by Keith Paine

Springtime is traditionally a period of renewal for most of us, a fresh start. It can also be a good time to step back from the day-to-day pressures we all face, and do a bit of self-assessment on a broader scale. Where were you last year at this point? And how do you feel now, in comparison? What are the different aspects of life that you use to measure your progress? All tricky questions, especially the last one. There are a lot of numbers we can use to define success: money gained, miles run, pounds lost, etc. Are these superficial numbers, that change so easily, really a way to measure how we are?

Scientific research continually suggests what spiritual advisors have known for a very long time: true well-being is measured along a different, much deeper set of guidelines. Values, such as commitment to a cause, the freedom to act, and connection to others, are continually mentioned as the key determining factors to long-term happiness. Of course, these values are much harder to quantify, and they often exist independently of each other. How often do we sacrifice one of these factors to concentrate on another? Much like our physical health, it does not help us to focus on one thing to the exclusion of others. If your nutrition is terrible, it’s going to negatively affect your exercise, digestion, sleep, and so on. So it is with happiness. It’s in the balance of these major factors–commitment, freedom and connection–that well-being seems to be found.

Take a moment this week to assess yourself on your participation in these deeper values. Identifying those gaps in your life—and working to fill them—may be the surest path we have towards personal fulfillment.