What makes a good life?

Let me start by saying, I don’t have the answer.

Our ideas about what makes a happy life would be as different from person to person and culture to culture as the colours on a butterfly’s wings are different.

Maslow’s hierarchy gives us an indication of what we need; put really simply, food, sleep, safety, love and purpose.


I agree that food, sleep and safety make life easier. Sleep I definitely agree with right now.  I think people can get by without love but it doesn’t make for a nice existence, and purpose, whether it be charitable work or saving lives or just simply getting up and tending to the garden, having purpose does makes life chug along.

I read someone recently describe giving up the idea of making a difference or leaving a legacy in life, and the author no longer cared.  What I found most sad was that they felt they had to give up on the notion on their terms and thus see themselves as a failure.  It’s being here simply enough and do you always know when you’ve made a difference?

But this is surely different from the question perhaps of what makes a life worth living?

I saw recently the discussion that one long life is not one long narrative and that life is many stages of different activities and adventures.  Says something about how we think about ourselves and how when a life ends it’s often summarised neatly, picking out the common threads and successes. But we all know there are times we’d rather forget and times that seem to be hard for no reason and once ended, mean nothing.  It seems to be an extra pressure we put on ourselves to create a story, create successes and a narrative with a “happy ending”.

To me right now it’s a good book in bed with no deadlines. 10 years ago it was travel and adventure, heading out backpacking alone and meeting people. Things change and we sure do change. Don’t beat yourself up if right now is not what you need or want. This will pass. Same as the good stuff goes as well. I think sometimes we add meaning to what we’re going through to make it bearable.  A lot is made in religion of God taking you on a path but perhaps a path is not a path to anywhere it’s just a minute by minute hour by hour, day by day – daily grind.  A quote I used to know said the only thing that makes life bearable is not knowing what comes next.  It’s hard to agree with this when you’re looking forward to something but imagine if you knew what was coming when it was bad?  You never know what’s coming next, even when you’re 100% sure you do.

2 thoughts on “What makes a good life?

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