The Search for the Good Life

In our day to day lives, many of us are preoccupied with completing the tasks on our never-ending to-do lists. Life quickly passed us by but we rarely take the time to reflect and contemplate on the deeper questions of our existence. When asked what do we want to get out of our lives, many will respond with the vague answer “I just want to be happy.”

However, when pressed on what this exactly means, we give generic answers that lack any real substance. Happiness is often conflated with pleasure and feelings of contentment. What comes to mind is the smiling couple we see in Hollywood romances or the slick well dressed business man racing down the street in a flashy sports car.

We soon realize that the excitement and rush that we get from pleasure quickly fades.

 Trying to pursue a life dedicated to pleasure is like running on a treadmill. It always leaves us dissatisfied and desiring more.

The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle had a different conception of the good life which he called eudaimonia. Although loosely translated as ‘happiness’, the term points to something akin to human flourishing. Eudaimonia, is not a temporary fleeting experience, rather it is a lifelong project. It is the result of working towards self-actualization and realizing your full potential.

Human wellbeing requires us to strive for excellence as well as pursue and cultivate virtue. Just as an athlete who wants to improve their performance needs to train, a person who wants to become virtuous must to perform virtuous acts. For instance, someone who is courageous is an individual who acts courageously whereas an individual who is humble is one who exercises restraint and avoids egotism.

It is through acts of goodness, virtue and excellence that we experience contentment and happiness.  

As ‘social animals’, Aristotle argued that we ought to utilize our distinctive talents and gifts to benefit our broader community – to enhance the common good. One’s role as a human is not only to act upon your gifts but to contribute to the flourishing as society as a whole. This view differs from individualistic versions of the good life which can often focus on satisfying a narrow set of materialist desires.

In the final analysis, Aristotle’s view of a life well lived requires active participation and the development of habits to be the best version of ourselves.

So, what is your idea of the good life?

Let me know in the comments below.

You can view more of my writing on my personal blog at A Life of Virtue: Philosophy as a Way of Life – In Search of Inner Freedom

Featured Image Source: Pexels Free Photos

13 thoughts on “The Search for the Good Life

  1. A great question about the good life. For me, it’s good health for me and my family — and having a sense of purpose. That’s really big for me. It’s in helping family and friends. And it’s in writing stories. Those offer a creative outlet and fill that sense of purpose for me.

  2. Thank you for this thought provoking post Andrew.

    After nearly 8 decades of navigating life’s “never-ending to-do lists” I’ve stepped off its treadmill, gratefully slowing life’s pace. This has provided me with a new “good life” life concept which leaves me with a lasting “contentment and happiness” peace never experienced before.

    I’ve reduced my “eudaimonia” to an acronym to recall as I greet each new day He blesses me with to enjoy:

    L I…S T…E N . . . Love Intensely…Share Thoroughly…Envy Nothing

    Be Blessed my friend.

  3. Andrew, great question! I believe the good life is not one-size-fits all. Most people would wish for health, adequate food and shelter, safety, love, friendship, self respect, and making a difference with their life’s work, but specifics vary a lot from person to person.

    I found teaching to be a satisfying career. The natural world, ideas, creativity, healthy food, and spending time with those I love make me happy. Peace, global cooperation, democracy, education, and the environment are issues I care about.

  4. To me simple and healthy living is the key to contentment and happiness. Having Reflections on our deeds makes us examine where we lack and stand up to the best of my abilities help us to grow as a result.

  5. Fantastic post! I would have to stew my response over but just wanted to recommend “happy, the movie” It’s an excellent documentary. Thanks for the food for thought

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