What Is the Good Life? Or How to Find Happiness, Spiritual Growth & Meaning By Living A Good and Simple Life!

Creating Happiness, Spiritual Growth and Meaning By Living A Good and Simple Life!


Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death. Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. — Anaïs Nin


The “good life”—isn’t that what we all want?

Isn’t that what TV ads and self-help books try to sell? Isn’t it what the Great Traditions urge us to live? Isn’t it what we mean when we say that quality of life is critical?

But what is this good life we long for?

Aristotle said, "Eudemonia (human flourishing) is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.” But people have argued about what he meant ever since.

Some say a good life is rich in material pleasures, and good feelings—a life of getting, and having. Others say it is a fully engaged life. A life of doing, creating, and enjoying the gratification of mastery in life, work, and relationships. For others, it is a meaningful life, a giving life, lived in service to a purpose or cause; a spiritual life. But, perhaps, it is not one or another of these options.

Could the good life be the harmonious whole that comes from integrating the three lives into one?

Could each life be a clear note that can ring alone, and the good life a coherent chord that emerges when all three are played in harmony?

By combining just enough material with mastery and meaning, could we create happiness, spiritual growth, and enjoy living a simple and truly good life?

Life is good, by BLR (flickr)
Life is good, by BLR (flickr)

The Notes: Living the Basics of A Good, Rich and Simple Life

The first life is one most of us know well; a rich, materially pleasant life. It includes the basics of food, rest, shelter, and a sense of control over our lives. It is rich in things, comforts, and conveniences that make life pleasant.

If we are not aware of the other lives, it is easy to get attached to the material life. If we only focus on accumulating money and stuff, we can end up on what positive psychologists call "the hedonic treadmill"—working and spending in a never-ending loop, wondering why our life feels empty, and joyless .

The second life emerges when we realize that we have enough of the material basics to make life pleasant, and livable. Then, we are free to engage life, and develop mastery that leads to competence, and confidence.

A masterful life enables us to challenge ourselves, and grow by stretching physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially. It enables us to discover our strengths, and use them in ways that lead to mastery, flow, and deep gratification.

We all find different areas to exercise our strengths and develop master. Some do so in their work and careers. Some become masterful parents. Some master rockclimbing, or yoga, or a second language. There is not end to the things we can master, so long as we focus on one area at a time. But if we do, mastery brings us true competence, and authentic confidence.

Materially secure and masterful, we are free to explore a meaningful life. We stretch our consciousness, expand our compassion, and search for our spiritual moorings. We draw on strengths developed earlier to undertake challenges that expand our sense of self. We look for opportunties to give of ourselves in service of a greater good. Expansion of consciousness diminishes ego. It increases our connection to the world, and to the systems of life on which all of our health, wealth, and well being depend. Caring for and acting on thing we care deeply about produces a profound sense of meaning.

All three lives are important. But, too often, as Nin cautions, we become attached to one, at the expense of the others. When we over-simplify, and think there is just one life, we lose the richness of living that could come from integrating all three into Aristotle's flourishing life.

It's best to see these lives as levels of personal evolution in a rising spiral of development. Crafting a materially pleasant life is an essential step in an evolving process of life-creation. Engaging life by matching strengths to challenges creates mastery, flow. and gratification. Widening our circle of compassion allows us to transcend our small selves, to honour the Earth, and to honour the Spirit that dwells in each of us, as us.

Each level is a step toward the whole. Each complements the others. As we pass through them we “glimpse,” as Maslow put it, “in our most perfect moments.” By weaving them together we create an integrated, flourishing life.

But, we don't just pass through them and are done with them. We are in all of these different life levels at the same time, to differing degrees. We may be mainly focused on a material life, but still stretching for mastery in small areas, and still exploring our spirit. We may be devoting ourselves to mastery, yet still have to pay the bills and fix the roof when it leaks. And, as to a spirtual life, I've always liked the phrase, "Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water; after enlightenment, chop wood, carry water."

The Chord: Integrating the Three Lives Into A Coherent Whole

So try not to see these levels as independent, nor attach to one.Even as we move through a level in favor of a higher one, the previous level and its benefits are still available to us.

A pleasant, material life provides a base for a life of mastery, engagement, and flow. A masterful life gives us the competence and authentic confidence to stretch toward meaning, purpose, and expanded compassion for all life. Each life level is integrated with the others, and they with it.

It helps to think of theses levels as notes in a powerful, resonating chord. We can play each note separately, but to create the most harmony, power, and coherence in our lives, we need to play all three together.

