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What is a Good Life? #24
Good day to you all,
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 Security. The interviewee speaks about the importance of financial stability, while I reflect on the interdependence of security and freedom.
1. This week’s interview
Each week I share direct excerpts from an individual interview
This week’s interview is with Karl*. Karl is an Account Director with a design company and he speaks about the importance of financial stability and seeking purpose.
* Not the participant’s real name
What is a good life for you?
There are a few different pillars that contribute to experiencing a good life. There is the general health and well-being of myself, my family and loved ones. Then there is an element of financial stability and potentially having a sense of purpose. I like being challenged and the feeling of growing. Those are the very broad pillars that, for me, make a good life.
Is there an order to maintaining these different pillars?
The most important thing is that my family and my close friends are healthy - obviously if everyone was sick or dying, then clearly it wouldn't be a good life. I think the financial stability aspect is a baseline and a potential accelerator to the other pillars.
When it goes over a certain level, earning more than I spend and covering whatever else I want to do, I can also potentially help and maintain the well-being of the people around me.
You know, my grandma recently moved into an elderly home and my dad has two brothers, and they need to pay for it. At some point, these things come into play for me as well. I'm an only child so there's that consideration as well. I want to be able to help them out if they have needs in the future.
Can you tell me how the importance of financial stability and security have evolved for you?
I always thought, growing up, that a good life was related to financial well-being, and for a long period of my life, that was what I thought needed to happen. This started to shift or evolve as I was travelling the world, understanding other cultures and other models of living. I also started to understand how things work, that owning all this stuff is not necessarily only added value, but also added risk, and added responsibility.
However, I think because I founded my own company right out of university, I know how hard it is to earn money and to build a business. Once that business failed, and I became employed by another company, and I was earning my own money once again, being able to call my family and say, “I'm good now.”
That was to me, like the ultimate, single moment of freedom, not having to rely on anyone, and I'm generally happy since then. Because that was the moment that I entered this phase of my life of having more flexibility and freedom to do what I want.
Can you elaborate on that sense of choice and freedom within the context of security?
I'm thinking a lot about my personal financial setup and how I want to develop it, as well as my private life, around the question of family and other things. I'm at a point in my life where I firmly believe that I'll never be as free as I am right now.
The general well-being of my friends and family is at a very good level, I earn a good level of income, and in my private life, I have no responsibilities of pets, kids, marriage, or anything.
So, for me, there is always the question, how can you keep that balance of adding sensible responsibilities or security that contribute to a better life, such as family, kids, a house or flat or other assets.
But not let that tip into making you completely inflexible, so that you feel trapped in a situation. So, to me, a good life is also the availability of choice through the financial stability and security I create.
Given your core of health and financial security are in place, what challenges do you face in experiencing a good life?
Having a purpose is something that I’m looking for right now, or at least being able to articulate that clearly. Because when you have a purpose, then every decision is easier to make as you have a North Star to filter your decisions through. Up until now, I’ve been more opportunistic with my choices.
In the past couple of years, I found it challenging when people approached me with job offers, because if I don't understand what the ultimate goal is, it’s hard to know if it’s the right decision or not - I can feel paralysed by these decisions.
Obviously, the ability to move towards a purpose is an absolute privilege that is afforded to you by the initial security you have in life. Because I'm sure there are many people in the world that cannot do that.
“The balance between freedom and security is a delicate one.” - Mark Udall
2. This week’s insight
Each week I share an overall insight from reviewing 100+ interviews collectively
Security was mentioned by approximately 35% of the participants in this project as an important part of a good life. Security (financial) was also one of the most prominent responses when participants were asked to speak about challenges in experiencing a good life.
Security was primarily mentioned in relation to having enough resources to cover the basic needs of food, clothing, shelter, and what was deemed to be a required standard of living (which varied significantly). Security was also brought up with regards to feeling safe in the home environment, with family, and in terms of emotional security in other relationships.
“Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.” - Epictetus
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3. This week’s reflection
Each week I share a personal reflection on the weekly theme
Around 3.5 years ago I was scheduled to start a job for which I was offered a 40% increase in salary. Without another career plan in place, I decided the weekend before it started that I was going to hand in my notice and head for the hills of Peru.
At the times of both accepting and rejecting the offer, I felt very torn between a part of me that wanted security and a part of me that wanted to explore new horizons. I smiled when I saw 35% of participants in this project valued security and 40% valued freedom - probably a fair reflection of my internal state back then.
While people, at times, may project a very cohesive and sure external impression, internally there are a number of fragmented and contradictory needs and desires competing for attention.
For me there’s a clear interdependence between freedom and security. 3.5 years later, after changing careers and having travelled extensively, I’m far more focussed on security and making a success of the decisions I made in the interim, than I am interested in additional novelty or new places.
What is a reasonable amount of security is a question that only the individual can answer for themselves. However, it’s important to be able to distinguish when security is responsibly meeting your life requirements from when it’s becoming an excuse not to do something that challenges you.
“Protection and security are only valuable if they do not cramp life excessively” - Carl Jung
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
Is there an area of your life that is lacking security? What could you do to improve the situation?
Are you satisfied with the current balance between security and freedom in your life?
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. If you want to contact me directly, here’s my email and LinkedIn.