Life Squared helps you navigate the complexity of life so you can live in a happier, wiser and more meaningful way.
Our no-nonsense resources, courses and events help you explore what it means to be a human being in the modern world, and how you can live with clarity, curiosity and compassion within it.
Our resources are developed to be accessible for both adults and children, but we have a range of resources specifically designed for use in schools. You can find these in the 'Formats' menu for each piece of content or click here to see the full range.
We are a not-for-profit organisation and aim to offer most of our resources for free. We rely solely on donations and membership for funding. Our global community of Life Squared members helps to keep our work going – and for just £5 a month they receive a special programme of ideas, guidance and support to help them navigate life. Find out how to join us here.
Scroll down or click on the links in the format menu above to find out more about why we exist and what we do. We have no religious agenda - our work is relevant and useful to anyone trying to make the most of the life that they have.
Click here for details of our team and leadership. We can offer perspective on the issues facing people and society in the modern world, as well as innovative ideas as to how to make things better. We can also supply spokespeople to contribute our unique perspective to media discussions - contact us at [email protected] for media enquiries.
Do contact us if you'd like to find out more at [email protected].
Life is complicated. And life in the modern world is more complicated than ever.
Imagine you suddenly woke up on this planet as a human being and had to start finding your way around and making the most of the time you had here. This is of course the situation that we’re all faced with when we’re born.
There are so many questions you’d want to ask – where am I? what am I? what is life? How should I behave? What will give my life meaning? What is the path that I should take? And many others.
What would help us in this situation is to have some help in navigating our lives. Being able to see the territory around us, some of the different paths we might take and some of the pitfalls or benefits of taking different paths.
But most of us don’t have this – either in childhood or later on in our lives. As we go through childhood, most of us (if we are lucky) are just shown a few random footpaths by parents, teachers and other sources (often those they were shown by their own parents). Sometimes these can be helpful, but sometimes the footpaths we are given by other people can take us down some paths that we may not want to go down in our want lives, and surely we’d prefer to think for ourselves about the paths we wish to follow? In fact, many of us need to challenge and question the assumptions that define our lives – whether from family, politicians or anyone else – and not just follow them blindly.
We need formal help to navigate our lives, but there are very few services or institutions out there that help us do this. It’s certainly not part of our current education system, and most parents can’t provide this structured support – because we didn’t receive it ourselves.
And this situation doesn’t improve as we get older. We spend most of our lives not understanding the territory of life, trampling through the undergrowth and labouring along paths we’ve not chosen for ourselves, which may not be the right paths for us. This is a particular issue in a world that is now more complex than ever before, where there are more paths stretching in front of us than ever, and where there are many powerful sources of influence trying to make us take the paths that they want us to take (and often not for their benefit rather than ours). We end up with lives in which we get lost, confused, dissatisfied, or only find our way too late.
So, in conclusion, we need help to understand the territory of life, and to navigate our way through life, as this is critical to our ability to live good lives, but we are not given this support at present.
Life Squared exists to fill this gap – and provide everyone with the ideas, resources and support they need to navigate their way through life. We help you rise above the detail of your daily life and the paths you’ve been treading, and get some perspective on life and what’s out there.
We also want to bring these big questions into our everyday lives, help people to think about them and encourage people to be curious about them.
Navigating modern life
And as if life wasn’t complicated enough, we live at a point in history where there is more complexity and pressures on our mental lives than ever before. Life Squared exists to help people navigate this situation too.
In many ways we’re very lucky to be living as westerners in the modern world. We’ve got more material wealth than ever before, better education, better healthcare and more opportunities in life.
But things are still not quite right. Evidence (including Layard, 2005) suggests that, although we’ve generally become richer in the last half century, our increased material wealth has not made us any happier, and many people are searching for more meaning in their lives. People need help to do this, but it is not available in mainstream society, except in religions, self-help and new age ideas, which many people may feel are unsuitable for them.
We also live in a world that is more complex than ever before and in which we are faced with a wide range of influences and pressures on our identities, including consumerism, the rise of surveillance capitalism, fake news, the pressure to seek material success and the need to be thin. For example, each of us is subject to around 1,600 commercial messages every day.
These influences and pressures can seriously harm people’s quality of life and restrict their potential for flourishing lives. They can distract us from the things that really matter to us and influence us to take paths that aren’t the ones we’d choose. There are currently very few organisations that help people to understand this situation, deal with these influences or build self-determined, happy and confident lives.
Modern lifestyles and societies also present a range of challenges to our mental health – from the pressure we’re under to succeed from an early stage in our lives through to the rushed lifestyles we lead. In 2007, there were 34 million antidepressant prescription items dispensed in England alone - nearly four times more than in 1991. 1 in 4 people suffer from mental health problems every year.
Each of us also faces a number of serious ethical choices about how we should live our lives in a world with environmental and social problems, and complex supply systems in which our actions can have consequences that we can’t easily see. Again, people need some new skills, information and ideas to help them make these choices effectively, but very few currently exist in modern society, as campaigning groups and organisations seeking ‘ethical living’ tend to deal with issues in a rather shallow way focussed on guilt or demands for action that doesn’t educate them, allow them to make their own decisions or produce particularly effective long term behaviour change.
In recent years, many people have also become increasingly anxious about the state of the world and the future – from the rise of political populism and instability to the dangers of runaway climate change. People need help to find solace, understanding and ideas on how to live a good life in uncertain and anxious times.
In conclusion, we live in a world that is vastly different from the one that existed 50 years ago, and this world places a whole new set of pressures and challenges in front of us as individuals.
The problem - we all need to become ‘life wise’
We each need help to understand the territory of life, and to navigate our way through life, as this is critical to our ability to live good lives. We also need the tools and skills to navigate the complexity and pressures of the modern world.
