Save the World by Building a Happy, Healthy, Wealthy, and Productive Life

An introduction to the art of Life Efficiency


Schalk Cloete

3 years ago | 6 min read

Climate change, inequality of opportunity, Covid-19, a demographic crisis, the lifestyle disease epidemic, accelerating species extinctions, growing social unrest, ocean acidification, corruption, pollution, depression

Yes, my friends, the world could sure use some saving. But who will step up? Politicians? Tech billionaires? Religious leaders?

No, I believe our biggest hope lies with regular world citizens like you and me. Sounds crazy, right? What can a few individuals reading an article on Medium do about such enormous global issues?

Here’s the answer: We can improve our life efficiency.

I don’t make this statement lightly. It took an entire decade of sustainable development research to lead me to the conclusion that life efficiency is our most direct route to a sustainable and equitable global society.

In this article, I’ll explain what life efficiency is, how it can make your life a whole lot better, and why it can save the world.

What is Life Efficiency?

In a nutshell, life efficiency measures our ability to derive health and happiness from all our effort and environmental impact. If you’re interested in a more technical description, find it here.

Life efficiency aims to dispel the Western consumerist notion that we can spend ourselves to happiness. This is no easy task, given that the advertising industry shoves this dogma in our faces 5000 times a day.

But there are encouraging signs of change.

Movements such as minimalism, the post-growth economy, downshifting, voluntary simplicity, and FIRE are gaining traction, and we’re starting to understand that conspicuous consumption often has the opposite of the desired effect.

And the best thing of all? Life efficiency is not a painful sacrifice for the greater good. Au contraire! It’s a direct pathway to a better life 🙂

How Life Efficiency Creates Better Life

The most beautiful thing about life efficiency is that it reveals such a large number of complementary opportunities for improving our lives through more sustainable and socially responsible living.

Let’s take a quick run through the five most prominent examples.

1. Freedom

People have been fighting and dying for freedom throughout history. The liberty to direct our time, energy, and initiative as we see fit is one of our highest ideals.

Today, people in the rich world enjoy historically unprecedented levels of personal liberty. But all too many remain mired in economic slavery, wasting away their best years in soul-killing jobs for the sake of keeping up with the Joneses.

For this large group of people, life efficiency holds the key to true personal liberty. And it all starts with a simple mindset shift from working to consume whatever you want to working to create whatever you want.

After making this mindset shift, many of your expenses will suddenly seem pointless. Next, you’ll discover that using some of the resulting savings to renegotiate your work responsibilities or start a creative side project brings much higher life satisfaction.

Then, after some years of increasingly purposeful work, you may even see your income grow with your happiness!

Here’s a simple graphic summarising this virtuous interaction between life efficiency and creative freedom:

2. Health

The global lifestyle disease epidemic exposes the terrible effects of conventional consumerist lifestyle choices on our health. It’s one of those things that gets sadder and sadder the more you think about it.

Would you pay one group of people to smash up your house and another group of people to try rebuilding it? Of course not! Yet, all too many of us pay lots of money to the instant pleasure industry to destroy our health and then even more money to the medical-industrial complex to try repairing the damage. It’s a sad, sad situation.

Stress and frustration from inefficient lifestyles are core drivers of such self-destructive consumption, be it binge-eating, binge-watching, alcohol misuse, smoking, or more severe vices.

Fortunately, life efficiency can weaken these drivers, offering excellent protection against the horde of unhealthy temptations all around us. Life efficiency also gives us the time and resources we need to take proper care of ourselves.

The resulting virtuous interaction between life efficiency and health looks like this:

3. People

Want to be happy? Make other people happy. And, as you can probably predict by now, this section explains why life efficiency puts you in a much stronger position to spread happiness wherever you go.

This one is straightforward: If you have built a highly efficient life, it will give you the time, energy, and resources required to be a shining light in the lives of those closest to you.

In return, the good vibes from your nourishing relationships offer plenty of health and happiness. These pleasant feelings can also replace many of the instant pleasure temptations you’d otherwise be attracted to, further boosting life efficiency. The resulting virtuous cycle looks like this:

4. Investment

High life efficiency makes it much easier for you to generate productive surpluses in terms of time or money (or both). And such surpluses can be invested in all sorts of exciting ways.

The simplest option is to invest in the stock market using a set-and-forget monthly purchase order, ideally buying balanced funds in sectors or regions you’d like to support.

But there is a next level: investing in your initiatives. Such investments can involve paying others to work on your ideas or buying more of your own time (e.g., reducing your level of employment or outsourcing simple tasks).

This level is where the most life satisfaction lies. In my experience, investing in your own initiatives brings more joy than any consumer purchase, naturally displacing that primitive drive to consume. Thus, we have uncovered another virtuous feedback loop:

5. Development

One of the best things you can do with the mental clarity created by life efficiency is to develop even greater life efficiency.

The quest for more health and happiness from less consumption and environmental impact is thoroughly engaging and deeply rewarding, thanks to the vast array of complementary options you can mix and match.

Once you get into this game of designing a genuinely efficient life, it quickly becomes self-sustaining. And, like all the previous examples, this noble quest increases life satisfaction and reduces your dependency on fleeting dopamine highs from unhealthy consumption. Thus, you can improve your life efficiency simply by cultivating an interest in life efficiency 🙂

Why Life Efficiency Can Save the World

Take another look at that depressing list of problems I rambled off at the start of this article. Every one of these massive global issues can be improved if our society elevates its life efficiency through a blend of true personal liberty, better self-care, stronger support networks, larger productive surpluses, and smaller ecological footprints.

The potential for improvement in life efficiency is tremendous: about 400% from the current benchmark of the United States.

Even better, a sizable chunk of this potential requires nothing more than a mindset shift — a meme going viral within our highly interconnected society.

After this initial mindset shift, further gains await as eco- and people-centered urban development grows, telecommuting becomes the new normal, the health and wellness movement gathers further momentum, younger workers increasingly demand purpose over paychecks, and green peer pressure continues to mount.

Life efficiency will also stimulate many exciting innovations for building a sustainable and equitable society. As we discussed in the “Investment” section above, efficient living means that people invest their productive surpluses in making the world a better place instead of the flawed pursuit of happiness-through-consumption.

This paradigm shift can unlock a genuine sustainable development Rennaissance! I don’t know about you, but I’d love to live in such an inspired and innovative society 🙂

Happy Healthy Wealthy Productive Sustainable

All my writing in this publication is about improving life efficiency based on a simple principle: Sustainable living is no sacrifice. It’s a direct pathway to a happy, healthy, wealthy, and productive life.

A sustainable ecological footprint has given me 11 consecutive years without a hint of illness, financial freedom at age 34, and the personal liberty and purpose required to happily work twice as much as the norm.

Massive global gains in life efficiency are 100% possible, intensely desirable, and already gaining significant traction around the world. I will do my very best to further accelerate this beautiful trend!


Created by

Schalk Cloete

I’m a research scientist charting a practical and sustainable path to self-mastery.







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