I often talk about how I wish more people would be happy and live good lives, but what do I really mean by that? And what do you think I mean by that? Actually, what do people normally think that means? I know that different people understand this concept differently so I want to share my perspective. This way, the next time I talk about “the good life”, you will all know what I mean.
Society's definition of a "good life"
First of all, I want to talk about the way I think most people define it. You are living a good life if you are attractive, rich, influential, you have a good job and live a luxurious life. Of course, there are variations depending on factors such as nationality, but the concept seems to be similar almost everywhere.
Money, luxury and appearances seem to matter most.
If you are a man, you are considered successful if you are an entrepreneur, a broker, a lawyer or have another well-respected job and position. You are rich and live a lavish life. You live in a big home, preferably one that you own, drive an expensive car and you can afford almost anything you want. You eat out at fancy restaurants and go on exotic vacations across the globe. You are relatively healthy, fit and you spend time taking care of yourself since looks are important to you. You also buy high-quality, expensive clothing since that shows you are a successful man.
You are probably single, but date a lot of attractive women. If you are in a relationship, you are probably with someone that can pass for a model. Since appearances matter to you, your girlfriend needs to match yours.
You are confident, influential and powerful. You believe in yourself and are not afraid to show it. You use your money or influence to get what you want. You have worked hard to build your reputation and you want everyone to recognize it.
If you are a woman, you also have an impressive career. Or, on the contrary, you do not have to work since your partner provides for you. You also focus a lot on your looks. You pay attention to what you eat, you work out and invest in yourself. You are interested in fashion and your outfits are always on point. You spend hours every day on your hair, makeup and outfit. Being fashionable and good-looking is very important to you.
If you are also working, you are competent at what you do. You have a good position in the company or you are working for yourself. People look up to you since you are both attractive and good at your job. You are confident and like to take initiative. You have professional goals and you are determined to reach them. Or maybe you are working in a different type of field. Maybe you are a runaway model, an actress, a singer or a social media influencer.
But you may not work at all. Your partner may be successful and rich enough that you do not need to work. You only enjoy life. And since appearances matter, you spend time on making sure you are the perfect girlfriend/wife. That’s why you invest in your looks so much. After all, the way you look also proves your partner’s success. You are aware of that and you enjoy playing this role. You are also a great host for parties or social gatherings. And you may also focus on what you want to do for fun: posting pictures on social media, following fashion trends, reading or spending time on your hobbies.
I know that some of you are living this life or are heading towards that. And some of you are not living like this at all, but you are dreaming of this.
Most people are either living this “good life” or dreaming of it.
I know that my perspective may seem a bit exaggerated, at least to some of you (especially to those that do not subscribe to it). But if you think about it, Hollywood movies, television and social media all seem to pain this picture. Or at least they do 90% of the time! Just look at the most popular accounts on Instagram. Look at the people earning the most in the entertainment industry. Look at the people who are brand ambassadors. Look at the people who are famous just for being famous and “living the life”. (I’m not going to say names, but you probably have a few people in mind).
So should it come as a surprise that most people want to live like this? No, it shouldn’t. This life seems to be the “perfect” combination of Hollywood movies and fairy tales sprinkled with pixie dust!
Does this include me?
To be honest, that’s exactly what I thought I wanted too! I’m embarrassed to say this now, but when I was a teenager, I wanted to be famous. I had no particular talents or passions for singing, acting or anything like this. But I knew that celebrities lived great lives (or so I thought). I would see them on television as everyone was watching their every move. They were famous, rich and they could do anything they wanted. They had amazing homes, walk-in closets full of designer clothes and thousands or millions of people who adored them! And to my 13-year-old mind, this was “the dream life”. That’s what television and society told me was the goal and I believed them…for a while.
I am a different person now and I’m glad to say that I see life with different eyes! As I became older, a bit more aware, a bit wiser and more educated, I stopped buying into that “glamorous ideal”. And based on what I know to be true right now, I would have to lie to you to tell you that this really means a good life.
My idea of a "good life"
My current perspective is totally different from the one I presented above. You may see things differently or you may only agree with part of my ideal, but at least it will offer you an alternative you can take into account.
Living my dream life means working on goals that inspire me and encourage me to grow, develop my skills and become a better person. The goals I pursue and the way I do that have to be good for me, for other people and for the world.
Now I know that this is probably not what you have expected. And it’s different from the way most people define a good life. But this is the way I see it and it is the best life I can ever imagine. Keep reading to better understand my perspective. I’ll talk about a few elements that create my version of a good life.
I think that having meaning is the most important thing in life. When life seems to lose its meaning, living becomes pointless. And when you have meaning, your life is an amazing experience that you want to prolong forever.
Meaning can be understood in many ways: as a mission, as a “why”, as a calling, as a goal. It’s mostly about having a direction in life that is aligned with your principles, your skills and it is usually above yourself.
It’s working on something you are deeply passionate about, even if you do not know why that matters to you. It’s something you naturally seem to gravitate towards. It’s the reason you think you are here, on this Earth. And it can also seem like you have no choice but to follow this calling and work on your mission.
But it can also be something you rationally decide to work on because you understand how much it matters and how much you can do. You already have some of the skills you need to create or change something that can improve the lives of people around you.
Although meaning can be understood in different ways, it is always something that you care about and that is not just about you.
Martin Seligman, the founder of positive psychology believes that you live a meaningful life when you use your best abilities and talents to work on something that is bigger than yourself.1 And according to him, meaning contributes to life satisfaction more than simple pleasures or engaging in something you are good at (experiencing flow).2 It makes you happier with your life than the things you can buy with money. And it matters more than pursuing money for the sake of money.