The chord that results from integrating the three notes resonates throughout our being, and beyond. When we play these notes as one flowing chord, we experience our life as all of a piece, in harmony with Life itself.

“This is the true joy in life,” said Shaw, “the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one . . . the being a force of nature.”

This, then, is the flourishing life, the good we life all seek. Is anything less truly worthwhile? Could anything else create such real and lasting freedom, purpose, and happiness?

We are all living aspects of a flourishing life, now. With greater awareness, commitment, and practice, we can expand our selves and our lives to encompass more of it. While the end is important, so is the process. Indeed, much of the good life is achieved in the trying, the stretching, the seeking.

We may never achieve Sainthood or nirvana, but it's the the trying that counts. Or, as the poet Robert Browning said, "What's a heaven for?"

____________

Bruce Elkin is author of Simplicity and Success, THRIVE! and The ABCs of Emotional Mastery. For more of his writing, please visit his HubPages Profile.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

[From Wikipedia]
[From Wikipedia]

What Is The Good Life?

More by this Author


Comments 39 comments

Storytellersrus profile image

Storytellersrus 7 years ago from Stepping past clutter

Hello Bruce!  I could only choose one Hub to read today and boy am I glad I chose this one.  It helped me get back on track after spending the day scanning and emailing information to a lawyer.  My daughter is being threatened with a lawsuit because she is potentially in breach of a contract.  I would say that, after watching the clip above, my daughter is the fisherman and the woman threatening to sue is the young man with big ideas about what my daughter should do with her life.

Isn't there a value attached to each level of spiritual development?  Because to the woman threatening to sue, commitment to a contract overrides commitment to family, self-sufficiency and access to her dreams.  I know that levels build on each other, but where does flexibility fit in?  Especially considering my daughter gave over 4 months notice to cancel out of a summer job commitment made last August? I mean, applying spiritual principles to life can be so dang messy!

I am going to reread this in a bit, because it is a lot to absorb at once. The challenge is simply integral.

PS Where is the RSS feed on this? I guess I didn't realize we have to click on it to get it going. Maybe we do?!


Reynolds_Writing profile image

Reynolds_Writing 7 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

Very interesting hub.. Made me tthink through the life I want to lead. Thanks!


Bruce Elkin profile image

Bruce Elkin 7 years ago from Victoria, BC Canada Author

Storytellersrus, thanks for your thoughtful comment. You're right, there is value in each level, and we can shift up and down between levels, depending on life circumstances. I think in the case of your daughter, it's a both/and kind of thing -- operating at a material level and guided by the higher levels?

Reynolds_Writing -- Thank you for your comment. I appreciate the support. Glad it made you think. Made me think to write it.


Cris A profile image

Cris A 7 years ago from Manila, Philippines

Hi Bruce

This is a very insightful hub in that it puts everything in perspective. I myself most of the time gets lost in the hurly burly of everyday living that I tend to feel lost everytime I try to assess my life so far, or where am I exactly standing. So thanls for sharing this as it makes a good reference when making a reality check :D


Bruce Elkin profile image

Bruce Elkin 7 years ago from Victoria, BC Canada Author

Hey, Cris, thanks for the comment. I like to think of ideas like these as maps to help us orient ourselves, but to really progress, we've got to use the maps to explore the actual territory -- and sometimes we get a bit lost. So hopefully, this map will help you get clearer about where you are, and where you want to be. Cheers!


Bruce Elkin profile image

Bruce Elkin 7 years ago from Victoria, BC Canada Author

Hey, Cris, thanks for the comment. I like to think of ideas like these as maps to help us orient ourselves, but to really progress, we've got to use the maps to explore the actual territory -- and sometimes we get a bit lost. So hopefully, this map will help you get clearer about where you are, and where you want to be. Cheers!


Cris A profile image

Cris A 7 years ago from Manila, Philippines

Hi Bruce, me again LOL

This would certainly help me alright. As sometimes it takes another person's perspective to get a more complete look at your own life. No man is an island they say, so thanks for this :D


Bruce Elkin profile image

Bruce Elkin 7 years ago from Victoria, BC Canada Author

You're very right, and very welcome, Cris. Cheers!


goldentoad profile image

goldentoad 7 years ago from Free and running....

Bruce, I tell my parents all the time, I started out in a ditch and had to scratch and climb my way out the hard way, and with an ever changing world and economy that affects my industry, I'm trying to just stand up straight, but I hope to get to those levels, when I get to that first step, I'm expecting that wind to go my way and those sails can open up so I can get into that masterful life. Good hub.


