How To Improve Life Satisfaction

Written by Karl Perera, MA, DipLC 

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In the course of many years working in the psychology field and during many life coaching sessions, the topic of life satisfaction has been extremely important. As building self-esteem and confidence depends on how you feel about yourself, it also includes how you feel about your life. This is why I decided to write this page, to help you if you are looking to improve how satisfied you are with life, in order to build your happiness, confidence and success.

The level of life satisfaction that someone experiences depends on factors such as self esteem, confidence, sense of achievement, opportunity, choice, work and situation. Life satisfaction can be improved by building self esteem, changing how we think about ourselves and our ability to change things.

Of course, it sounds simple but there are many personal challenges that we all face in life and we all react differently. By following the tips I will give you as we discuss these challenges, you will learn how to improve life satisfaction and will be able to avoid the many problems that may lie ahead.

Background: Life Satisfaction Around the World

The OECD (The Organization for the Economic Co-operation and Development) produced a report by asking people around the world how satisfied they were in life. The results were organized so that a level between 1 and 10, (where the higher the number, the more satisfied people were with their lives), was calculated and averaged out.

In short, the countries with highest life satisfaction were the Scandinavian countries such as Norway and Finland and the lowest were meditarrean and african countries like Greece, Portugal and South Africa.

Here’s a graphic which shows some of the results from this life satisfaction survey:

It is obvious, therefore that life satisfaction is something that many of us should pay more attention to as it is generally low across the world. So, what is yours like?

My Life Satisfaction Research Survey:

In June 2021 I began sending out a survey, to my many subscribers and then to others online. The purpose of the research was to find out what percentage of people are satisfied with their lives and to understand what makes them happy. I also asked about how they define a happy life, is it based on success, money, enjoyment, family or something else?

The important thing about this research is that it can give us different perspectives and allow us to focus on what is really important for most people, rather than me just guessing or merely quoting others’ opinions.

Here we go then, the first question:

Pie chart shows the percentage of participants satisfied/ not satisfied with life now

What one thing gives you the most satisfaction in life?

Here are the top answers:

Family and friends15 votes29%
Love4 votes8%
Money2 votes4%
Career/ Job2 votes4%
Inner peace2 votes4%
Setting/ achieving goals2 votes4%
Health1 vote2%
Education1 vote2%
The top one thing that gives you satisfaction in life (source: life satisfaction survey 2021 – Karl Perera)
The most important things that made participants happy in life. (source: life satisfaction survey – Karl Perera, 2021)

Conclusions from this research

The research I carried out had a fairly small sample, although significant. We can therefore draw some interesting conclusions from this.

Firstly, the good news is that many people are already satisfied with life. I do suspect, though, that if you’re visiting this page and looking for information on this topic you are more likely to be unsatisfied with how your life is at present and looking for help with becoming happier. In fact, results were nearer 60-40, with most unsatisfied amongst my subscribers who are seeking to build their self-esteem and confidence. The number came down as I distributed the survey more widely.

The importance of family and friends, (29% claimed it was the number one thing that made them happy in life), and giving and receiving love, (8%), underlines that we are social creatures who need positive contact with others. We can therefore assume that our self-esteem, confidence, and life satisfaction can be affected most by our relationships with friends, family, and loved ones. Other things such as money and career, though important for sure, seem lower on the scale of life satisfaction according to these results. It is also very important how you cope with and deal with breakups, ensuring that your self-esteem stays intact.

The last question does confirm what we have just said about the importance of close relationships with family and friends and being loved, (more than half said this was what happiness meant to them). It also shows that about one in ten do find some happiness in spending money and that 15% relate their life satisfaction to their career.

I think that the results of this research can help you, my reader, to focus on what is important in your life. The results can also help me to concentrate on the social aspects of relationships more on this website, and less on finances, career and success as commonly defined by many. Hopefully, this survey is a helpful step towards helping you to build self-esteem and improve your happiness in life.

What to Do If You’re Not Satisfied with Your Life Right Now

Do you feel something is missing from your life or you are not fulfilling your potential? If you are not satisfied with your life then you need to continue reading as we continue to discuss how you can feel much more positive about yourself and about your life.

If you stop to think for a moment I bet you could list many things which make you feel dissatisfied with your life, but this is a question of your attitude. Everyone could make such a list but the result would be negativity and unhappiness.

If you approach your life looking at it from what is missing or what could be better then you will be unhappy and dissatisfied. You might even become depressed or lose hope. Please don’t! I’ve got some great suggestions for you how to improve your life satisfaction…

So, how can you start to feel more positive looking forward?

One way is to use resources online and offline, such as books and audios. Check out why self help is the best help you can give yourself and how to succeed with it.

How to Improve Your Life satisfaction

Let’s take a look at the different factors that influence how you feel about your life and then I’ll move onto suggestions how you can improve your sense of satisfaction in life.

