Life Satisfaction In Sri Lanka

What is life satisfaction?

Life satisfaction is the overall assessment of one’s life (not the temporary mood) which explains how pleased they are about how the life is going. It has been identified that our work, relationships, health, education, experiences and personal developments determine the level of satisfaction in our life.

Social value system, work satisfaction and life satisfaction

It is only after living in the UK for some years that I realized how influential is the value system of the society to the life satisfaction of the people in that country. I have been closely observing this scenario over the time and it seems that the difference between the general acceptance of right and wrong in the UK society and that of Sri Lanka well explains the low life satisfaction in the Sri Lankan society.

As stated in the beginning, one’s career is one main factor affecting the level of satisfaction in their life. This is obvious because career is a main part of our life which takes up a significant portion of our lifetime. Also, of course it affects how well we live both physically and mentally.

It is characteristic in Sri Lanka that the social value system influences the people’s choice of their job. I guess you agree with me on this. This is something that shouldn’t have happened, but unfortunately it does (in a destructive way).

Though our discussions about this matter have been limited to close friends so far, I think now is the time to open up about it, as the whole Sri Lankan nation is primed at the moment for rebuilding the country the right way. I believe more of this kind of open discussions would immensely help make an awareness in the society on the importance of having a righteous value system for coming out of the abyss we are in today.

Today’s post is about achieving life satisfaction through work satisfaction and recognizing the misconceptions in the Sri Lankan society about professions.

person standing on an observatory with arms wide open in joy

Working in Sri Lanka

It is typical, specially in Sri Lanka, that the youth use the easiest path available to get the highest-salary job one day. Most of the time the Sri Lankan students don’t have any specifications about their future job, other than the assurance that they would get it at the end. There is nothing wrong in their practice as the whole system in the society is set up in this way. In fact, if one is deviating from this approach, it looks odd and they are subjected to criticism from the society.

For the majority of the Sri Lankan population, a job (or less than that) is the maximum they achieve in a lifetime. At the same time, it is arguable whether it is the right job for them. Do they love the job? Are they good at that job or something else? This opens up the issue of ‘work satisfaction’. Do we ever think about the work satisfaction (that leads to ‘life satisfaction’) in Sri Lanka? Shouldn’t we love the work we do?

If you are earning plenty of or enough money to enjoy your life, then you might think that your job is ‘satisfying’. But it is impossible that you are really satisfied unless you are passionate about your work.

Are you getting real pleasure out of your work, its outcome and its progress? I guess, for the majority of Sri Lankans the honest answer is ‘no’. Of course, there are people who love their job in every field, specially artists, entrepreneurs, researchers and philanthropists etc, but that is only a thin minority of the population.

For those who work to remain employed, life is tiring and boring. Even if they don’t realize it, dissatisfaction is apparent in their lives. I know all this because I was one of them (some time ago).

My own experience

I find it easy to explain my point using my own experience. I was holding a high position where I worked (a prestigious company) which offered me high perks. Honestly, I was said to be an excellent employee too. No matter that I had everything I needed and also a lot of entertainment in life, yet I was obviously tired and also was bored of the stagnant life though I didn’t realize it at that time.

Now when I look back, I know it was mainly due to my job that I felt unsatisfied. I spent one third of my every weekday working and then, because that job was not satisfying, I was not satisfied in life. It is that simple. I don’t blame anyone for this as it was a result of not doing what I loved.

The root cause of this problem predominantly lies in the education system and the social value system in Sri Lanka.

Education system affects the choice of profession

I was educated in a top school and then in a top university in the country. I was good at number of subjects at school, yet I couldn’t figure out which subject I was most passionate about.

Unlike in other countries, our education system doesn’t create opportunities for the children to identify and improve their true passion and talent. That is because our system just measures the talent based on science and maths skills.

Therefore, this meant that we need to do either maths or science for our A/Ls just because we had good marks for those. The other options were automatically eliminated from our minds (from a very young age) and from our lives.

The other problem is, we only know how to become doctors, engineers, lawyers, accountants, lecturers and a few more etc, but there is no proper framework to guide us in the path to become anything we want, be it an actor, author, politician, mechanic, entrepreneur, farmer etc. Who would dare walk in the dark? So, everyone opt for the well-defined path. One can only enter the not-so-popular professions either through a very difficult path or as a coincidence later in life.

Drawbacks in the education system in Sri Lanka and its contribution to the widespread dissatisfaction in Sri Lankan lives and the situation of the country today, is a separate discussion on which I will publish a separate post.

Social system influences the career choice

It’s not just the education system that is responsible for people making the wrong decisions when choosing their careers. Our whole social system is responsible. Misconceptions about the meaning of education (that we should learn only to earn) and the classification of good and bad jobs, have been inherited from generation to generation in the society.

My choice in A/Ls too was influenced by the existing value system in the country; I opted for the stream which seemed most demanded, assured the most promising future and was already having a well-laid out road map for those who follow.

