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 the good life? Well the qualifier is that they all must contribute to our sense of joy 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 good 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. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus’ first words were “happy are those conscious of their spiritual need.” How can being aware of a need make you happy? Only those conscious that they have a need will take the necessary steps to fill it. Wanting to satisfy a need moves us to take action in that direction. The 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?
Feel free to comment.