Human beings constantly assert that there is only one life to live. This thus compels them to make the most out of it as it is considered to be short. The cornerstone to a good life is happiness which according to the dictionary, is the expression of intense joy and contentment usually classified by most as an emotion, a notion which religious experts sharply differ with. They instead classify happiness as the sum of all factors considered as constituting a good life.
In determining the factors that constitute a well lived life, different indicators are used which vary from individual to individual. While some may consider happiness as the leading indicator, others consider spirituality.
In deciding whether a person leads a good life or not, Abraham Maslow, in his 1943 paper, A Theory of Human Motivation (Harriman, 1946), suggested a hierarchical classification of needs. His research was solely based on the assessment of mentally healthy people who were achievers of their generation. These ‘specimens’ were chosen as they were role models and seemed to be the most content with their ways of life.
The most basic needs were at the bottom of the pyramid which was of a physiological nature, fundamental to the survival of the human body. Others that followed were safety, love, esteem and self-actualization. The epitome of this classification was the desire of a person to be something more he already is. In this level of needs, lies the desire to be spiritual.
Spirituality is defined as immaterial reality, a notion that allows a human being to understand the essence of his existence. The practices of prayer and meditation are the ways in which people connect to the spiritual world and grow their inner self. They are thus more contented with their own lives and the measure of this contentment is beyond that encompassed in mere happiness.
It summary, spirituality is a level higher than normal happiness; in the broadest meaning of the word. People who are spiritual are at peace and co-exist harmoniously with fellow humans, nature, the entire universe and the divine realm. They unequivocally believe in immateriality and their needs transcend those Maslow described in his hierarchy.
Spirituality has largely been associated with a religious experience; however, with the changing patterns and shift to secularism in the western culture (Burkhardt and Nagai-Jacobson, 2002), there has been a push to dissociate the two.
This has led to the emergence of lay spirituality which captures all experiences which make up the human world but attempting to distance itself with the acquisitive views. This concept accepts all practices of meditation which they rank as very useful for human development but do not associate with prayers as there is no belief in God or any other supernatural being.
This notion thus encompasses pluralism, personalized beliefs and openness to newer ideas that may not be tolerated by any particular religious doctrine. Spirituality, therefore, goes beyond religion as even atheists who are skeptic towards the existence of spirits also subscribe to it. The new definition of the term details the connection of a human to some force or energy which leads them to a deep self.
Spirituality, according to the above discussion is understood in many different ways depending on personal translation. The only point of convergence is that all those who have achieved spirituality are at the highest level of the human needs realization.
They have achieved peace between themselves and their surroundings and that concludes that they are happy with the way they lead their lives. Contentment with life, as a consequence of spirituality, points to happiness and hence a good life. In conclusion, spirituality is the best indicator of a well lived life in comparison to the other indicators.
Burkhardt, M. A and Nagai-Jacobson, M. G. (2002). Spirituality: living our connectedness. New York. Delmar, Thomson Learning Inc.
Harriman, P. L. (1946). Twentieth century psychology: recent developments in psychology. The philosophical library, Inc.