Though I achieved all my academic goals successfully, as I said my career life never turned out to be exciting for me, which means my choice was wrong. Now as I am living in the UK, I always think that I would never have made that mistake if I were here in that age.

To prove my point further, in the university I met so many others who were so good at and passionate about other subjects than what they were doing there, similar to me. Then this was also true for many others who I met during my work life too. I know this is the story of the majority of the population in Sri Lanka.

Other factors affecting the career choice

There are also other social, political and economic factors that contribute to people making wrong career choice.

I have clearly observed that in Sri Lanka, the majority lacks the confidence, the drive and the passion for achieving higher and satisfying levels in life. They set the bar very low and be satisfied having a job. Sometimes it is our upbringing or the stressful living that causes this backward, or rather indifferent nature in us.

Next, more than anything, we have limited opportunities to exploit. Jobs listed in the Sri Lankan job market are very limited. Other than the popular types of jobs, the others are not widely available, like almost hidden. Therefore, we all have to compete on one race though we all have different skills and strengths. This unhealthy competition is another subject deserving a separate post.

Again, there is the issue of lack of enough success stories in the society of those who broke the traditional approach. Mind you, there are outstanding people in Sri Lanka too who dared the system to reinvent themselves as successful professionals in their own field. We all as a nation should be proud of them. But that it not enough inspiration for our youth. We need more and more of them.

Chain reaction of wrong careers

Choosing the wrong job is a common mistake that we Sri Lankans do. But there are other common reasons too for Sri Lankans becoming an increasingly dissatisfied nation. Using our children to compensate for our lack of work satisfaction is one of them.

This is about our common habit of pushing our children to achieve what we think is the best for them. I am not insulting the compassion and the dedication of the Sri Lankan parents towards their children. I am a Sri Lankan parent and I know how concerned we are about our children.

Ensuring that our children get the best (what we think the best) education is just a subconscious attempt we make to fill the emptiness (or rather the dissatisfaction) of our own lives. I have couple of questions here and the answers to those will explain my point.

  • Do we know what our children are most passionate about?
  • Do we know what they are best at?
  • Is our choice the same as their choice?
  • Do we know enough (in this messed-up system) to choose the best for them?
  • Did we choose the best for us when we were young?
  • Are we now satisfied with the choices we made at that age?
  • Aren’t we just getting pleasure from seeing our children reaching what we recommended?

If we continue to do the same mistake for generations, it will have the chain reaction effect on the level of life satisfaction of our nation. So, it’s time we let at least our children make the right choice about their future. They don’t need to remain unsatisfied for the rest of their lives, just to please us. We should let them and their children to have really satisfied lives. Remember, riches don’t mean satisfaction.

How other countries do

The system is different in other countries like UK. People in those countries make a living out of what they love. For the same reason, they thrive in their work and the work thrive from them. Also, they do not take pleasure by driving their children to achieve their (not the children’s) dreams. Effectively, the children pursue what they (not the parents) enjoy and hence, they too are satisfied in the core.

In countries like UK, they believe that every person has one or more skills, and the system assures that every skill has a value and a demand in the market. If not, they can create the required demand and market, easily.

They have a broad variety of scopes that suit individual talents and there is room for anyone to develop any lucrative idea into reality. Those countries benefit in return by making people flourish as individuals.

Conclusion

If we do not take pleasure out of our work, then no matter how rich, powerful, educated and high ranked we are, our lives would be boring and unsatisfying. On the other hand, the huge number of unsuccessful school leavers every year in Sri Lanka is an outcome of children making wrong decisions in choosing their future profession.

On the other hand, if our job is what we are best at and most passionate about, we will be contented as individuals as well as best productive at our work. Then the country will be benefited from such effective workforce and a satisfied nation as a whole.

As explained earlier, the social and education system in Sri Lanka is set up such that we all compete for one thing, whether or not we have the liking or talent for that. It is important that we understand this scenario well so that we can at least as individuals be cautious about making right decisions about our career (even though the system is unfavourable) and be satisfied with life.

It is time now that we stop wasting the resources, efforts and time of the individuals as well as the government for people pursuing the wrong career choice. The psychological effects of this issue shouldn’t be underrated too. From the age of the student to an adult employee up to a retired senior citizen, the life will not be satisfying for every individual if they don’t do what they love. What good can we expect from a nation who are unsatisfied as individuals?

The day, we all love what we do, and do what we love, our country will excel again in this world…


I know it turned out quite long. All these issues are interconnected and hence it is difficult to restrict the discussion strictly to one topic. But I hope it has its worth. How do you perceive this matter? Would you agree with me or not? Please let me know by adding your comment below because we need opinions from all possible angles.

Also, if you found this useful, please spread the word by sharing this post, so that we can build up awareness in our society about the weaknesses we should eliminate. Please don’t forget to like too.

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