John's Blog

The Blog of John Gibson, PhD

What is the "good life?"

I like Martin Seligman’s definition. The good life, as he sees it, is made up of these components:

  • Positive emotion. Otherwise known as feeling good.
  • Engagement. Activities that cause to lose track of time, for instance.
  • Relationships. We are hard-wired to connect. Good relationships make for a good life.
  • Meaning. Making an investment in something that is bigger than one’s self.
  • Achievement. Accomplishing things that matter to us.

Happiness is more than feeling good. Ever tried to learn a musical instrument? Complete college? Play Bridge? Play a sport? Some activities test us and tax us, but they may come to have deep meaning for us nonetheless. Seligman suggests that “feeling good” may be the least important component of the group.

Which doesn’t mean we don’t want to feel good. We do. It’s just that there may be more to happiness than positive emotion.

Also, it’s not enough to achieve our goals; we also need to
appreciate our achievements, perhaps even savor them.

What the good life is not: the wealthy life, the ideal life, the stress-free life, the idle life.

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