Standard of Living vs. Quality of Life

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By the author of Street Survivalism: A Practical Training Guide To Life In The City and The Ultimate Survival Gear Handbook

If we search the roots of conflicts, social collapses, and even many non-natural disasters, we’ll find an economic distortion or bust. Economic, monetary, and financial downturns and crashes are the mother and father of almost every other man-made SHTF.

That’s because the systems supporting a complex civilization are based on economy, finance, and trading. When those crack or stumble, everything else follows. Economic and financial crises create imbalances that impact social cohesion by wreaking havoc on the supply chain and shrinking the pool of resources. 

I keep beating that drum, and that’s how it is. When people are jobless, freezing, and starving, everyone retreats, and survival instinct kicks in. Priorities change, tensions rise, and it’s harder to find common ground. That doesn’t mean chaos everywhere, but given the gloomy economic outlook, the likelihood of wars and social unrest in some parts of the globe will increase in the coming years, that’s for sure. 

Down here, ‘in the real world,’ the recession is already bringing hardship, suffering, and even the end to many. It’ll get worse, but there’s no need to fear: I know from personal experience that the majority adapt and survive, so I’ll tell a little ‘life hack’ about how to lead a decent and fulfilling life and even grow in many ways during hard times.

Standard of living and quality of life 

Let’s start with two important concepts.

The standard of living is a measurable metric: the level of wealth, comfort, and material goods available to individuals and the collective. On the other hand, quality of life is a subjective, immaterial measure of happiness. 

Standard of living and quality of life overlap but don’t connect in the way most people think (or should I say, were brainwashed to believe). It’s possible – and in fact, very common – for a person, family, community, or an entire population, to have little to almost no possessions, comforts, or conveniences available and still be happy. Everybody knows someone like that. 

The opposite is also true: someone can be filthy rich and have access to all kinds of material goods and pleasures and still be miserable, sick, and depressed. I’m sure everybody knows or has at least heard of someone like that, too. It can be argued that despite having just reached its industrial and technological peak, modern civilization is lost, hopeless and sad in many ways. 

But let’s leave that discussion for another time. Understanding the above dissociation is critical, and I’ll return to that in a moment.

From abstract principles to material consequences

A nation’s standard of living is generally indicated by GDP (nominal and per capita). But also – and in significant part – by how well (or poorly) the GDP or national wealth is distributed. 

When the GDP contracts, different parts of society get impacted at different levels. Overall, the quality of life of the entire population falls. However, it’s worse when the national wealth gets too concentrated because it gives rise to sentiments of injustice and revolt, which leads to divisiveness and violence (crime, etc.). That’s why a crash in the standard of living is perceived as an SHTF. 

Also, people resent instability, change, and above all, loss – of material possessions, comforts, conveniences, status, and privileges. That’s basic human psychology. The shock can be more significant in wealthy and developed countries, where the middle class makes up a much larger part of the demographic. It’s a population more used to higher degrees of safety, stability, and material abundance than the poor classes and, at the same time, more impacted by shocks and recessions than the rich. 

Again, people adapt over time for the most part, but the sentiment can be painful, particularly early on. I mention that because being aware and conscious of this mechanism can reduce anxiety and avoid unnecessary suffering.

Mindset is a critical aspect.

Earlier, I said it’s possible to live a good and fulfilling life with a low standard of living (or a dropping one), and it’s true. It’s not easy, but possible and more common than people think. If I didn’t have my own experience, I’d still have many other examples around me and everywhere to show me that. 

Too many of life’s important things are free or cost very little. Don’t get me wrong; I’m simplifying to illustrate a point. I’ll repeat: wealth can provide happiness and bring comfort. But it can’t compensate for moral, spiritual, institutional, and social decadence. In the wrong context, it can amplify those things and sentiments. No GDP can make a population enslaved and entrapped by consumerism, stress, greed, envy, and in poor health, genuinely happy. There’s no cure for lack of purpose or meaning. 

The world rulers want us to believe that’s a naive idea, but it’s a compelling and liberating insight. It applies to individuals and the collective and becomes powerful when things are dire. Modern society has been brainwashed to believe that if something has a low cost, it has low value. Those in that mindset will pass up many good opportunities and suffer more than necessary when luxury and privileges disappear. 

