The six life areas: a life-changing framework for long-term and balanced growth.
Life & Philosophy
February 1, 2021
Congratulations! The fact that you are reading this article right now means that you possess the potential to radically better yourself, your surroundings, and the world. You know how to read; you have access to the internet; and you're most likely a student, putting you in the top 75th percentile when it comes to education and opportunities, which is higher than four billion other humans[i]. Now it's up to you to utilize this potential and revolutionize your life.
Introduction of the article
Being a human is tremendously complex and challenging. There are infinite ways to experience and express ourselves, making any attempt to conceptualize or classify ourselves incomplete at best and plain wrong at worst. But it often does help to simplify something in order to understand it, even if the understanding is only partial. Because it's from this partial understanding that we can craft a plan, take action, and broaden our scope of impact and awareness.
We decided to do just that at BeMore; grossly oversimplify the human experience in order to create direction and start living happier, more balanced, and more productive lives. This oversimplification comes in the form of six different life areas, which together encompass the entirety of human being. They are the following:
- The mental area;
- The physical area;
- The financial area;
- The creative area
- The social area;
- The spiritual area.
This article will cover the importance of understanding and improving these different life areas, followed by some background on how they originated. Then we'll explore the fundamentals of each area; what does the area entail, and why is it important? We will also touch upon how the different areas work together and why it's helpful to develop yourself in all of them. To conclude, we'll bring the covered information into the broader context of self-development, helping you create leverage and utilize your fullest potential!
The importance of these areas
As humans, we have a natural hunger for growth, which, arguably, can be attributed to our quest for survival and reproduction. By growth, I mean the desire to improve or better oneself and one's surroundings, the substance of which can differ significantly per individual. By inhabiting yourself and your surroundings in a better way, you will increase your likelihood of survival, as Charles Darwin would say: survival of the fittest.
But figuring out where to put your time and effort to grow optimally isn't so easy. This is where the life areas come in; they function as a framework and reference point from which you can decide what you need to improve on. Let's say, for example, that you dream of becoming a millionaire. In itself, there is nothing wrong with this, and it's a fine goal to have, but would that still be the case if it means you are sacrificing your health for it? Or if you're neglecting your relationships with your loved ones? And what about the prerequisite skills that you need in order to become a millionaire? You probably need to study hard for those and raise money to get started.
You get the point. Growing in one of these areas isn't as easy and straightforward as it might initially seem. The key is to develop in each of these different areas simultaneously, in balance. In his book, The One Thing,[ii] author and entrepreneur Gary Keller shares his experience with overworking. When he was living the entrepreneurial grind, he would routinely put in 60+ hour workweeks. At the moment, this wasn't an issue, but sooner or later friction in his other life areas would start building up, and ultimately, he had to pay the price and invest time and effort into these domains.
The critical question to ask ourselves here is the following: if focusing on one area, in the end, leads to debt in the others, wouldn't it be better to nourish them all at the same time? I would say it is. Even though it's impossible to execute (it's one of those gross oversimplifications again), striving to grow in balance is the best way to increase your health, wealth, knowledge, productivity, and overall well-being.
The origins of the life areas
This system of life areas or domains isn't something unique that we developed at BeMore. In Japan, there is the tradition of Ikigai, a system that determines your ultimate reason for being by using different domains like; what you're good at, what you love, what the world needs, and what society will pay you for[iii].
Or there is the hierarchy of needs created by Abraham Maslow, an intertwined structure that uses domains like physical needs, the need to belonging, and the need for self-esteem[iv]. Or even something as archaic as the yin-yang symbol, with the primordial domains of good and evil. These are all different ways of conceptualizing the same thing, and frankly, it isn't very relevant which one you choose as long as you understand and live the essence, moving in a positive direction in all areas of your life.
We happened to come up with this one from our personal experience, and it works. It gets the point across. And that's all that matters to us. There will be many situations in which the areas overlap or contradict each other, and that is perfectly fine. The only thing that matters is to develop in all areas of life; to grow in balance.
