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October 17, 2011

My Schema for a Full Life

by alive



In the hustle and the bustle of daily living, have you ever wondered: what am I doing?

Have you ever wondered: how is this activity, right now, contributing to my Life?

It’s so easy in the daily noise to lose track of what you are doing and why. You’re vaguely aware of activity, but not cognizant of how it adds to your Life, if at all.

If you’ve just done a stocktake of your Life, and are unsatisfied with how you’ve spent it, it helps to have a yardstick with which you can evaluate what you choose to do.

I’d like to share the framework I’m using as a simple guide to Living, which might help you come up with your own guide too.


My Challenge

I knew what my two Life Principles were

  1. CANI (Continuous And Neverending Improvement) in all areas of my Life
  2. Adding positively to the Lives of good people around me

From here I wanted to create a visual map that would help me sort my activities and decisions as a sort of decision making tree, but this was easier said than done!


Idea 1: Put activities into CANI categories
For example: Physical, mental/ emotional, relationship/ social, financial, cultural, developmental/ learning.
Problem: What about activities that would fit into more than one of these categories?
For example, learning Spanish would fit into mental, cultural and learning. Inline skating would fit under physical, learning. Piano playing would come under physical, cultural, learning. It’d be too much of a mess, and in my opinion anytime a plan gets too complicated to see clearly, it’s hard to follow.


Idea 2: Put activities into facet of life categories
For example: My personal facet of life categories include work, business, learning, contribution, relationships, reliving Life (this to me means connecting back to an earlier time of more happiness, innocent values and hope).
Problem: By focussing on facet categories it is easy to lose track of balance in my CANI categories. For example, I might do things that adds to my work, business, and learning aspects, but they may be overweighted towards the mental/ intellectual area. I may forget about the physical, social and cultural CANIs.


My Solution

Idea 3: Combining the two.
What I came up with in the end was to marry the two in a model, where my Full Life activities all contribute to my CANI model.

Like so:


How does this work?

This model acts like a screen/ filter in evaluating anything I decide to undertake, or a check on anything I am already engaged in. It works in three stages.

Stage 1: Does this activity make me happy?

Stage 2: Does it add to any of my full Life facets?

Stage 3: Which CANI category does this belong to?


This three-stage screen helps you make choices by determining two things.

First: does this add to my having a full Life in anyway? If not, then you may not want to do it.

Second: which CANI category/ -ies does this undertaking belong t? I can then get instant feedback whether any CANI is being neglected. For example if I run this screen on the last few things I undertook and find that many of them belonged to the Physical CANI, I’ll be reminded to balance my Life with something that feeds another CANI category. Cultural or mental/ intellectual, for example.



Example 1: Inline Skating

Let’s say I decide to learn inline skating. I ask three questions

1. Will this make me feel happy right now?
Answer: Yes it would. It’s a novelty and a break.

2. Does it add to any of my full Life facets?
Answer: Yes. It adds to my learning and physical health facets of Life.

3. Which CANI category does this belong to?

Physical: it’s an acquired skill challenging balance, endurance and postural control.

Mental: it involves analysis and understanding theory and translating to action

Learning: it’s something new I need to learn, practice, and improve.



Example 2: Watching a Movie

Let’s take another example. Watching an action film.

  1. Will this make me feel happy right now?
    Answer: Yup. It’s a distraction, and nothing lifts the spirits than a movie that ends with the hero riding off with the girl into the sunset after dealing with the bad guys.
  2. Does it add to any of my full Life facets?
    Answer: Not really, but I’m watching it with a friend to help him get over a recent loss (relationships).
  3. Which CANI category does this belong to?
    Answer: This really only fulfils social CANI but so have the last few things I’ve done. Could I choose another activity to balance my CANI categories such as taking my friend to a play (cultural CANI) or introduce him to horse riding (Physical and Learning CANIs)



Now don’t get the idea that this is mechanical. Once you internalize it, the process becomes almost second Nature.

I’m not saying that this process will work for everybody. In fact it’s probably flawed and missing key elements. But a huge part of living comprises of the things you invest time in.  A rough guide like this gives you a quick check for each activity or project you are about to engage in. Without it, it would be so easy to get caught up in the daily grind of fires to put out and emergencies to neutralize. Before you know it, you’re 40, 50, 60 or beyond.

The younger you are, the more you’re in the unknown, and the future is always bright and promising because you have the scope for hope and fantasy.


As you mature, you realize that increasingly, you are going to have to actively work on living Life fully. Your room for fantasy becomes smaller, crowded out by your experience of reality: of your abilities, your level of determination, and your environment. Your options get less unless you create more of your own. As you get wiser, you realize the truth of that old adage: You, and ONLY YOU, create your own future!

Here’s my challenge.

First, do a stocktake of your Life.

Then, come up with your own guidelines to making sure you don’t waste a single, precious moment of this thing we call Life. It can be a flowchart, a simple diagram, even three words on a paper. Whatever works!

I’ve shown you mine.

Now show me yours.



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