It’s nice being able to afford the stuff we like. I’m not advocating for total abnegation and self-sacrifice, just temperance, realism, adjustments in psychology, and habits for a better life. We can’t control the direction of the economy or the world, but we can have a say in how we respond to a changing reality. That can make a difference for our families and us.

A practical example 

Living near to work increases the quality of life – quite dramatically, it must be said. Instead of being stuck in traffic, stressed, and breathing polluted air for hours daily, people can walk, bike, or take public transportation. That means improved physical conditioning, mental sanity, positive interactions, and better urban spaces. Shorter commutes also provide free time to be spent with family or friends, pursue interests and hobbies, and tend to health or the community. 

Those things are good for people. If that single change happens on a large scale, fewer cars, fuel, and services will be sold. Consequently, less investment in infrastructure, less healthcare and welfare spending, less taxation, less pollution, and so on. It also means a smaller GDP (standard of living, a number), and you’d think that would be bad for the country and its population. But it’s not if that means improved cities and happier, healthier people (quality of life). 

Besides, as I said, if the generated wealth isn’t well distributed, or gets squandered, then the gross GDP matters little. That is no communist preaching. I’m 100% convinced that free market capitalism is the path to prosperity and higher equality. That is not about ideology and politics but individual pursuits. We must do all we can to break from that, which happens at the personal level.

The third path

Admittedly, things like living close to work are a rare privilege in this day and age. How the system is designed and built requires lots of money to beat The Matrix or a total unplugging from the machine (which is not practical and won’t warrant a good quality of life, either). 

However, technological advancements and other changes of modern life and social arrangement have brought immense possibilities. You’ve heard Selco speak of big circle and small circle events. We can’t control the standard of living (big circle). But now, more than ever, individuals have actual tools to pursue a better or more fitting quality of life (small circle). These are effective strategies, more so during difficult times.

Focusing time, dedication, and energy on those is realistic and achievable and yields lasting results. For instance, try investing in (or prioritizing) the following:

  • Yourself (that always comes first – improving physical and mental condition).
  • Family and friends (quality time).
  • Knowledge (new ways to stay productive, connected, relevant, etc.)
  • Positive and productive habits (hobbies, reading, writing, learning new skills, etc.).
  • Positive and healthy relationships (supporting and dedicating time to things and people that matter most).
  • Your community (participation, awareness, support, etc.).
  • Others (charity, voluntary work, donations, etc.).
  • Discomfort (be comfortable staying uncomfortable).

There are no shortcuts or magical formulas

I could tell you what I did (and still do) in more practical terms. But each person has a unique setting, lifestyle, and limitations, so we have to find ways to work on what’s possible according to those contexts and possibilities. Besides, I have succeeded at times but failed miserably in many others – and still do too. I’m no role model. I just want to make you reflect.

Of course, working hard and smart is still necessary to keep income flowing and sustain material conditions. It’s the real world, after all. Food, heating, a roof – stuff don’t come for free. The bills will keep arriving every month despite pandemics, the WEF, wars in distant countries, censorship, and other things, so money is always necessary. 

Finally, survivors adapt during crises by persevering, adjusting, prioritizing, and compromising. Be aware that the competition gets much more fierce during a crisis, so everyone has to dig deeper to keep floating. A change in the mindset and some practical aspects of your lifestyle to achieve a higher quality of life rather than the standard of living is achievable at the individual level. Stay open and flexible, be patient, and have faith. It’ll work. 

Final thoughts

This is meant to be a positive message for the year that has just started. It’s inspired by my family and others who lived through my country’s military regime and stagflation periods during the 1970s and 80s. That’s where we found unity, energy, and perseverance to plow ahead. 

In every crisis, the great majority of people survive. Even wars, even bad ones. The difference is, those who lived by positive principles, ideas, and practices go beyond that and stay open to growth, connection, and enjoyment despite hardship. Quitters and complainers get left behind or drag along in misery.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, experiences, criticism, and ideas. I’m grateful to Daisy and The Organic Prepper colleagues for allowing me to share my experiences and learnings in this space, and I hope this helps in some way. 

I wish everyone a great 2023 and expect to see you here again. May we keep doing this in the next year and many more in the future. Stay safe, and God bless. 

What are your thoughts?

