Someone recently asked me what I believe are the five most essential components to “the good life.” A concept debated to exhaustion by the greatest philosophical minds, one would think this would be a daunting question to even contemplate. If Plato and Socrates were unable to find a harmonious solution, how could anyone else?
Turns out, it is not daunting in the least, quite the contrary. If you have ever taken the opportunity to examine your life, you likely have a strong idea of what works for you and what doesn’t–what feeds your soul and what leaves it empty. You may have had to learn the hard way, but after a few years of living, it becomes incredibly easy to determine what you need more of and what you need to say goodbye to. The hard part arrives when you must take action because these needs do not match your reality.
Disclaimer: Please know that the five items contained within this list may not match your idea of “the good life.” In fact, I hope they do not. Our unique experiences, needs, and lessons learned should create very different versions. I encourage you to make edits, cross off a few, and add in some alternatives until it feels that this list was created just for you. That is the beauty of “the good life.” It is free from judgement and provides you with the permission to live as you believe you should, not as others do. Also, I did not create this list alone and credit must be given to the special individual who contributed and proposed the question.
Wellness is an incredibly broad category, but is simplified as the state of being happy, healthy, and comfortable. If you don’t have this, the rest is rather difficult to pursue. This is why overall wellness is at the top of the list. When you are actively pursuing habits and behaviors that are designed to safeguard you mentally and physically, the rest of the list will naturally be fulfilled. Wellness encompasses nearly every category of existence, including emotional, physical, intellectual, spiritual, social, environmental, occupational, and even financial health.
Not to be confused with religion (though that can certainly be included in this definition should you desire it to be), spirituality is less concerned with rules and more concerned with your connection to something greater than yourself. Its existence in your life should gift you with inner peace, love for yourself and others, and meaning in a lost world. If you have ever felt like there is an emptiness inside of you that you can never seem to fill no matter how much you chase and consume, you may want to look beyond what this physical world can offer you. Spirituality can provide you with a fullness that cannot be found through materialism, felt through physical senses, or defined by anyone other than yourself.
3. Choice Limitation
Our modern world has expanded our horizons beyond anything imaginable for previous generations. Hungry? Which one of the 7,375 Chicago restaurants do you want to deliver? Need a new pair of sneakers? Here’s a few thousand white ones for you to choose from. Single? In which country should we start your search to narrow down the list of 7.8 billion people you now have access to? As wrong as it feels to complain that there are too many options for Pad Thai in a one-block radius, infinite choices can leave humans feeling incredibly overwhelmed and prevent us from making decisions all together. It can also lead to an insatiable appetite for things, people, and experiences because we are now profoundly aware of everything we inherently say “no” to every time we make the choice to say “yes” to one thing. Limitless options is not as beneficial as one may think.
4. Serving Others
While self-care and self-love is necessary for wellness, a life void of connection to others will quickly become inconsequential and insignificant. Imagine what the world would look like if everyone looked out solely for themselves, never giving to others or helping those in need? Is that a world you would even want to live in? Think about those who have helped you along your own journey. What if you had never received their kindness, generosity, or support? What would your life look like? If you are to occupy space on this planet, you have a duty to contribute to its betterment, not its demise. And one of the greatest ways you can do this is to serve the needs of another. Not only will it contribute to the greater good of humanity, but your soul’s desire for fulfillment will be rewarded.
If I told you that you could live on this Earth for an infinite amount of time, but would always struggle to find any sense of purpose to it, would you accept the offer? What if I told you that your time would be limited, not knowing if that means you have 50 minutes or 50 years, but every second would be spent with significant meaning and intention…would you choose this offer instead? Time seems to lose all value when it is spent in a meaningless fashion. The only thing that makes time such a precious commodity is the idea that it could be spent doing something extraordinary. Without a sense of purpose, we are all just directionless beings occupying space.
Please do not feel discouraged if you struggle to identify your purpose in this world. It is ever-evolving and changes just as you do. It can be as simple as expressing gratitude to someone you love or as grand as running a Fortune-500 company. There are no restrictions on purpose. It can be anything you desire it to be. However, a day spent without it is a day I wouldn’t care to experience again.
Written by: Aubrey Koel, LPC