G-Ma Johnson profile image

G-Ma Johnson 7 years ago from NW in the land of the Free

Well we learn from each as you pointed out...but we need to experience them to learn...and as each of us is so different I think it effects us differently and so in some cases can  take longer to go through to each level and then learn to incorporate them into one's daily life...I am really refering to myself here...

I think what you have said is Right On and so much the case...but there can be many things happen and many, many different ideas available and so lessons can be hard to understand...but one day with Faith and Trust and Understanding it seems to become clear and workable...Oh dear sorry about me rambling on...

was a beautiful day today across the straits it was blue skies and clouds and so I took some photo's...think I caught you this time :O) but on my side believe it or not it snowed...G-Ma :O) Hugs & Peace


Bruce Elkin profile image

Bruce Elkin 7 years ago from Victoria, BC Canada Author

Thanks, G-Ma. You're right, each of these effects and is experienced by each person differently. Like I said to Cris, these ideas are really just maps that help us explore the actual territory. Or menus that tell us what the options are. But we have to order and eat the real food. It snowed here today, in the morning for about 30 minutes. But sunny after that! Best!


Bruce Elkin profile image

Bruce Elkin 7 years ago from Victoria, BC Canada Author

THanks, goldentoad. It's important to understand that we can be part way along in all of the levels at the same time. Working on material sufficiency, developing mastery in some areas and opening to our spiritual core. I like to think of spirit in different ways -- my creative spirit, my entrepreneurial spirit, my social spirit, my Spirit spirit. Working on one effects the other. Thanks for your support.


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 7 years ago from United States

Hi Bruce, I really enjoyed this hub about life. It's full of helpful wisdom to help a person get some meaningful perspective. Thanks again.


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 7 years ago from St. Louis

Bruce: I like the idea of incorporating each--material, masterful, meaningful--into our lives as opposed to focusing only on one. "Can't see the forest for the trees" comes to mind. A well-rounded life is a more fulfilled one, I believe, but I suppose it depends on the individual.

Thanks for another writing for me to ponder!


Bruce Elkin profile image

Bruce Elkin 7 years ago from Victoria, BC Canada Author

Hi Tom, Glad you liked it. And I appreciate your comment.

Christoph - yeah, you don't want to get hung up on the tree and miss the forest! Thanks!


VioletSun profile image

VioletSun 7 years ago from Oregon/ Name: Marie

Good article as usual, Bruce. I have reached a point in my life that if I succeed with my goals, its for my own enjoyment, there isn't the attachment I had when I was in my 30's when I was career driven and image conscious, (had to survive). Nowadays, spiritual understanding which leads to simplifying my life inside/out works very well for me and puts things in perspective.


Bruce Elkin profile image

Bruce Elkin 7 years ago from Victoria, BC Canada Author

Yes, VioletSun, our perspective changes as we grow, if we let it. And doing things for their own sake is the key to creating what truly matters to us. Thanks for commenting. Cheers!


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 7 years ago from South Africa

Excellent Hub, Bruce, and thanks for your insights.

I am at present reading Christopher Phillips' book Six Questions of Socrates which looks at excellence and how to achieve it through the answers to the six questions:

What is virtue?

What is moderation?

What is justice?

What is good?

What is couragte?

What is piety?

Looking at excellence through those lenses (nothing to do with Squidoo!) helps to have a balanced approach to finding what you call "the good life."

Love and peace

Tony


Netters profile image

Netters 7 years ago from Land of Enchantment - NM

Very well put. Thank you.


Bruce Elkin profile image

Bruce Elkin 7 years ago from Victoria, BC Canada Author

Hey, Tony! I love the questions, and they do help one move toward the "good life." Thanks!

Netters - thanks for your comments.

Both comments much appreciated. Thanks, folks!

Unfortunately, I'm probably going to take this hub down, and republish it elsewhere as 1/3 of it turns out to the same as an article I put up on The Simple Living Net a few years back. Bummer! It's generated the most comments in the shortest time of all my hubs. But, I guess rules is rules. And it hasn't moved from 63 since before I published it. The Hub Team is hammering me! ";-)


Dottie1 profile image

Dottie1 7 years ago from MA, USA

I loved this hub too! It's always good to read about the Good Life to make sure we are moving in the right direction. I Loved the video of the Good Life Parable. Ain't that the truth!

Just reading your comment above about the hubscore staying at 63. Right now it is 78. Keep up the good work Bruce and the good life!


