By Steve Mueller
When it comes to living the good life, we almost all have a certain idea how such a life should look like. For some, the good life is all about spending time playing video games or watching television, while eating and drinking as much as they please. Others associate the good life with days spent in nature, pondering and philosophizing about life. Some simply want to spend their time in a worthwhile and productive manner, for example by trying to make this world a better place. Others believe that the good life is all about pleasure, wealth and the fulfilment of all their (material) wishes.
These examples raise an important issue. When it comes to the good life, some understand it as the continuous pursuit of their desires by means of mundane activities. Others consider it as the striving for personal excellence and the wish to contribute something meaningful in life.
We then have to ask ourselves the question, if the good life could really be characterized by a high standard of living alone. If this were the case, living the good life would primarily consist of the never-ending attempt to fulfill one’s desires and material wishes. As we all know, human desires can be boundless, while the earth’s resources are quite limited. As such, the (excessive) good life of one group of people might prevent others from living the “high-standard-of-living good life.” Or it might hinder future generations from ever living the good life.
A high standard of living can certainly be regarded as part of the good life. But in itself, the good life does not alone consist of wealth and abundance. As such, it would be quite limited and out of balance.
In line with this arguing, the popular philosophers Socrates and Plato primarily define in their works the good life as the examination of life, the mastery of the self and the contribution to one’s community. To them, living the good life integrated aspects of self-control and civic duty. As such, the good life consisted of reining in your passions by attaining mastery over yourself and to contribute to your community.
To return to the initial question, what is the good life?
Living the good life means living a life that sets you free. A life that satisfies and fulfils you, that adds happiness, joy and a sense of purpose to your life. But it also means to live a life that is worthwhile – a life that makes a contribution, instead of being solely self-centered. The good life is a life that is not primarily wasted with mundane activities. Instead, it adds value and contributes to making this world a better place. Even more so, it also contributes to your own growth. The attainment of a high standard of living alone might not be fully fulfilling and will definitely not set you free. Therefore, the good life combines aspects of exploration, self-mastery and civic responsibility with the endeavour to spend your time in a worthwhile manner that both satisfies and fulfils. It is only through the combination of these aspects that a joyous and happy life can be truly considered the good life.