Ben, I love this. I particularly resonated with your story of how, in your early 20’s, you were “solely focused on achieving optimal health”…because I guess that’s kind of where I am now: I’m obnoxiously healthy. I train for 90 minutes every day. I gather my own spring water and pop a daily supplement-cocktail. But, despite all these proactive health-related actions, I still don’t feel quite as “vital” as I’d like. And, after reading your story, I’ve landed on the realization that I’ve been neglecting the other three “pillars.” Big time. So it’s time to fix that. Specifically, I’m going to start with happiness and continually remind myself to keep the big picture in view and be holistic (not reductionistic) with my wellness strategy. Thanks for the work you do man!

    • Hey Logan!

      That’s a huge realization! I’m pumped that you are taking action to focus on the other “3 Pillars”.

      The Paleo/Ancestral Health/Fitness Fanatics/Diet Cults would have us believe that diet and exercise are the keys to happiness.

      They are missing the other 3/4 of the picture.

      Quick Question:
      What’s your plan with vitquest.com?

      • Oh, thanks for asking! That’s a site I’m in the process of launching as a way to share my thoughts/strategies on holistic wellness. As you know from my comment, I certainly don’t have everything figured out. But I do believe that I have some valuable tools that could help a lot of people. I’ll keep you posted on the site’s progress!