The Search for the Good Life

The good life is a process, not a state of being. It is a direction not a destination

Carl Rogers

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 for 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?

This article has been adapted and was originally posted on the Pointless Overthinking blog: The Search for the Good Life – Pointless Overthinking

Image Source: Pexels Free Photos

10 thoughts on “The Search for the Good Life

  1. I am a bit of an Epicurean myself – in the original meaning of the philosophy. The purpose of life is to be lived, no more and no less. The trip is all there is. The destination is already known. Enjoy the trip.

    “I was not; I have been; I am not; I do not mind.”

    Liked by 1 person

      1. What we think of as hedonism tpday bears little resemblance to what Democritus embraced in ancient Greece.

        Epicurianism developed from early hedonism as espoused by Democratus. It focuses on “ataraxia” which translates as a generalized sense of well being and freedom from fear. (Think “hakuna matata.”) And on “aponia” which is freedom from physical pain. One achieves this through moderation and self care because overindulgence will cause pain.

        Being a nudist fits in perfectly with my Epicurian tendencies. It feels good and harms no one, therefor it IS good.

        Epicurianism is atomistic and materialistic. This is the only world we’ve got and living for an afterlife is a waste of time. People should behave in a moral fashion – not because Gods and priests and civil laws demand it but rather because the world is a more pleasant place when they do. One should obey (most) laws because being a criminal does not lead to tranquility and freedom from fear.

        Diogenes was an early Epicurian.

        Needless to say, Christians have never approved of the philosophy. Even though the Epicureans and the Stoics were considered opponents, if you diig into the weeds a bit you’ll see a lot of common conclusions reach via different thought processes.

        “It is impossible to live a pleasant life without living wisely and well and justly, and it is impossible to live wisely and well and justly without living a pleasant life.” – Epicurus

        Liked by 1 person

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