Are you happy? Does happiness equal a good life? My private practice serves high-net-worth individuals. So, it may surprise many that these are very common questions I hear from my patients. There’s nothing more unsettling than living a meaningless life in a meaningless world. So how do you live a good life?
Elements For Living A Good Life
The essential elements of living a good life haven’t changed much over time. Every few years a new book comes along that attempts to explain this concept to modern audiences. Regardless of net worth, it is a common human desire to live a good life. Contrary to popular belief: a good life is not having unlimited resources. Or non-stop leisure; neither is it just endless pleasure. Despite the power, prestige, and money, a common theme I hear in therapy is why am I so unhappy? This is a common theme I hear from trust-fund socialites to bitcoin millionaires.
In 2008 pastor Rick Warren’s book The Purpose Driven Life was on the New York Times bestseller’s list for 90 weeks. The first line of the book is: “It is not about you.”
What does it take to live a good life? Human beings must find an overarching sense of purpose in their daily lives. To discover that purpose, one must examine what they are doing in the following areas of life:
Is your work fulfilling?
No matter how mundane your daily work is, it’s possible to find greater purpose in that work. Consider the job of a hospital housekeeper. This person may not be highly educated or command the highest salary. Yet they work alongside some of the most highly educated and compensated.
- If you ask one housekeeper what does he do? He may reply, I’m just earning a living to survive.
- Another housekeeper may say, they are just mopping the floors.
- The third housekeeper may reply I am saving lives every day.
All three are correct. Yet, the perception of the third housekeeper shows something more. He’s connected his mundane task with a greater purpose. The work of the housekeeper is as vital as that of the top neurosurgeon. The most skilled physician is powerless if an infection leads to sepsis. Despite flawless surgical techniques, there is a good chance the patient will die.
What does your family and social life look like?
Do you have people in your life with whom you’re committed to their well-being? Or are most of your relationships transactional? Are there people you’re willing to hear the truth about yourself from in your life? Are there people in your life you’re willing, to tell the truth about their own lives? Have you built strong relationships requiring the sacrifice of time and resources? All for the betterment of another? Do you allow yourself to be vulnerable with another person? No matter how personal the criticism is?
How are you engaged in your community beyond your friends and family?
Are you involved in a social cause that enhances the well-being of others? All without immediate benefits to you? A good example of this is joining the military. The individual puts the mission ahead of their desires and well-being. Do you engage in philanthropy, mentorship, and building networks that serve the underprivileged?
Do you think you are without bias and know all there is to know?
The world is full of mystery and things to discover. Unfortunately, some of the unhappiest people are those who think they know everything worth knowing. Anything they do not already know isn’t worth their time. Additionally, they tend to approach life as if the problems of the day are new.
The Greek philosopher Socrates is attributed with this famous saying. “The unexamined life is not worth living.” This means we should strive for continuous progress and learning. Even if the learning is about yourself. It should extend into areas of how you will interact with others. Will you leave a legacy for the well-being of the next generation?
Live A Good Life
So, how do you define if something is good or not? What makes a good cup? Or a good pen? A good dog? A good person? It’s said to be good something must fulfill its purpose. A good life fulfills the purpose of that life. Living the good life requires you to discover your purpose and fulfill it. You must challenge your assumptions to understand your moral framework. And realize the essential nature of your insignificance in a vast world. Above all, you need to think deeply. Are you just random star stuff? Particles that exist by happenstance. Or are you created for a specific purpose? Is this world all there is, or is there something more significant? Is there something greater to live for?
Are you living? Or just existing. These are the sorts of things that we can talk about in therapy.