Bruce Elkin profile image

Bruce Elkin 7 years ago from Victoria, BC Canada Author

Thank you, Dottie. I appreciate your feedback. Glad you liked the little video. Too true!

Maybe the Hub Team relented, and allowed my score to rise. Or, perhaps it was just stuck. I was sure surprised to see it at the top of my list of hubs, when last night, it was at the bottom. So, all good! Again thanks for your comment.


lindagoffigan profile image

lindagoffigan 7 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

Reminded me of grad school disciplines and would make an excellent thesis paper on Maslow's Law and the basics of human wants and needs.


Bruce Elkin profile image

Bruce Elkin 7 years ago from Victoria, BC Canada Author

THanks for your comment. I hope it's a compliment, but I'm not sure. I dropped out of school in the 21st grade, and still have a bad taste in my mouth about those institutions.

I do appreciate you stopping by and leaving the comment. :-)


G-Ma Johnson profile image

G-Ma Johnson 7 years ago from NW in the land of the Free

where have you been...we miss you...??????G-Ma :O) Hugs & Prayers


Bruce Elkin profile image

Bruce Elkin 7 years ago from Victoria, BC Canada Author

I've been working on the final edits of a new ebook. And trying to develop a presence on Twitter (BelkinB), so I've got folks to send it to. I'm going to give it away, hoping to drive traffic to my website. Much as I enjoy the HubPages community, it doesn't generate much interest in my website, or my coaching services. So I have to put my time into things that does. I'll be checking in pretty regularly, but not putting as much time into HubPages as I was.

Thaks G-Ma!


Tom Cornett profile image

Tom Cornett 7 years ago from Ohio

Great hub......very helpful.....Thanks! :)


Shalini Kagal profile image

Shalini Kagal 7 years ago from India

Hi Bruce - congrats to a wonderful hubber on those 100 fans!


Laughing Mom profile image

Laughing Mom 7 years ago

I really like how you put that we should take glimpses of our most perfect moments and weave them into a flourishing life.

That's really beautiful!


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma

What an insightful hub.


linjingjing profile image

linjingjing 7 years ago

Writing good

3889


Bruce Elkin profile image

Bruce Elkin 7 years ago from Victoria, BC Canada Author

Tom, JamaGenee, linjingging - thanks for your comments and support!

Laughing Mom - Great suggestion. I think I'l borrow that, if I may. Thank you for your encouragment.

Shalini - Thanks for letting me know I've hit 100 fans. I didn't know that. But I'm happy I did. And thanks for dropping by and supporting me. I appreciate your comment!


OptimistsOnly profile image

OptimistsOnly 7 years ago from Christchruch, New Zealand

This topic is right up my alley. Every day life flourishes if we choose to see it that way. It's about the journey...so many of us seem to forget. Thank you for the reminder.


OptimistsOnly profile image

OptimistsOnly 7 years ago from Christchruch, New Zealand


Bruce Elkin profile image

Bruce Elkin 7 years ago from Victoria, BC Canada Author

Yes, optimism (as long as it is realistic) is a very powerful force.

Thank you for you comment. I appreciate the feedback!


Storytellersrus profile image

Storytellersrus 7 years ago from Stepping past clutter

Bruce, I have to laugh at myself. Evidently I have yet to learn the lessons of this hub. I found your fanmail at the bottom of my profile page and thought, Wow! I haven't heard from Bruce for awhile, I will check out what he has written. So I went to your profile and out of ALL your fascinating hubs, I finally settled on this one... AGAIN! Thanks for refreshing my memory and giving me some "new" insights to revisit!!! Will I ever learn???


Bruce Elkin profile image

Bruce Elkin 7 years ago from Victoria, BC Canada Author

LOL! That's a great story. I've done the same thing myself. It just shows that learning is more then reading and even understanding. It's comes from experience, and experience comes with what we do with ideas and insight -- from practice. That's what I talk about in my hub about the Ten Thousand Hour Rule: practice, practice, practice. And though I preach it, it is hard to practice it.

Thanks so much for your comments here. Much appreciated!


kartika damon profile image

kartika damon 7 years ago from Fairfield, Iowa

Excellent hub - I am also a fan of simplicity and I loved the discussion of self actualization - I strive for this myself and find it is well worth it!


Bruce Elkin profile image

Bruce Elkin 7 years ago from Victoria, BC Canada Author

Thank you, Kartika. I appreciate you stopping by and commenting. I'm glad you enjoyed the hub. Best!

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