The way I see it, meaning makes life worth living and much better for a longer time than anything else. And that’s why I would always choose not to pursue wealth and luxury for no reason, but to work on what really matters to me.
Read more about meaning and life satisfaction here.
Goals and meaning go hand in hand for me. If you believe in a mission, you can work on that by setting and pursuing measurable goals. And they are also connected to growth and I will talk about that below.
Normally, a goal can be anything. You may want to:
- earn 1 million dollars
- lose 15 kgs of fat
- get married before you turn 25
- start a travel blog by the end of 2018
- buy your own car
All these are examples of goals people can have. And following and achieving them will probably make them feel successful. Seeing that you can follow through on your decisions and get the results you want will make you feel more confident, powerful and in control of your life. I would say that having a small or superficial goal is much better than not having one – as long as it is not damaging to you or others.
But society seems to think that the ultimate goal is to get rich. If you can do that, you are successful.
But what does success really mean?
The best definition I could find is the following one:
“Success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal.” - Earl Nightingale
If you have a goal and you are constantly working on it, you are successful! If you accept this definition, it means that you do not have to pursue riches to be successful. And to be honest, I am sure that many people derive meaning and happiness from money mostly because that had a clear goal to work on and they made it happen. They derive little pleasure from money itself and the things that money can buy.
Having a goal to become rich will make you much happier than the money itself.
I would say that goals are great. But I would also add that meaningful goals are infinitely better. For example, if you derive meaning from helping the poor, you may have a goal to organize an event to raise $5,000 to donate to a local NGO that aid homeless people. When you manage to do it, the money raised will provide much more satisfaction and happiness than the same amount of $5,000 you earn or win for yourself.
Always try to set meaningful goals for yourself!
To me, the idea of growth is connected both with meaning and goals. And when I talk about growth, I think about developing new abilities, acquiring new skills, learning new information and becoming more aware of myself and the world.
Learning something new and getting to a level of mastery can make us feel more competent, more confident and happier with who we are. Actually, this is one of the best reasons why we should set goals for ourselves.
“Set goals for what it will make of you to achieve them.” - Jim Rohn
Having any type of goals is good for us, but it is even better when those goals encourage us to learn more and to improve. And when you have a strong and deep motivation to do so, you are more likely to keep improving yourself.
The way I see it, you can live life in two different ways:
- believe that you are good enough and never try to learn anything new or develop new skills
- believe that you can become better and you want to see how good you can get
To me, the second way of living is much more appealing!
Ideally, our education should not stop when we graduate, but it should be part of our lives. As we eat and sleep to take care of our bodies and chose kindness and give love to nourish our souls, we should also continue to learn to use and challenge our minds.
We usually learn something when we need to – for an exam, for a diploma or for a promotion at work. And that is great since this type of learning is usually specialized and we use it to improve our performance. But we should not limit our learning to that!
I also understand education as any activity that helps us learn new facts, analyze information and better understand ourselves and the world we live in. You can study and learn anything: French, the history of the USA, world capitals, geometry, positive psychology, lepidopterology and so on. It’s totally up to you!
Give yourself the freedom to learn about miscellaneous subjects that are totally unrelated to what you do and who you are. You never know what amazing things you will discover and how you may use them later in life!
Every field of knowledge presents a different perspective of the world around us!
Like every other person on Earth, I want to be happy. But how I understand happiness and how I want to achieve it is probably different. To me, happiness means living a good life that combines everything I talked about above: meaning, goals, growth and education.
I want to derive my joy and happiness from the things that inspire and challenge me. I chase that feeling of satisfaction I get as a reward once I have done my work. I accept that my happiness is not a burst of euphoria or an ever-present feeling of excitement and enthusiasm. The happiness I choose now is more stable, subtle and deep. It’s that feeling you get when you know your life is good and you are doing something meaningful.
I also feel happy when I remind myself to be grateful for what I have. I’m happy when I eat delicious sushi or drink a great cup of coffee. I’m happy when I go to the cinema to see a movie I’m really excited about. I’m happy when I reach another milestone I set for myself. And I’m happy when I look towards the future with a heart full of enthusiasm and hope.
I understand and experience happiness in different ways, but nothing makes me happier than knowing that I am living well. And that’s why I stopped thinking of happiness as a goal I have to chase. Now I see happiness as a delightful reward. I focus on living in a way that honors who I am and what I believe in. And my happiness usually follows – or what I perceive as happiness.
The good life I aspire to live is one that includes a meaningful mission, goals to help me achieve that and make me grow, continuous education and happiness!
I know that we are all different people who hope and work and fight for different things. And even though we all want to live the good life, we have our own ways of defining that. But don’t think that you have to chase the same thing everybody is. After all, if all it takes for a good life is money, riches and a good job, don’t you think more people should be happy? And don’t you think it’s rather cruel to spend your whole life chasing something that might make you happy in the end just because you were told so?
When I was writing my book “Happy by Choice”, I had to decide what type of happiness I am leading people towards. And even though I cannot change anybody’s life goals, encouraging them to chase money and riches seemed wrong. So I chose to offer people a different blueprint. In my book, I encourage you to pursue what I know would matter most: goals, achievements and meaning. If you want to learn how to focus on that while letting go of negativity and creating a better life for yourself, you can start doing that here!
This article and my book were written from my perspective. In both of them I share my truth which is based on my knowledge, my research and my personal experience. This is my perspective and I will continue to live by it and talk about it until I become aware that there is a better way. You can read more about it, question it or try it out and see for yourself.
You can also try it your way or society’s way. But if you ever find yourself questioning what you have been told, I hope you’ll find the courage to live your own “good life”. Write your own definition. It’s your life so you might as well live on your terms!