The package of skills we need could be described as 'life literacy’ – the ability to carve out thoughtful, well-informed and fulfilled lives within the complexity and pressures of the modern world.
Life literacy includes a range of topics, including:
- How to get perspective on life - how to rise above the complexity and ‘fog’ of everyday life, and see your place in the great scheme of things – from the universe to other people. Then learning to live with this perspective in the back of your mind and live in a way that’s informed by it – in other words, with wisdom.
- How to think for yourself - understanding how human beings think, how our views and behaviour can be influenced and the common ways this can happen in our modern lives – including dogma, social pressure, advertising and political language. Learning how to think for yourself in a world full of influences, complexity and distractions. Includes topics such as critical thinking, media literacy, information literacy, political literacy and how to live well in a digital age.
- How to live your own life - how to work out what matters to you, live your own life and be happy with your own identity, rather than being carried passively along by the influences and distractions that surround all of us. Includes how to find meaning in life and how to rethink the whole idea of work – and find joy in it.
- How to be good - how to live a good, ethical life, by learning a) what a good society is and how to be a positive member of this society, and b) how to understand, and live consistently with, your own values.
- How to live a fulfilled life - how to become skilled at the ‘art of living’, including how to understand and make the best of your life’s journey (including how to think about ageing and death), how to look after yourself (including resilience, mental health and comparison with other people), how to appreciate the experience of life (including slowing down, exploring your inner life and finding wonder) and how to connect with other people in a meaningful, fulfilling way.
The problem is that life literacy is simply not taught to anyone at present.
The learning we receive throughout life from most institutions in the UK (and in the western world) is largely focused on teaching us the skills and values that will make us productive actors in the economic system. Yet with this bias, it fails to provide us with a host of important skills we need in order to live reflective, civilised and fulfilled lives. These include gaining a sense of our lives within the ‘big picture’, how to think for ourselves within a pressurised and complex world, how to live with values and how to carve out our own identities and paths through life.
These skills have become even more important over the last 50 years, in a world in which our minds need to deal with far greater levels of information, complexity and influence than ever before.
Policy makers have not yet woken up to the full implications of these skills not being taught adequately, but the damage is immense – for both individuals and society generally. As individuals, it could be argued that many of us spend our lives ‘asleep’ in the modern world, being washed along by the tide of influences on us (cultural, political, economic, commercial and many others), without being able to take stock of the world we find ourselves in or take control to live the lives we really want.
This lack of skills has implications for society too, as we seem to be failing to deal with many major social and global problems, including materialism, inequality, social isolation and climate change. This comes as little surprise when the latest neurological research shows that human beings aren’t as rational as we’ve traditionally thought, and our behaviour, worldviews and values are continually shaped by our external environment. Good, compassionate, civilised societies therefore aren’t guaranteed, and people need the right education, support and values in wider society to enable them to become compassionate, good people who in turn build better societies.
The solution - what we do
Our aim at Life Squared is to build life literacy in society, both directly to the public and via the education system. We also seek to raise awareness of the importance of these skills and campaign for a society with the values, culture and institutions that encourage and nurture these skills and in which people can truly thrive.
We do this because we want to see people living lives that are independent, well-informed, compassionate, happy, wise and fulfilled - no matter what their age or background. And we want to see the good society that emerges from this.
We do this by providing resources, courses and events on a wide range of topics to help people explore what it means to be a human being in the modern world, and how they can live with clarity, curiosity and compassion within it.
We help people think clearly about the big issues and ideas that matter in their lives – including how to find meaning in life, how to think critically, how to be good and how to think about death. We provide clear, no-nonsense ideas and advice, helping people get clarity and see what really matters in a complex, confusing world.
Our work addresses real, important social issues - including media literacy, political literacy, mental health and social isolation. It brings clear practical benefits, including helping you eat well, give your kids a good start, make a positive difference in the world, improve your mental health and many other important issues.
We aim to treat every member of our audience with respect. Our approach is accessible, clear and no-nonsense. We want people to see Life Squared as their source of sanity and peace in a complex, difficult world. Clear, calm, wise and authoritative. But relevant and modern.
How we do it
We have some principles that we follow when delivering our resources and services:
- We make complex things accessible – but we offer depth – we want to help people think about big ideas and complex issues, so we aim to make these accessible for them. But we do this in a no-nonsense, credible way that treats people with respect and doesn’t patronise them.
- We are both ‘top-down’ and ‘bottom up’ – we provide credible, no-nonsense ideas and advice to help people think and take action. We also aim to act as a facilitator, to encourage people to be curious and explore these big ideas with each other, as it’s fun and rewarding.
- We help people gain perspective - we believe that many people can make sense of a topic better (whether it's their place in the universe or how their buying decisions affect the environment) when they are initially provided with a broad sense of overall perspective on that topic. This helps them to see context and the bigger picture, and to feel a sense of control over the topic. They can then seek further detail on the topic or aspects of it if they wish. This approach stands in opposition to the one currently used in the UK education system, in which one or two elements of an overall topic are taught in detail - e.g. teaching history focusses on the kings and queens of England rather than the broad sweep of history from the big bang onwards.
- We help people challenge dogmas and see alternatives – we help people challenge the ideas and assumptions that dominate their lives – from the beliefs they have been taught by their parents to the values of the economic system they live within. We also aim to give people access to credible alternative views, philosophies and options, in order to stimulate their curiosity and encourage them to see the wider range of options and possibilities open to them.
- We think big – and signpost to the detail - we help people stand back from topics and think more clearly and deeply about them. We then signpost them to other sources for more detailed information and advice if they need it, as we see no point in duplicating effort and replicating good services that already exist.