Does the Good Life Lead to a Happy Life?

good life

Everybody wants that thing called “a good life.” Well here’s my question, what does that even mean? Exactly what is it that moves a life from “an average life” to “the good life”? For that matter, who gets to decide what constitutes a good life?

If you asked a hundred people those questions, chances are you would get a hundred different answers. But even in the variety of answers, you would find several common areas that are important to almost everybody. So, while your definition may vary from mine, there are many things that we would both consider necessary for the good life.

Do you feel like you are already living the good life?

If the answer is no, then what would it take for you to feel that you were? This is a worthwhile question to ask yourself. If you don’t take the time to define exactly what “a good life” means to you, how will you know when you get there? In fact, how can you be sure that you’re not there already?

You are the one whose definition of a good life really matters. The reason for this is simple, it is your life we are talking about here. That might sound obvious until you stop to consider how hard the media and other social factors try to influence our personal concept of the good life.

Don’t let them do your thinking for you!

Advertisers work very hard to convince you that your life just won’t be complete without their product. Like you’re living in deprivation if you don’t own the latest, greatest, soon to be obsolete version of everything. This kind of propaganda can have a substantial influence on our subconscious if we are not clear about what really matters to us personally.

The truth is that more stuff can actually diminish the quality of our life. Interestingly, there is a growing awareness of the benefits of keeping things simple these days. Many people have figured out that a good life is often a less complicated life. The simple act of unplugging from TV commercials can completely change your perspective on this.

Some people are convinced that money is the big difference between an average life and the good life. Others feel that it’s not the money, but the things the money can buy that define a good life.

What role do you think money plays?

Let’s face it; having money can certainly make life more comfortable. It can also relieve some of the pressure associated with trying to make ends meet. So it is probably fair to say that money has the potential to contribute to the quality of life on some levels. At the same time, we need to recognize that there are plenty of miserable people with money. This would indicate that money’s role may not be as significant as one might think.

The same could be said of having more stuff. There are certain things that make our life easier to manage and others that add to our enjoyment. Beyond that, more stuff just becomes a burden. Learning to check our desire for more can go a long way toward improving our quality of life.

7 Important elements of the good life

So what are some of the necessary elements of a good life that is also a happy life? Well the qualifier is that they all must contribute to our sense of happiness and purpose in a meaningful way. To truly be the good life, our life must satisfy our most intrinsic needs. Let’s consider what some of those essentials might include in no particular order..

1. Meaningful Productivity. We have a built in desire to be productive in a meaningful way. Yes, a good life includes time for relaxation and reflection, but it is not centered around those things. The things we do on vacation are very enjoyable, but doing them full time is not the key to a good life. Life needs balance, and productivity gives us a sense of accomplishment and value that we can’t get from laying on the beach for months on end.

2. Meaningful Relationships. Good friends and close companions are an important part of a happy life. It doesn’t really matter if you are a social butterfly or a private person, everyone needs to be able to truly relate to one or more other people. It’s the quality of our relationships that fills this need, not the quantity. If you have a mate, hopefully they are also your best friend. Being able to share our deepest thoughts, feelings, hopes and concerns helps affirm and define our own existence.

3. Spiritual Awareness. Whether we recognize it or not, each of us has a spiritual need.  But only those who are actually conscious that they have this need will take the necessary steps to fill it. Recognizing that we have a need is what motivates to us to search for a way to enrich our life by satisfying that need. We couldn’t really call it a good life if it wasn’t also a happy life and a big part of  happiness comes from finding a way to fill the spiritual void.

4. Mental Health. The human mind loves to learn. We were endowed with incredible potential for learning new things. Not only does learning help us to gain new knowledge and insights, but it also brings a renewed sense of excitement to our lives. A life that is static and intellectually unchallenging can quickly become boring. Learning keeps our minds active and alert which helps prevent mental atrophy. You know the old saying, use it or lose it. We should also exercise discretion with regard to what we learn. Not all knowledge is beneficial. The quality of our life is directly influenced by what we focus on. When it comes to learning, stick with topics that add value to your life and avoid anything that might undermine your personal standards or taint your views.

5. Stay Healthy. Never take your health for granted. The quality of your life will suffer dramatically if you lose your health. Always give adequate attention to your physical self. That means getting regular exercise and quality nutrition. It also means maintaining a reasonable approach to things like alcohol and caffeine. Remember, balance is a common denominator here. Overindulgence of food and or alcohol can quickly destroy the quality of your life, so be reasonable.

6. Keep Money in its Place. We already acknowledged that money can make life more comfortable and less stressful. But putting too much emphasis on making money can destabilize the other areas of life. Don’t be a slave to money. You can’t buy meaningful relationships, good health, spirituality or good mental health. Money is not the most important thing in life so keep it in its place.

7. Cultivate a Kind and Caring Disposition. A self-centered life is not a satisfying experience. The more you work to add value to the lives of others, the more rewarding your own life will be. Reinforce this by cultivating an attitude of gratitude. The more you do this, the more you will have in your life to be grateful for. Adding value and being grateful will counteract unwanted selfish tendencies.

The reason that happiness can seem illusive is because it is a bi-product of serving others. And isn’t the whole idea behind “The Good Life” to be happy? Indeed, a happy life is truly a good life.

What would you add to this list?
Can you have a good life and a happy life?
What value do you place on happiness?

