When we talk about the good life, we automatically end up in the realm of spirituality. And that’s because spirituality connects us with the basic tools and practices that have been tried and tested through the ages and that have been found by all sorts of people from different cultures and walks of life to be effective in helping us to find a good life. Essentially, spirituality can wake us up and lead us to our best life.
In this episode I want to talk about what I believe we all want, and what is at the heart of every spiritual quest: the good life. ‘The Good Life’ is the holy grail of human life and spirituality, but we don’t always know what a good life really is. We too easily get caught up chasing ‘bright shiny objects’ that we think will make our lives good, but that usually leave us disappointed or even broken. That’s why one of the most important questions we can ask ourselves is this: what is a truly good life for me? And in this episode, I want to explore what the answer to that question might be.
One of the most quoted saying of Jesus from the Gospels is in the second part of John 10 verse 10. In the New Living Translation of the Bible, Jesus says, “My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” In the Common English Bible, it’s phrased this way: “I came so that they could have life—indeed, so that they could live life to the fullest.” The New Revised Standard Version puts it this way: “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”
It’s interesting then that so many people outside of religion view religious organisations as the last place they would go to find a “rich and satisfying life.” But what does Jesus mean when he speaks of a life to the fullest, or abundant life? Unsurprisingly, there are a lot of different opinions about this, but I always think of abundant life as Jesus’ version of what we would call a ‘good life.’ Most of know that ‘the good life’ is not necessarily the life of the rich and famous. But we all long for a life that feels good to us, a life that makes sense to us, that is meaningful for us, that is fulfilled and fulfilling for us, and that feels truly alive to us.
On a side note, when Jesus said “I have come that they may have life…” he was not saying “I have come that they may find life in Christianity, or in religion, or in the Church.” He was saying that what he taught, how he lived, and what he stood for was, in his view, the way to find the good life we’re seeking. But of course, we need to explore this more.
So what does a good life look like? Or to use some of the other ways of expressing this that I use on this podcast: What does it look like to live awake? To live with mindfulness and meaning? To live a life that matters, that counts, that is actually worth the effort?
Well, on one level this is completely subjective. We all long for different things that we believe will bring us the good life we seek. Some of what we look for is really futile because it doesn’t bring the life we think it will, it doesn’t fill the longing or silence the voice that says ‘there has to be more’. But even when it comes to the things that do make life meaningful we all naturally need and want different things. Even within families, or between intimate partners, the definition of the good life can be very different.
So one key to a good life is to know yourself—what you need, what you want, what you have to offer, what brings you joy, what you do well, what supports your health, what inspires you, what excites you. And then, when you know these things, you can begin to shape them together into a vision of a life that feels good to you.
But from the perspective of science, there are some things that have been shown objectively to enhance the quality of human life. These are the objective characteristics of what human beings consider to be a good life. And they are pretty simple and attainable for everyone.
But before I talk about some of these things, I hope you won’t mind a quick reminder to subscribe. If you’re watching on YouTube, click on the bell to be notified of new episodes. And liking and sharing is always appreciated. If you’re listening on a podcast platform, please rate EvoFaith and tell others about it.
When we talk about the good life, we automatically end up in the realm of spirituality. And that’s because spirituality connects us with the basic tools and practices that have been tried and tested through the ages and that have been found by all sorts of people from different cultures and walks of life to be effective in helping us to find a good life. Essentially, spirituality can wake us up and lead us to our best life. In the next episode I’ll be talking about how spiritual practice can help us to live into the good life we seek. But for now, let’s explore what a good life actually looks like.
To begin with, a good life is one in which we are able to identify, nourish, and live out of our best selves most of the time. It is also where we identify and learn to integrate and transform or heal our worst selves. And in doing these two things—nourishing our best and transforming and integrating our worst—we become more whole, more authentic, more self-aware, and more able to show up authentically, fully, and courageously. Essentially, this self-awareness, empowers us to envision a truly good life and live in ways that are most likely to get us there.
Then, secondly, a good life is one in which we—as our best selves—are able to live our best lives. This isn’t about having everything we want, living in luxury, and never having to endure pain, grief, or struggle. Such a life doesn’t really exist. Rather, our best life is one in which we are able to transcend ourselves, our obsession with our smallest, most self-centred and egotistical selves. It’s a life in which we cease fighting to keep ourselves at the centre of our universe and it is a life in which we live, intentionally and purposefully, to leave the world a little better than we found it.
Flowing from a life this idea of a ‘self-transcending life,’ we know that our best life is never an isolated one. Psychologist, author and speaker Esther Perel is famous for saying that, “the quality of our relationships determines the quality of our lives.” But she’s not just talking about relationships within our nuclear family. To put it another way, our best life is found when we are most deeply connected—with ourselves, with others, with the universe, and with God (or whatever we view as the higher reality beyond ourselves).
And when we are deeply connected, we cannot help but feel empathy toward those with whom we feel this connection. Which means that our best life is one in which we become increasingly compassionate. And compassion is always expressed in some kind of contribution, some kind of generosity, some kind of extending ourselves for the sake of the other. We’ll explore these things in more detail in future podcasts. But they really are the things that fill our lives with meaning, purpose, and a sense of true aliveness. Our best lives are not those that are defined only in terms of our own well-being, or the fulfilment of our own desires. The good life always includes others. And that’s why spirituality is an essential tool in learning to live a truly good life.
Perhaps I can end with two of my favourite quotes that have helped to shape my understanding of the good life and my own quest to live a good life. The first is from George Bernard Shaw and is pretty well known, I hope you’ll forgive me if you’ve heard it before—but it is worth hearing again:
“This is the true joy in life, being used for a purpose recognised by yourself as a mighty one. Being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it what I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”
And the second quote is this one from Howard Thurman:
“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go and do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
So what makes you come alive? What is your vision of a good life? How does it express your best self? How does it help you to become more deeply connected, compassionate, and contributing? And how are you living toward that vision of the good life? What is helping you to embody the values and priorities of that life so that you can make it a reality? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the good life and what a truly good life would look like for you.
In the next episode I want to explore some of the basic ‘tools’ that empower us to live toward a good life and how we can use them to express our best selves in our best lives. I can’t wait to share it with you!
But that’s it for this episode. Thank you for listening. Thank you for watching. And I’ll catch you next time!
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