I was reading a Wall Street Journal article about how medical costs are being reduced by using algorithms to determine quality adjusted life years.

Essentially, a dollar value is put on the patient's quality of life blended with the type of disease and expected longevity to determine treatment costs.

What if we applied this concept to our own lives?

We are placing a dollar amount on our lives, but we may not be determining the quality of the years for which we are paying.

Many of us just move through our lives not thinking about the things we want to change.

Some of us create excuses for why we can't change them. But how often do we really think about the quality of our lives and how we live them?

Passion or status

I recently was speaking with an avid bird-watcher. He spends a hundred days a year in various hotel rooms as he leads birding groups. He supports his interest by working in a job with flexible hours, good health care and interesting people.

When he looks back over his life, will he be saying that he should have taken a higher-pressure, higher-status position at the expense of the hobby he loved?

I doubt it. I would suspect that he is generally living the life he wants. I don't suspect he needs to adjust his quality of life years at all.

Take a deep breath and tell me what you honestly thought when you read about him.

I can imagine a host of reactions. Some of you thought you could never do that, some of you would never want to do it, some thought it seemed a little interesting, some may be doing it, and one or two of you may have thought, "I need to do something like that."

Let's explore some of those responses.

If you think you could never do that, it may be because you have concluded that your adjusted quality of life comes from the work that you are doing or the choices you have made about housing, schooling and luxuries that require you to just keep plowing ahead.

Focusing on what you want

You probably have a bunch of shoulds that affect your decisionmaking. But adjusted quality of life disregards what other people expect of you and encourages you to focus on what you want for yourself.

I was recently speaking to someone who was interested in going to law school. She had a good job, a house and was single with nothing really tying her down.

I asked her what would happen if she shook up her life and applied to the law schools she really wanted to go to. She originally said she could not do it, but then e-mailed me a couple of days later and said she is going for it.

Will the law degree give her more adjusted quality of life years?

Either way, it moved her from a situation where she was not generating enough of those years.

For those struggling just to keep things together, the question remains: Are there things you could be doing to improve your quality of life years?

It might have to involve dedicating at least 20 minutes a day to something that centers you.

It seems clients who spend some daily time on self-care tend to be less reactive and impulsive, both of which often cause us to get more stuck.

Something that suits you

If my bird-watching friend's life seems a little interesting to you, then you want to take this as a signal that something needs to change.

Experiment with what that may be. It may not be easy to switch your job, but are there things that are missing that you can incorporate as tests for yourself?

If you feel a need for community, could you take a class, volunteer somewhere, or seek a spiritual home? And keep on experimenting until you find something that fits for you. One of the reasons people overspend is that they are trying to replace something that is missing in their lives.

But those missing things cannot generally be bought. You can improve your adjusted quality of life by charging ahead rather than simply charging.

For those of you who reacted to the bird watcher by saying you have to do something like that, ask yourself what is stopping you.

I find it interesting that people who have no problem uprooting their families for tax reasons may not consider it to adjust their quality of life.

Simple adjustments

You may legitimately be tied down, but you may have more flexibility than you think.

One of our clients did not want to retire, but he also did not want to practice medicine in a group setting because he felt that things had changed so much. He was able to find a situation where he practices for a couple of weeks each month at an outstate hospital.

He has rented a small apartment there. This has made him comfortable working longer so he doesn't need to make as much money or save as much to escape a job with which he was unhappy.

Sometimes it takes some simple adjustments to improve the quality of our lives.

Ross Levin is the chief executive and founder of Accredited Investors Wealth Management in Edina