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  1. Stephen March 17, 2009 Reply

    Great article as usual Jonathan. I am into simplifying because I have found that things don’t make me happy. What makes me happy now is talking a walk in the bright sunshine and listening to some inspirational or motivational self-development audio.

    I have recently learned the value of “stay healthy” and I need to work a lot on a kind a caring disposition.

    I never thought of myself as a people person but I am finding relationships are far more important to me than I ever would have imagined.

    I really like your stuff and have gone through the first section of you book.

    Good job.

    • Jonathan February 7, 2011 Reply

      Hey Stephen, you seem to be establishing a new sense of clarity and balance in your life, that is truly wonderful.

  2. Jay March 17, 2009 Reply

    Keeping money in its place is important. Money is no different than anything else- we give it so much power though. Live in the present, have positive intentions, and things will come. Focus on lack, get lack. It is very simple. Great post!

    • Jonathan February 7, 2011 Reply

      Hey Jay, thanks for expanding on the money issue, and for pointing out how our focus can create either abundance or lack.

  3. Laurie | Express Yourself to Success March 17, 2009 Reply

    Well, I think you’ve covered the contents of a good life! Adding value to the lives of others and having gratitude are the biggest contributors to my good life.

    • Jonathan February 7, 2011 Reply

      Hi Laurie, I view the gratitude & value point as a major biggie also.

  4. Robin Easton March 17, 2009 Reply

    This is a very important post. I particularly like your comment that having a lot of money doesn’t necessarily equate happiness and a life well lived.

    I love all these criteria and I guess for myself I would add time to just STOP, time to just BE, with no agenda other than to slow down and remember who I am and where I’m headed, what do I want out of Life, What do I want to give Life, and so forth. I am a very peaceful person and can enjoy time alone of with my sweetheart just doing nothing, especially in nature.

    Thank you for such a wonderful and life affirming post. It is very timely for me. :) :)

    • Jonathan February 7, 2011 Reply

      Hi Robin, I appreciate the add and agree with you 100%.

  5. Jonathan March 17, 2009 Reply

    It’s interesting that each comment so far has focused on a different point while still giving credibility to all seven. In life, we tend to give extra attention to our current priorities. This makes it possible for all of us to get value from the same points, but some will be more important to us personally right now.

  6. Josh Boxer March 21, 2009 Reply

    Mr. Wells,

    Fantastic Blog here brother..Very inspiring and relevant. Keep it up..


    • Jonathan February 7, 2011 Reply

      Thanks Josh, I give it my best shot.

  7. Alex Blackwell March 23, 2009 Reply

    Thanks for this post Jonathan. For me, Stay Healthy, is the most important. Feeling good also makes me feel confident and gives me the energy to face the obstacles.

    Thank you!


    • Jonathan February 7, 2011 Reply

      Hi Alex, I also place a very high priority on staying health and fit. It’s a quality of life thing. Without our health everything becomes a much greater struggle.

  8. Dyann Lyon March 22, 2009 Reply

    Jonathan, I came here to thank you for visiting my blog, where I am still finding my footing while I test the waters. Thanks so much for stopping by my early work in progress!

    I find that I am really drawn to your writing and all the places that I have found you and your ‘stuff’. I have been living the good life for quite a few years and I find that no matter how good it is it will still include changes and the challenges that occure. Being willing to be flexible and living in the present moment in gratitude are components I would add to your beautiful list of the seven elements you have identified as the good life. I would not change a single one of your seven!

    Life has so much to offer and each relationship we have can make it so much richer. However, the relationship we have with ourselves is the one that needs the most attention so that we can be loving, kind and supportive of others.

    Thanks for the opportunity to say “Thanks” and to comment! With gratitude, Dyann

    • Jonathan February 7, 2011 Reply

      Hi Dyann, it is so nice to live in appreciation of the progressive nature of this amazing journey called life. The more we appreciate it, the more we get out of it. Life is very responsive to our dominate attitude. Thanks so much for your kind words and support.

  9. Henie March 23, 2009 Reply

    Excellent post indeed! A good reminder for me that the “good life” is all about “time”…having the time and freedom to be your passion and do what you love doing the most! :)
    Of course money is a nice bonus so long as it doesn’t change ones good character!

    • Jonathan February 7, 2011 Reply

      Thanks Henie, that was nicely put. Thanks!

  10. John Rocheleau August 7, 2011 Reply

    Jonathan, I like all of your points about what constitutes “the good life.” Most important to me are menta,l physical, and spiritual health as the foundation, and then learning to see and feel the beauty and power in the simple things in life, that are on the table for all of us regardless of financial status.

    Money can be a terrible drain on the spirit, but only when we mistake money for the goal instead of one of many tools we use to live our lives each day. If there are secrets to attain the good life, two of them might be:

    Always, always, respect and nourish your curiosity and sense of awe. After all, we live in an awesome universe, and we all have the ability to enjoy that.
    And on the money level: live a REAL life. Ignore the urge to gain satisfaction or status by purchasing something. Use your money wisely. Explore the beautiful gifts this worlds offers us for free. Cultivate your sense of the simple pleasures in life. They are far more rewarding. Live within your means in this way and you will be free of any debt long before most people. And when you live a debt free life, it is even easier to live “the good life.”

    John :-)

  11. Ellis June 7, 2012 Reply

    I was always particular in determining what good life is all about. But thanks for this nice post which really educated me on the scope of good. Now I know its not all about money.Thanks

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