How do you keep yourself positive? On what do you focus during difficult times? Do you believe we can still be happy – and keep your quality of life – as our standard of living drops due to economic pressures?

Let’s talk about it in the comments.

About Fabian

Fabian Ommar is a 50-year-old middle-class worker living in São Paulo, Brazil. Far from being the super-tactical or highly trained military survivor type, he is the average joe who since his youth has been involved with self-reliance and outdoor activities and the practical side of balancing life between a big city and rural/wilderness settings. Since the 2008 world economic crisis, he has been training and helping others in his area to become better prepared for the “constant, slow-burning SHTF” of living in a 3rd world country.

Fabian’s ebook, Street Survivalism: A Practical Training Guide To Life In The City , is a practical training method for common city dwellers based on the lifestyle of the homeless (real-life survivors) to be more psychologically, mentally, and physically prepared to deal with the harsh reality of the streets during normal or difficult times. He’s also the author of The Ultimate Survival Gear Handbook.

You can follow Fabian on Instagram @stoicsurvivor

Fabian Ommar

Fabian Ommar

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  • My only comfort with all this insanity is that God is in complete control & nothing surprises Him. I am selfish that I don’t want to be affected by any of it & do pray for a hedge of protection.

    But I’ll be honest, we have not been too affected yet. Maybe we took precautions unbeknownst to us. There is a fine balance between enjoying life & being observant to the potential chaos around us all the time. It’s exhausting & stressful & stress kills. So that is my challenge.

    Since we are recently empty nesters from a 6 person home to just 2, cost savings has allowed us that cushion to not really be affected too much so far. And for that I am deeply grateful. We have always lived beneath our means so that helps.

    Each day I wake up & I’m healthy, my husband & kids are healthy, I have a roof over me, food in my fridge, heat in my home…I am positive. Things can always get worse. But now, they are pretty dang great.

  • This is timely. I am now suffering from terminal cancer. This has forced economic problems upon us. However, my / our attitude is calm and positive. Something we should have done a long time ago.Money – wise, it’s tough,but we will get by. The positives are far better in a crisis than negativity,for sure. Bad thinking achieves nothing,for sure.

    • Thanks for sharing this, Paul, I really appreciate. I’m not really good with comforting words but from my heart, I wish you well and holding you close in my thoughts and prayers. Also your family and friends’.

      And you’re right, we keep fighting while we’re here, that’s the best attitude, so stay strong.

    • SO sorry to hear about that. GOD bless you and you can always have HOPE that He (the greatest healer) will heal you in His own time. I am trying to be some bit of comfort. I know dealing with that is not easy, but I am glad that you can deal with it as best you can and wish you the best.

    • I too was given a recent terminal diagnosis, Renal Failure in my case, and I’m not a candidate for transplant due to cardiac and other health issues. I applaud and admire you for keeping a positive attitude. It’s something I’m struggling with, and much of the time,, I fail in the struggle.
      Medical bills have driven my wife and I to the poverty level. I see no light at the end of this tunnel right now, and I’ve serious doubts a solution will be found. When she lost her job at the beginning of the plandemic, it was a blow from which we’ve not recovered. Though she’s applied for any work that comes up, at 60, there’s not many opportunities. Age discrimination is supposed to be illegal, but it happens anyway.
      I pray you keep your positive attitude Paul. It’s a large part of fighting any illness, and especially Cancer.
      Good luck and God Bless you and your family.

      • For Paul and Bemused Berserker: Lady Life is right, when she says there are many things that work better than chemo. Pat Kilchermann is one man that was put on this earth for that special purpose. He has done it. Google: “You Will Beat This”. It isn’t a feel good, attitude thing – although that does have its place – but it is a health protocol that will let your body do what it is designed to do. Just do it. Google : “You Will Beat This”.
        God bless Pat for what he has done for humanity. May God bless you and your families, also.
        Allen

    • I think one of the results of the ’20’s chaos will be the END of cancer as a killer. There are hundreds of things that work better than chemo. They are suppressed because what works is cheap–almost no money for Big Pharma and greedy doctors. What works is cheap because we got here either from a loving God, or from The-fittest-survive and that means adaptation to what is readily available and therefore cheap.
      A few years ago a dog dewormer made a splash for curing cancer and now there are promising results from a livestock dewormer. Ivermectin won the 2015 Nobel Prize in Medicine for HUMAN results. No guarantees, but this stuff has been tried by millions of people, and used in animals for decades. That equals proven safe. I would try it if I had cancer.
      We live in such INTERESTING and glorious times. I want to live through the whole thing. Yeah, there’s challenges. Happens I love a good challenge.

