If you feel as though life has become a roller coaster, you aren’t the only one. Groups of friends, colleagues, and family members are all sitting around the table discussing recent upheavals, wondering when it will end. Disease, fires, floods, riots, and political unrest - these types of uncertainty unsettle us, and we begin thinking deeper about our lives. We wonder about our purpose or brings us happiness. That is, what constitutes a “good life?”
When you talk to friends and family, some may believe they want a life free from pain and full of pleasure, peace, and safety. Others want to live a life with purpose and meaning, even if that means being risky or uncomfortable. A new study finds that living a life of psychological richness is more valuable than living a pain-free, pleasure-filled life to most people. This is counterintuitive to what many expected. After all, when people talk about the good life it usually involves discovering fame, winning the lottery, becoming powerful, or achieving successful in their career. The study says although those things bring some happiness, they are not indicators of living a good life. Living a good life, they found, is living one that is interesting, varied with experiences and surprises. Even unpleasant surprises were an important aspect of living a good life.
If you feel as though your life has become one uncertainty after another and is being lived in a haphazard manner, it may help you to refocus on cultivating psychological richness into your life. Here are five suggestions.
1. Make room for adventures in your life. Having experiences with others where you are not in control and vulnerable to Mother Nature adds self-awareness to your life. Working with others to survive provides meaning and connection.
2. Give yourself space to explore ideas, concepts, and relationships. The most meaningful relationships in our lives and the ones that bring out the best in us are long-term relationships that have unfolded and grown richer with time. Give children time to explore what they are interested in, rather than directing them to ideas you find fascinating.
3. Do not avoid pain and suffering for yourself or others. Be willing to stay present when you or someone you care about is going through pain. Pain and suffering are a necessary part of life and embracing others through it reminds us that we can love and be loved by others.
4. Be vulnerable with your failures. Covering up your failures requires a lot of emotional energy and builds wall between you and others. It’s our flaws that allow the light to shine through and encourages others toward us. It’s our connection to one another.
5. Invest time into your relationships. The single biggest factor in determining a good life are the connections we leave behind. You can be a CEO and have more money and fame than anyone else, but you will not feel satisfied in your life if you’re relationships are hurt, broken, or estranged. Make your life about living for others and you will have psychological wealth in abundance.
We take life for granted and it’s easy to get caught up in daily trivialities. However, unlike any time preceding this year, it’s as if we’re getting a daily wakeup call to ask ourselves: what is important, what do I value, and what is my life saying about me? Answering these questions gives us insight into what living a good life means to us. In the end, it is our life to live. Fill it with the experiences that will bring you the greatest sense of a life lived well.