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What is a Good Life? #11
Good day to you all,
Thanks again for your interest in this newsletter.
If this is your first time reading this newsletter, please click here for background information on the project and how it is structured (4 separate sections).
The key theme this week is Growth.
Through following this weekly newsletter, I hope it gets easier to navigate one of life’s biggest questions.
1. This week’s interview – Growth and reflection
Each week I share direct excerpts from an individual interview
This week’s interview is with Marie*. Marie is managing the openings of new international facilities for a global healthcare system. She speaks to the importance of growth and reflection in her life.
* Not the participant’s real name
What is a good life for you?
A good life for me is where there is growth. It’s around growing and developing, going through experiences and reflecting on those experiences. It's growth on a few different levels. Growth from your previous self - am I doing better today than I was doing yesterday? Am I being a better wife, daughter, friend, sister than I was yesterday? Am I learning from my past mistakes?
Then another component is growth from past generations, am I doing better or making better choices, than the people that came before me, whether it’s my parents, grandparents, etc. Then growth as a collective, whether it's in a country or across the world.
How do you track or observe this growth?
What I’m trying to learn for myself, is stating what my values are, and observing whether I’m living up to them and carving out time to reflect on this. A good example, for me at least, is when I would get home from work, I almost always re-think everything I did that day. I would think about all the things that went wrong or that I had to do the next day.
I realised I had to stop my brain from doing this, because it was just anxiety provoking. Instead, I would try to think of three questions - what did I do well?, what did I not do as well?, and what am I grateful for? This lets me have that time, whether it's eating dinner or journaling, to reflect on whether I am living the values that are important to me.
Can you talk to me about the three levels of growth you mentioned at the beginning?
In an individual sense, I've done a lot of work in the last three or four years, in therapy, and then also on my own, to heal from a lot of anxiety in my life. The individual component is recognising where you need help, and really spending the time to develop your own emotional capabilities and emotional intelligence. That’s been hugely beneficial for me.
The generational piece for me has always been important, because I've seen mistakes loved ones made before me. I don't judge them for it; we're all human and I have a lot of compassion around that. One of my parents, for example, is an alcoholic and on the other parent’s side, there are several recovered alcoholic family members as well. That reflection piece was important for me at a young age to say I don’t want to continue that trend and that’s why I don’t drink alcohol.
Reflecting on the collective, I think of social media with my generation. We spend so much time on it, but do we actually take a pause and consider whether overall it’s a positive or negative in our lives? About a year ago, I completely got off of Instagram and Facebook. It's been so freeing, I have much stronger relationships with people that I want to have in my life, instead of spending time online comparing myself to people I barely know.
Looking to the future, where do you see potential areas for growth?
I would like to switch off more from my constant to-do lists and live more in the moment. I've gotten closer in recent years, but I had so much guilt in the past about doing that. Even recently, I was watching TV in the evening, and I turned to my husband and I said, “I think I should do some work”. And he's like, “No, it's nine o'clock at night, and you just need to watch TV”.
The organisation I work for and the particular role I have is really exciting and has a positive impact. I’m grateful for the work and the opportunities and yet the nature of the work is demanding of time and energy. I think it’s the right place for me at this point in my early career. Longer-term, zoning in on what my big, meaningful contribution(s) could be, whether on a local, national or international stage, is what I’m looking forward to understanding next.
“When we are no longer able to change a situation - we are challenged to change ourselves.” - Viktor Frankl
2. This week’s insight
Each week I share an overall insight from reviewing 100+ interviews collectively
Growth was mentioned by approximately 17% of the participants in this project as being an important part of a good life.
Participants brought up growth in multiple domains of life: mental, physical, spiritual, emotional, and professional. Some participants went as far as saying their idea of hell would be not to grow; another alluded to purgatory.
A number of participants made links to nature and it being part of our natural evolution to grow, while also acknowledging that times for rest and recuperation are required in between moments of expansion.
“Ever since I was a child I have had this instinctive urge for expansion and growth” - Bruce Lee
3. This week’s reflection
Each week I share a personal reflection on the weekly theme
While the foundations I put in place for growth are usually very process driven and clean, the experience of growth for me is normally quite messy.
I have found that growth is generally preceded by plenty of reflection, clean eating, exercise, creativity, investments in loving relationships, and trying new things. However, the moments of experiencing of it regularly lead to considerable volatility.
Although growth is something I really pursue and value, when it’s actually taking place, sometimes it can almost feel too much. I can run to old habits of eating junk food or incessantly checking sporting updates, just to momentarily escape the discomfort of the breakthrough itself.
Growth then becomes more of an exercise in resilience and navigating discomfort than in perfectly executing. At least until a new equilibrium is reached and I can consolidate and integrate the growth into my usual processes.
While it can be quite fashionable to simply say, “just get out of your comfort zone” (we know this is easier said than done), it’s usually well worth the short-term volatility when we do.
“Growth is an erratic forward movement: two steps forward, one step back. Remember that and be very gentle with yourself” - Julia Cameron
4. This week’s questions for personal reflection
Each week I pose questions to support your own inquiry into what a good life is for you
Can you recall a period of your life in which you grew beyond your own expectations? If so, what conditions were present for such an expansion?
Is there an area of your life that is in need of growth? What has acted as an obstacle to growth in this area? What might you gain if this obstacle were removed?
That’s all for this week. I’d greatly appreciate you sharing this newsletter with your friends. I’d also really like to receive any feedback with suggestions for what you would like to see from these weekly updates. If you want to contact me directly, here’s my email and LinkedIn.
I’m a coach, based in Berlin (via Dublin, Ireland). I formerly had a 15-year career in Capital Markets, and for better or worse, I’ve convinced myself that I’m going to make a discovery around human thought / behaviour.