We all want to live good lives, but what does a "good life" actually mean?
It's a hard concept to nail down, since we all have different values and goals. What one person might consider a great existence -- a high-powered job living in bustling city, or a cozy life spent raising a handful of children, or a solitary existence spent writing in the mountains -- others might think of as very unpleasant. What "good" means is relative, especially when it comes to creating a well-lived life.
Still, I believe there are certain things we all need to have a good life. I've been thinking about this topic a lot recently, and I happened to stumble upon a Forbes piece featuring ten golden rules for living a good life from the book The Ten Golden Rules: Ancient Wisdom from the Greek Philosophers on How to Life a Good Life.
These ten golden rules really resonated with me so I thought I'd share my versions, along with my thoughts on them, here. For the most part, these are the same as the ones referenced in the article above, only I've tweaked them a bit and the thoughts below are my own.
EXAMINE + ENGAGE IN LIFE
The first rule of living a good life is knowing how important it is to explore the world and be curious about your environment. We instinctively do this as children, but it should be a lifelong practice. You can't live if a good life if you're not really living. To me, this means both examining and engaging in life outside yourself (by playing games, making art, trying new foods, etc.), and also examining and engaging in your inner world too.
(TRY TO) WORRY LESS
Worry is, unfortunately, a part of life, but how much you worry -- and what you worry about -- can impact how good your life is. It's important to try your best to worry only about the things you can control. Learning how to quickly identify what you can control vs. what's out of your hands is one of the best ways to minimize worries. Someone living a good life knows she can't control everything; she can control her reactions to everything.
As humans, we crave connection and affection. Whether you're the type of person that has countless friends or you prefer a few close pals, friendship -- and the connections and life lessons that come along with those relationships -- are invaluable. No amount of wealth, power, success, fame or any other measure of success can beat the positive benefits of a good friendship. Someone living a good life knows to treasure and care for his friendships.
FOCUS ON TRUE JOY
In life there are plenty of things that make us feel good, but not all of those things should be the focus. Living a good life means avoiding shallow, meaningless, or fleeting pleasures and instead focusing on meaningful, deep joys that have lasting effects. For instance, consider the feeling of eating a giant slice of cake vs. the feeling of having an inspiring conversation. Both feel good in the moment, but the long-term impacts are very different.
KNOW WHO YOU ARE
KNOW WHO YOU ARE
Personally, I think this should be number 1! To live a good life, it's essential to know yourself, to be self-reliant, to cultivate self-love. Equally as important is focusing on what's true, not what's convenient. Self-deception is all too common for many of us, but it does us no good to convince ourselves of things that are untrue. If you struggle this this rule, here are some good resources to check out: My Life Story So Far, Letters to My Future Self, Finding Your Self, Loving Your Self.
FIND BALANCE + HARMONY
As you might already know, too much of anything (even the good stuff!) can be a bad thing, which is why, to live a good life, it's important to avoid excess. In all areas of life -- home, relationships, love, work, etc. -- it's a good idea to strive for balance. Overindulging in the good stuff can lead to what I think of as a "happiness hangover," but depriving yourself of fun (and a little bit of bad behavior!) it's great either. Find what balance means for you and strive for that.
ADHERE TO POSITIVE VALUES
This rule really comes down to one basic concept: be a decent human being. When you've done wrong, accept responsibility. Whenever possible, be honest with yourself and with others. It's vital to be accountable for your choices and actions. What you value is up to you, but figuring out those values and sticking to them throughout your life is one of the best ways to ensure you're living a good life. (Also: be open-minded and, if need be, change your values as you grow and learn.)
PROSPER WITH CAUTION
With any luck, you'll have an wonderful opportunity to prosper in this life, to flourish financially and achieve great success. If this happens (and I hope it does!), be cautious and thoughtful in your choices. I imagine it's difficult not to get carried away, but one of the keys to living a good life is being rational with your resources (whatever those might be!). Many prosperous people become foolish and delusional. Personally, I think this is a great place to focus on gratitude over gains.
DO HARM TO NO ONE
This might sound like an obvious rule for a good life, but it's an important one. To live well, strive to harm no one -- including yourself. Hurting others hurts you too (even if, for whatever reason, you feel as if they deserve to be hurt). Speak with kindness, focus on forgiveness, have compassion, embrace empathy, and, above all, try to cultivate as much love as you can for your fellow humans. (I also recommend extending this rule to animals and nature, too!)
BE ENDLESSLY KIND
The last rule goes hand-in-hand with the previous rule. Kindness is mandatory for living a good life. Not only does kindness make the world a better place, but every time you're kind, you feel good. Also, regardless of whether or not you believe in karma, if you pay attention to how kindness plays out in your own life, you'll find that your kind deeds are often rewarded or returned in some way. Whether it's something small -- like sharing your water with your dog on a long walk or sending a friend a bag of cheer -- or something huge, being endlessly kind will always lead to a better, happier life.
These words of wisdom are nothing new (after all, they were inspired by ancient philosophers!), but there's a reason we're still writing about these concepts today. They are vital for making the most of your life, regardless of who you are, what you have, where you live, or what you do. Follow these rules and an uncommonly good life can be yours!
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