      • If anyone is interested in buying Ivermectin over the counter, without a Rx, go to http://www.ivermectin.com. The site is run by medical philanthropists and it was recommended by Dr. Elizabeth Eades who has a clinic in Ormond Beach, Florida. Their prices are very reasonable compared to other sources. Good luck and take care.

    • Paul, I will keep you and your family in my prayers. I love researching and last week came across a video saying that Vitamin B 17 kills cancer cells while leaving the healthy ones alone. It originates from apricot pits. Also, baking soda changes your body’s PH to alkaline and that is helpful also. Tincture of iodine kills skin melanoma. A woman I work with tried the iodine drops directly on her skin and her cancerous spots are disappearing. Hang in there and I wish you many blessings.

    • so sorry for you & cancer, I just had Biopsy i’m waiting results thought i had beat it 5 years ago. @ 79 not woried. had a fairly good life. no kin. to fuss over what little i have
      wish you the very best.
      keebler.

  • Uplifting and spot on. Mindset is probably the most important element in having a happy and productive life. I love the article and we be reposting it.

  • I’m always thinking about what I can do to improve my life with what I have. In January 2019, I decided that I was going to become more self-reliant and prepare for SHTF. What happened was the pandemic and my job (teacher) was put on hold and I was offered unemployment. Rather than stay where I was, I decided to bug out to the property that my husband and I bought for cash the previous summer (2019) and set up a trailer that we bought for cash. I gardened, raised chicks, canned, and planted fruit trees, strawberries, and asparagus while the rest of the country dealt with the pandemic I stayed secluded on our developing homestead. We put in our outdoor woodstove just before winter. The following year we started marketing at the farmers’ market. This past year, I grew and canned even more food.

    This next year, I will spend more time helping others in my community and region develop a more sustainable lifestyle through a book series that a friend of mine and I are developing and marketing directly to retailers. Ozark Grannies’ Secrets is the way that we are going to help others develop their own sustainable high quality, low cost life.

    We all can either throw up our hands and say that things look bad or we can get busy and make life better for ourselves. Right now, we all still have a choice to be more productive on a personal level. We don’t have to wait for our government to implode for our lives to change. We can control our situations in ways that we never dreamed possible if we just start doing what we can.

  • big circle. little circle. all the rest of it was the same old same old.

    doesn’t anybody have new ideas any more?

    • Good point Peter, I agree.

      If you have any new ideas you’d like to read about or suggest, I’m all ears. No doubt others would appreciate and be thankful for the contribution as well, I sure would.

      Thanks, and stay safe!

  • Thanks everyone for your comments. I didn’t expect that! Regarding the original article though,and regarding life up to death itself,positive thoughts are so much better for all of us.stuff happens.Good and bad, positive and negative. But we have the chances to change that when it happens. Change it the happy way. Don’t waste your time,please. X

  • HI Paul, In the last three years we had a major fire, Covid and a Cancer diagnosis for me. Once I got over the initial shock I found that my appreciation of whatever life I have left increased many fold. I hope you will find it works like that for you too. Good luck and stay positive.

  • Hello Fabian, it was nice to read your article. I take it you are not a native or American born individual. I am, I was born to American born parents in 1950. Just 2 years after Israel became her own country again! Praise God! I am a true believer and follower of Jesus Christ! That has guided me most all my life. I was a nurse on both foreign and domestic soils. Much of that time I learned a lot about poverty, loss and deprivation from those beautiful people God sent me to serve in his Holy name. Nothing this world can dish out is a surprise to me, sometimes it is extremely unsettling as to how low and depraved individual people can be to each other, even one group against the other! But those of us blessed by God to see his Grace in everything, do over come all ugly circumstances no matter how much is thrown at us! I can’t say I “enjoy” it all. But God’s provision and his everlasting goodness to those who love him(even to those who don’t love him at times) is the balm that soothes, even the harshest of situations. May God bless you and yours, and may He see us all through the trying times that lay ahead! Shalom, may Hus peace rest on you always!😇👵

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