How is your investment portfolio? What type of car do you drive? A Mercedes or Corolla? How many friends do you have on Facebook?
In today's competitive world, where we often measure ourselves and others by the superficial, it can be difficult to find true happiness.
After visiting some friends over the weekend in their new mansion, complete with granite bench tops and polished concrete floor, I couldn't help but wonder about the disconnect between my warm, thoughtful friend and her home.
The house was beautiful, but there was something lacking and it certainly wasn't through a lack of money.
Behind the perfectly manicured gardens and underneath the stainless steel range hood there was nothing of my friend's soul.
Now soul has become somewhat of a cliché these days. It is often ascribed to anyone or anything that is non-commercial.
But does an activist have soul because they challenge commercialism? Does a cafe have soul because it sells ethical coffee? Arguably, they don't.
Whether the word is soul, genuine, or authentic, it is all irrelevant. The fact of the matter is we know it when we see it and feel it when we touch it.
Thinking back to my friend's mansion, there were no ornaments adorning the fridge or memories on display, and there were no signs of wear and tear etched into the floor by love and age. Every space was bereft of warmth and character.
Now, it's not to say that this style of house is wrong, the point is that in today's busy world of competition and comparison it is important to make sure your place, whether at home or work, nourishes you.
That doesn't mean you have to go out and cover your fridge with photos or build a pool room like the one made famous by The Castle, it just means considering your place and what you can do to make it a reflection of you.
Forget about what your next-door neighbour's place is like; what sort of place do you really want? What sort of place will make you happy?
In a growing trend sweeping the planet, people are challenging mainstream conventions and questioning their sense of place.
From the tiny house movement, to the slow living trend, these movements are not only redefining how places are designed, but helping people better connect with their existing place for an improved quality of life.
Imagine a house with no fixed address and the ability to live without the stress of a massive mortgage. According to real estate company Domain, the tiny house movement could see you living with utility bills as low as $10 a month.
And with the Herald Sun reporting that there could be more than 50 houses like this already built and occupied across Australia, this is no longer pioneering territory.
Even in your existing house and workplace, you can fight back against the invasion of clutter and pressure.
The slow living movement can empower you to savour the moment and create relationships that invigorate and enhance your life.
Whichever way we look at it, place and our sense of it has a significant bearing on our lives. If these growing trends prove anything, it is that you don't have to be a slave to the generic off-the-plan, or maintain the workplace status quo.
With some simple measures you can take control and create a place that suits your needs. Don't let the superficial control your happiness; when you know who you are and what nourishes you, you unlock the secret to your happiness.
Dirima Cuthbert is a respected anthropologist with a degree in architecture. She has presented her research on sustainable living around the world from UWA to Harvard University.
As the founder of Studio Anthro, Dirima is committed to helping people understand how their home can enhance their happiness.
Studio Anthro provides insight, knowledge and advice to help people live a mindful life.
Question: What can you tell us about the recent research you presented to Harvard University?
Dirima Cuthbert: It was part of my postgraduate research on why we don't build more sustainably.
Question: What inspired you to begin this research?
Dirima Cuthbert: I knew lots of people who had embarked on their new home build with ideas about sustainability but had ended up with a house which didn't reflect those values.
Question: What response did Harvard University give?
Dirima Cuthbert: The audience was a mix of students and academic staff from a range of backgrounds including architecture, engineering and history. They were interested in the research because it sits across disciplines and therefore offers a fresh perspective on a topical issue.
Question: Can you share with us, what's next in regards to -unlock the secret to your happiness'?
Dirima Cuthbert: Studio Anthro helps you know yourself and your world for greater happiness. Because the approach places you at the centre, it offers endless potential across all aspects of life from relationships to work, even your wardrobe! We are offering more and more ways to help people unlock the secret to their own happiness. Part of this includes reaching out to more people and we hope to have online courses available in the near future.
Question: How would you describe the work Studio Anthro, does?
Dirima Cuthbert: We help you know yourself and your world so you make better decisions. Life becomes simpler, less stressful and more fulfilling. We call this a mindful life. We offer 3 ways to connect so you can live mindfully every day: consulting, workshops and a store.
Question: How can Studio Anthro help women?
Dirima Cuthbert: We support women from all walks of life to find their own happiness. We believe that a mindful life should benefit all so some of our classes are free or payment by gold coin donation. Our current theme is PLACE, so this term the donations are going to homeless charities, including a domestic violence shelter. We buy our products from makers who provide employment for women. We have plans afoot for an outreach program connecting women from around the world.
Question: Can you tell us about the Studio Anthro workshops?
Dirima Cuthbert: They focus on a specific theme which runs for a term. Our current theme, explores PLACE in various contexts, for example, the home, the workplace and other less tangible places, like the places that populate our memories. We use the humanities, arts and creative arts to examine popular ideas such as Minimalism and Slow Living. We give participants the tools to apply them to their own lives in ways that are meaningful for them.
Question: How can we stop measuring our worth by superficial items?
Dirima Cuthbert: We encourage people to really consider what's meaningful to them. What will meet your needs and but bring you joy? How can you use that opportunity to make the world a better place? Every time we buy we are casting a vote for the person we are and the world we want.
Question: What are your top tips for females to unlock the secret to their happiness?
Dirima Cuthbert: 1) know yourself: not just what you like, but what's really important to you.
2) know your world: educate yourself on what's out there and go out and experience it!
Interview by Brooke Hunter
Images: Leanne Timms