Understanding every life area to its core is impossible. There are people who spend a lifetime mastering a single area, let alone all of them. Luckily it isn't necessary to master every area; you just need to understand the fundamentals. As the Pareto principle states[v]: 20% of the input causes 80% of the results. We could roughly translate this to 20% of the understanding causes 80% of the benefits; let's get you familiar with that 20%.
The mental domain
"We are what we think, all that we are arises with our thoughts, with our thoughts we make the world." This short quote from the Buddha holds within it the power to radically change yourself and the world (even though it is actually a mistranslation). In essence, it says that your thoughts are your reality, which is important for two reasons.
First, it means that your thoughts, and thus your reality, are uniquely yours. No one is living in the same reality as you are, at least the subjective reality that is. Secondly, it means that you get to shape your reality through your thinking, which is the ultimate superpower. No matter the circumstances, the environment, or situation you're in, you control your perception of reality; you get to choose how you feel, what you experience, and who you want to be.
For this reason, we've dedicated this domain to mastering the mind. The mind is a fascinating thing, and there are many different fields of study that try to investigate it from different perspectives; from psychology; to neurophysiology; to artificial intelligence. But even though we know a lot about the mind and its constituents, the mystery that remains is far greater than our understanding. One of the things we do know is that our minds can be trained; we have the ability to upgrade our software.
Living your life by this understanding is what Carol Dweck and her colleagues coined as a growth mindset; the belief that you can learn new skills, behaviours, and mental frameworks[vi]. Having a growth mindset is the precursor to mastering the mental domain because it gives you the conviction that learning is possible.
Which brings us to the actual training of the mind; let's have a look at some activities you can do to train in this domain:
- Reading books and articles;
- Listening to podcasts;
- Participating in an online course or webinar;
- Have discussions with other people;
- Writing articles or keeping an intellectual journal;
- Practicing meditation;
- Going to university.
Of course, there are many more things that you can do, and plenty of the above mentioned activities can also help you develop in other areas. Still, hopefully, this gives you a basic understanding of the mental domain.
The physical domain
If our mind is seen as the thing that creates our own reality, the body can be seen as the tool that helps us manifest the mind into our common reality. Which happens in two different directions; first, it allows us to perceive the outside world through our various senses, and secondly, it will enable us to put things out into the world for others to perceive. And just like with mechanical structures, we should adequately maintain our meat vehicle. We have to refresh the oil, fill the tires and charge up the batteries, metaphorically speaking. The smoother your machinery operates, the easier it becomes to execute your tasks, ideas, and ultimately your dreams.
On top of that, your body heavily influences the mind. Earlier I mentioned the possibility of upgrading the 'software of your mind.' But in reality, the body and mind are far more complicated than this simple analogy, and it is extremely challenging (if even possible) to draw a clear line between where one starts and the other ends.
For example, your brain is partly regulated through neurochemistry, a complex system of different chemicals (called neurotransmitters) that tell it how to act[vii]. If these chemicals get all out of whack by eating the wrong foods, taking a particular drug, or through disease, it will strongly influence how you feel and the thoughts that you think. As you can see, it's complicated to separate the 'hardware' from the 'software.' For this reason, keeping your body healthy is also an integral part of keeping the mind healthy; it's a perfect example of how the different life areas bleed over into each other.
Let's have a look at some things you can do to maintain a healthy body:
- Eat nutritious and (mostly) unprocessed foods;
- Work-out regularly;
- Train your flexibility and mobility;
- Get enough sleep and give your body rest;
- Briefly expose yourself to extreme temperatures;
- Supplement with specific vitamins and minerals.
Initially, it might seem tedious or difficult to build a healthy body, but luckily this only gets easier as you progress, and before you know it, you’ll have a brand new lifestyle.
The social domain
Navigating our common reality by definition requires multiple people, and where there are multiple people, social interactions take place, and culture arises. While traveling through this social landscape, it can be of great benefit to have a map of the territory. Understanding how people think, feel, and interact, will help you resonate and connect with them. It will also help you to leverage the power of groups to realize your own goals.