Self Esteem and Life Satisfaction

In this study of Spanish adolescents, self esteem was found to be a major factor influencing life satisfaction and this confirms many other studies.

Self esteem effects your mindset and your confidence to move forward. It affects how you view yourself as a success or as a failure. It can paralyze you or help you get started on the progress you deserve.

In fact, the worst thing that low self esteem can do to is to make you believe that you don’t deserve to be happy. That’s simply not true!

So one way to improve how satisfied your are with your life is to build your self esteem.

Self Confidence and Life satisfaction

It would seem that if you want to improve things in your life, you will have to make changes. These changes may scare you and you’ll definitely need one of the most important weapons out there, self confidence.

If you want to be happier with life, you need to reach your potential and push yourself to do new things and meet new challenges positively. You’ll need confidence to give you the courage to get started and keep going no matter what happens or what others say. You’ll need confidence to encourage yourself, especially when you experience a setback.

So how do you go about building up your self confidence so you become unstoppable?

I have the answers for you here:

Your Sense of Achievement

A sense of achievement is great for your confidence and for your self esteem too. Feeling that you have achieved something worthwhile provides a sense of satisfaction and purpose. Your sense of achievement, though, depends on the standards you set yourself and also the values you have. Part of building self esteem involves learning to value yourself and what you achieve.

There is quite a bit of evidence that setting and achieving goals can help you improve your life satisfaction. This study on students showed that setting and reaching goals results in higher satisfaction with life. This study from China also agrees that believing you have successful achieved a goal boosts your life satisfaction.

Action Step: Draw up a list of goals which are important to you. Your goals should be broken into achievable steps and not too big. When you are ready, set a time limit to achieve the goal(s). Enjoy the process of achieving these goals and stick at it. When you look back on your achievement you will have improved your life satisfaction.

Opportunity and Choice in Life

There is always plenty of opportunity, even if it appears otherwise. The point for you is not if there are opportunities for you, but can you see them? If you are crippled with low self esteem, lack confidence and feel negative about your achievements so far, then your ability to spot opportunity and feel hopeful about the future may be destroyed. But it is still there. Hope exists, even if you don’t feel it.

Work and Satisfaction in Life

As work is such a big part of our lives, it would be surprising if it didn’t affect our sense of life satisfaction. So you have two choices with work, either you can move into a better and more satisfying job or you can try to enjoy the work you do now more. These are the two positive steps you can take to be happier. The worst thing to do is nothing or to continue doing a job you hate. I wouldn’t wish that on anybody!

This study by Larsson and Thulin shows how self-employed entrepreneurs have higher life satisfaction. The reasons given are that they feel they have more control over their work. This gives them a sense of independence. Thus, when they achieve their goals, having taken advantage of opportunity, they become more satisfied with life in general.

Does this mean you should start your own business? Not necessarily! This is something that you will have to work out for yourself and think carefully about. It also depends on what job you currently have. How much do you like your present job? How much independence and control do you feel you have to do your job?

Personally speaking, I have worked for myself and enjoyed the experience. It is not an easy choice to run your own business but can be very rewarding. On the other hand, I have taught for many years and this kind of job allows you to be quite independent and creative, so I felt a lot of satisfaction teaching.

Your Life Situation

Pretty much all of the above factors combine to form your current life situation. But there are some other things that contribute too. Your relationships, family, finances, where you live and others.

What can you do about these?

Well, some things you cannot change of course. You’re kind of stuck with your family, but you can learn to appreciate and love them more. The things you cannot change, as the saying goes, you must accept and make the best of. The things you can change, well, get started!

Sources

  • OECD. ND. Better Life Index. http://www.oecdbetterlifeindex.org/topics/life-satisfaction/
  • Lourdes Rey, Natalio Extremera, Mario Pena. 2011. Perceived Emotional Intelligence, Self-Esteem and Life Satisfaction in Adolescents. Psychosocial Intervention, Volume 20, Issue 2, Pages 227-234. ISSN 1132-0559, https://doi.org/10.5093/in2011v20n2a10
  • Åge Diseth, Anne G. Danielsen & Oddrun Samdal (2012) A path analysis of basic need support, self-efficacy, achievement goals, life satisfaction and academic achievement level among secondary school students, Educational Psychology, 32:3, 335-354, DOI: 10.1080/01443410.2012.657159
  • Larsson, J.P., Thulin, P. 2019. Independent by necessity? The life satisfaction of necessity and opportunity entrepreneurs in 70 countries. Small Bus Econ 53921–934. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11187-018-0110-9
  • Perera, K. (2021). Life satisfaction Survey. Source

Website Author and Your Guide

Karl Perera is a fully qualified Life Coach (DipLC), Teacher (MA), and author of the book Self Esteem Secrets. He has taught at various universities including Durham, Leicester and Anglia Ruskin, Cambridge. He has run More-SelfEsteem.com since 1997 since suffering from low self esteem for more than 25 years overcoming it in his thirties.