The basic equation of modern life is more simple than you think. It is about understanding what exactly you are solving for. Something that once understood more deeply,  gives you real choice and agency around how you live.

The equation

Without further ado, the basic equation of modern life may be expressed as follows:

How to make the minimum (money) you need to live, whilst having a good time!

Said more expansively: How can you spend your time doing stuff that inspires you and that supports your wellbeing (and that of others), whilst being able to generate the level of income you need to sustain your life.

So, the “equation” is simple enough. What really needs looking at is why we fail to consider things in this way. Let us go into this more.

The pre-condition

The reality is that there is a fundamental pre-condition for being able to make sense of this equation. And, that pre-condition is a mindset. A mindset often quite alien to the modern, “success”-obsessed person, hypnotised by status achievements and hell-bent on “becoming somebody”.

If you have chosen to believe that success and happiness are to be found through external validation that comes from the outside, then this equation might as well be written in Klingon. For, it is based on the radical perspective that joy and contentment are readily accessible to you. That their source is actually within you. It is an inner state that can be accessed by your own volition. It is then quite different to arbitrary, changeable benchmarks of achievement that require you to jump through hoops to prove your self-worth.

It’s everywhere

Of course, embracing this radical perspective takes something. It takes the courage to ignore the dominant social narrative that pushes us constantly to put our happiness and wellbeing outside of ourselves. And, this narrative is everywhere. In the expectations of friends, colleagues and wider society, which whisper to us that we are only “worth something” if we do such and such.

This narrative is also one that has intensified in modernity to create high levels of anxiety and existential doubt. Doubt that makes us question our own self-worth as human beings and as creatures of nature more generally.  

Having a good time

basic equation of modern life

So, there is the question of what you actually do in order to ‘have a good time’. In order to be inspired and to support your wellbeing. And, that is a deeply personal question that only you can answer.

Each one of us will be attracted by different things, depending on our life experiences, inclinations and skills. For me, it is music and the exploration of human dynamics. For another, it may be horticulture or carpentry.

The key is to follow your interests, to go deeper into those things that you are enthusiastic about and that bring a twinkle to your eye.

Okay. But, what about the money?!

This bit is about logistics. It is about the practical reality of making enough to live while doing the things that you love. And, it goes without saying that the lower is the minimum you need, the more flexibility you will have! There are many ways to carve out something that works, from working part-time and dual-tracking your passion,  to having a sinecure (i.e. a low intensity, but well paid job) that gives you ample time to do what you love.

You have to remember though that there is no free lunch. For example, giving up a full-time, corporate job might mean less money, but perhaps the extra money is not necessary with a new life style where you do things that inspire you? This is why the word “minimum” is used in the equation. And, what about all that you gain through a shift in your mindset?

Solving the basic equation of modern life

So, the basic equation of modern life asserts that wellbeing and joy are to be prioritised above status and money, when the normal approach is the opposite!

It is about solving for a lifestyle — a way of being — that comes from the inside out, and NOT status and achievement that are outside in! 


Harsha is an executive and life coach based in London. He empowers people to find more clarity, confidence and focus in their lives. Subscribe to receive more insights like this.