Influencing other people in this way might sound manipulative, and it is. But that is not a bad thing per se; we all have our own agenda, our needs and wants, and it is perfectly fine to pursue this. It is also perfectly fine to influence others to help us achieve this agenda, as long as we keep seeing them as people with their own wants and needs instead of objects that we can use as we please. Luckily, this way of thinking is built into our social fabric, giving the people who respect others the most influence.
In his book Human kind, author Rutger Bregman explains the idea of 'survival of the friendliest', which is based on the presupposition that it is the friendliest of humans who survived due to our inherent desire for co-operation[viii]. Mirror this with the more wide-known belief of 'survival of the fittest', and social skills their importance becomes all too clear. The magic is probably somewhere in the middle; both fitness and friendliness are essential to ascend the social human hierarchy. Long story short, there are plenty of reasons to improve your social skills and get what you want out of life.
Improving your social skills is paramount for getting to know new people and maintaining relationships with those close to you. These are a couple of ways to grow in this domain:
- Spend more time together with the people that you care about
- Be honest and truthful in the things you say
- Learn how to speak properly
- Become more confident and charismatic in your interactions
- Approach random people during the day and strike up a conversation
- Join a class in public speaking or improv
- Develop a genuine sense of interest for other people
- Interact, interact, and interact!
The social domain is a profoundly nourishing and rewarding one. Even though it might be awkward at first, you'll thank yourself for working on it later.
The financial domain
Part of our existence takes place in a material world, a space filled with objects and things. Some people might argue that our entire existence occurs in a material world, where others might argue that our material world is a complete illusion. But we are not here to explore any metaphysical claims, at least not in today's article.
The fact of the matter (pun intended) is that we have a physical body that lives in a physical world, and in order to survive, this body has to meet particular needs. You know, the good stuff: water, food, air, shelter, and so forth. So that's what we do, we spend our time accruing these needs, and even though it has become relatively easy to meet the basic needs in the 21st century, we still spend most of our time gathering material goods and services.
Being the extremely social creatures that we are, we've found ways to exchange these goods and services with each other; very complicated and scalable ways. Since we partially perceive things in our shared reality, and we can somewhat come to a consensus on their nature, we can decide to trade them. The value we ascribe to the object might differ, but the physical form is the same. You might see a great oak that is shedding its acorns to reproduce; I might just see a tree, but we both agree there is a large object sticking out of the ground and a consensus has been reached. By trading items with other humans, we can collect things that are valuable to us and get rid of things that aren't.
In an attempt to homogenise this perception of value, we created money, an object (or lines of code) that roughly shows how much value we possess. The more money you have, the more valuable things you can buy, valuable to you, that is. Indirectly this makes money a tool for survival, a tool to meet your basic needs.
By looking at it through this lens, it is crystal clear why most of us spend so much of our waking life trying to earn money, and that’s okay. Working for material wealth is perfectly fine, and money can be a great catalyzer. It's when you start spending money on things that aren't truly valuable to you that you might want to re-evaluate what you're doing because, in the end, that is the whole reason why we created money to begin with.
Let's have a look at some things you can do to get more money and things:
- Earn more money than you spend
- Make a budget for your money
- Invest in an index fund or stocks
- Create a robust personal finance system
- Start your own business
- Educate yourself and find a better paying job
The creative domain
Creativity. The act of creating. Turning nothing into something or turning something into something else. Creation and creativity are at the core of what we humans do; it is also that which allows us to accrue the aforementioned goods and services. In the words of Elon Musk: "if you don't make stuff, there is no stuff[ix]." Luckily, we happen to be incredibly apt at making stuff, and not only do we make stuff, but we also make stuff that makes us better at making stuff, which is what we would call tools.
This creation of tools started over 2.5 million years ago when we used rocks to smash and cut things[x]. Fast forward roughly 2 million years, and our toolmaking became a lot more sophisticated, resulting in stone arrow tips and daggers[xi]. Leap forward through time once more to only 40.000 years ago, and our stone tools turned into high-tech; bone needles, harpoons, and burins[xii].
That's right; it took us roughly 2.500.000 years to go from sharp rocks to finely crafted bone tools. The more complicated a tool gets, the more complicated things it allows us to make. A burin, for example, could be used to carve a piece of wood. An IS 1364 bolt with a diameter of M-27 to M-72 can be used to build a cruise ship.
What we call technology nowadays is simply the newest tools available. At one point, an iron pickaxe was technology; just like at one point, a smartphone will simply be a tool. An important thing to note, though, is that our development of tools grows exponentially.
Remember that it took us roughly 2.5 million years to go from primitive stone tools to finely crafted bone tools. Compare that to how long it took from the inception of the internet to connecting billions of people worldwide, a mere 70 years, which is shorter than the average human life[xiii] and over 35.000 times faster as the progress to fine bone tools.
The point I'm trying to make is that the only limit to our creativity is our ideas. Even the boldest of ideas can be achieved in a single lifetime. Want to eradicate polio from the face of the earth? Consider it done. How about building a human colony on the moon? Working on it. What about reversing global warming and bringing back our biodiversity? Give us a couple of decades.
The amount of creation ability we have is mind-boggling, and on top of that, it's also becoming more and more decentralised, meaning more people have access to the tools required to build awesome stuff. Whether you want to record music and publish it on Spotify or make drawings and share them on Pinterest or clean the ocean with a giant vacuum cleaner, we all have an unlimited ability to be creative.
Let's have a look at some suggestions on how to be creative:
- Build things and make stuff;
- Practice having ideas; brainstorm and write them down;
- Learn a practical or productive skill, from sowing to programming;
- Study other people and their creations;
- Express yourself freely; in thought, speech and action;
- Look at life as a game and try playing it in different and exciting ways.
The spiritual domain
Which brings us to the final domain. No matter how much we try to understand ourselves; the body; the mind; our financial system; our creative abilities; our relationships; and so forth, human existence remains deeply mysterious. For everything that we do know, there are a million things that we don't. There is something about this, about facing the unknown, that is frightening. But there is also a sense of wonder and curiosity, a feeling of possibility, of something greater than oneself, of meaning.
Our quest for meaning might be the most fundamental challenge that we face. Finding meaning is incredibly arduous, and many people question if there is even such a thing to begin with. At the end of the day, aren't we just bags of meat doomed to roam this earth till the day that we die and disappear into nothingness? What's the point of living, or the pursuit of meaning, if it is all for nothing? What if, in the words of Linking Park lead singer Chester Bennington "in the end it doesn't even matter."? This nihilistic worldview is tempting, and it's easy (it speaks one free from any responsibility); because if nothing matters, it doesn't matter what you do.
But things do Meaning does exist. There is a transcendent element to being, something larger than yourself, perhaps something larger than life itself. In his book 'man search for meaning' psychiatrist Viktor Frankl chronicles his experiences in a Nazi death camp[xiv]. He writes that even in these direst circumstances, where human life is treated as worthless, and even the most basic of dignities are denied, there is still meaning to be found; there is still something left worth fighting for, worth surviving for.
As Friederich Nietzche said: "He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how." This applies to even the most existential level: he who has the most profound meaning to live for can bear the suffering and seemingly futileness of life.
And that's precisely what humans have always done. We've created a deep meaning and purpose for ourselves; through rites and rituals, religions and belief systems, and a myriad of spiritual practices. We've systematically and continuously tried to complete our fundamental quest for meaning.
Some ideologies work better than others, and many of them teach the same lessons but just in different words. This is a good thing: different people respond to different stories, and having a diversity of teachings available will give more people access to spiritual development. Ultimately the essence is the same; to provide you with meaning, clarity, and wisdom in life.
A couple of things that you can do to develop on your spiritual path:
- Get to know yourself, reflect on who you are in a diary.
- Study religions and their implications, learn from their ethical and moral teachings;
- Learn to meditate, examine your mind and body on the deepest level;
- Pick up other spiritual practices, read mantra's, pray, do Yoga;
- Engage in philosophical exploration through speech and writing;
- Embark on a psychedelic journey;
- Disconnect from the 'fast world' and relax in nature.
The conclusion of the article
Humans are curious beings that express themselves in countless different ways. We all have different dreams, ambitions, values, stories, world views, and even realities. But we also share a common humanity with every other person on this planet, voyaging through the universe on this spaceship we call earth.
Fundamentally most of us seek the same things, regardless of all our differences. We want to survive and reproduce; we want to feel needed and loved; we want to be part of something bigger than ourselves; we want to find meaning and purpose; we want to use this life that we've been given for something good, something beautiful, something worthwhile.
Any attempt to turn these wants into something concrete is doomed to oversimplify them grossly and will ultimately fall short. But it is better than doing nothing. Having a vague plan is better than having no plan at all. The plan that we've created talks about life areas or domains, but that's just our plan.
This might be a terrible plan, a decent plan, or even the best plan ever invented. It is not our place to make that judgment; that is up to you. Try out this framework; give it an honest effort. If it works for you, that's awesome! If it doesn't quite do the job, try tweaking some things. And if it's absolutely terrible, abandon it. Find out what works for you and double down on that; triple down on that!
In future articles, we will further dissect the different life areas, going deeper down the rabbit hole as time progresses. Certain topics might change your life forever, while others might have you clicking away after the first paragraph. We will cover both very well-known and extremely niche subjects, but we will never shy away from what needs to be said, what we seek to explore, and what we truly believe in. We hope that you will join us on this beautiful journey!
Summary of what we discussed
- The fact that you’re reading this means that you are filled to the brim with potential; it's up to you to utilize this!
- At BeMore, we divide the human experience into six different life domains:
- The mental domain is related to the mind, knowledge, and skills;
- The physical domain is related to the body;
- The financial domain is related to material goods and wealth;
- The social domain is related to human interaction and relationships;
- The creative domain is related to our ability to create things;
- The spiritual domain is related to meaning, purpose, and transcendence.
- For maximum benefit, you want to aim growing in all areas at the same time, even though this is never truly possible.
- Do what works for you! Everyone is unique, and the goal is to find your own path.
[ii] Keller, G., & Papasan, j. (2014). The one thing. (1). London: John Murray Press.
[iii] Oppong, T. -06-22T11:13:57.576Z(2020, Oct 7,). Ikigai: The japanese secret to a long and happy life might just help you live a more fulfilling…. Geraadpleegd op Oct 7, 2020, van https://medium.com/thrive-global/ikigai-the-japanese-secret-to-a-long-and-happy-life-might-just-help-you-live-a-more-fulfilling-9871d01992b7
[v] Better Explained. (2020, 12-10-). Understanding the pareto principle (the 80/20 rule) – BetterExplained. Geraadpleegd op 12-10-2020, van https://betterexplained.com/articles/understanding-the-pareto-principle-the-8020-rule/
[vii] Queensland University. -11-09T13:27:41+10:00(2020, Oct 14,). What are neurotransmitters? Geraadpleegd op Oct 14, 2020, van https://qbi.uq.edu.au/brain/brain-physiology/what-are-neurotransmitters
[viii] Rutger Bregman. (2020). Human kind. England: Bloomsburry UK.
[ix] Akira the Don, Elon Musk. (2020). If you don't make stuff there is no stuff.
- [x] [x] Smitsonian Institute. -12-22T12:27:25-05:00(2020, Oct 27,). Early stone age tools. Geraadpleegd op Oct 27, 2020, van https://humanorigins.si.edu/evidence/behavior/stone-tools/early-stone-age-tools
[xi] The Smithsonian Institute. -02-13T20:15:04-05:00(2020, Oct 27,). Handaxe and tektites from bose, china. Geraadpleegd op Oct 27, 2020, van https://humanorigins.si.edu/evidence/behavior/stone-tools/early-stone-age-tools/handaxe-and-tektites-bose-china
[xii] The Smithsonian Institute. -12-22T12:27:25-05:00(2020, Oct 27,). Later stone age tools. Geraadpleegd op Oct 27, 2020, van https://humanorigins.si.edu/evidence/behavior/stone-tools/later-stone-age-tools
[xiii] History. July 30,(2020, 27-10-). The invention of the internet. Geraadpleegd op 27-10-2020, van https://www.history.com/topics/inventions/invention-of-the-internet
[xiv] Frankl, V. (1946). Man search for meaning.