What is a Good Life? #6
Good day to you all,
Thanks again for your interest in this newsletter and for all your shares for last week’s edition.
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 recalibrating.
Through following this weekly newsletter, I hope it gets easier to navigate one of life’s biggest questions.
1. This week’s interview – curiosity & recalibrating
Each week I share direct excerpts from an individual interview
This week’s interview is with Simon*. Simon is a senior project manager, whose recalibrations in life have involved moving away from a big city, going back to do a master’s and reassessing what he wants from life.
*Not the participant’s real name
What is a good life for you?
It's definitely changed if you had asked me the same question 5, 10, 15 years ago - maybe that's just a young man turning into less of a young man. What used to solely drive me was work. I had a real bee in my bonnet about getting my career going.
But where I'm at now changed things, money is still important of course, but I'm not working paycheque to paycheque or stressed about money. You then look around, and as crazy as it sounds, I’m only starting to ask, what do I actually want out of this life? That forced me to take stock and reflect, instead of running on fumes, working day-to-day.
What is driving you now?
I’m being genuinely driven by curiosity. I think that's a good word for it. For the first time I'm on a path not primarily driven by money / status.
When I recently went back to do a full-time master’s at university (after 12 years of working), it was more about a new experience and trying to learn something, seeing if I could discover what I’d do for the next 5 or 10 years. It helped inform the next decision.
Then, it was interesting, when I was in discussions for a new role after the master’s, money never came up for me. I decided which offer I was going to take before we even talked money.
It was more about, what do I want to do? How much satisfaction do I get from making this company wealthier versus working to better a community of people? There's something beyond getting paid and the actual work, there's a purpose to it.
What challenges do you see regarding changing direction in life?
It’s really important to do, but it's not easy. It's very hard for people to be honest with themselves, myself included, to even know what they want. I don't think you'll ever attain a good life without that honesty - it's almost impossible.
I know a lot of people, and I would have done it myself, that look back over the last 10 to 15 years and simply justify what they’ve done, avoid the truth, and instead of changing they’ll just stay where they are.
When you look to the future of pursuing a good life, what’s important to you?
An important thing to remember is that you can't force anything - so almost to pull that idea back. My friends often say that they’re nervous around making decisions, and I think it’s because they're trying to force something.
Whether it be a marriage that’s not going well, and they come up with buying a house or having a kid to fix it. And like, these are all very natural things, but you can see it happening and I could easily do it myself.
But forcing the next thing - that's something I'm wary of. I like having a huge amount of flexibility, it excites me not to know what's going to happen. I change my mind and my outlook often enough, and I’d like to keep that freedom.
2. This week’s insight
Each week I share an overall insight from reviewing 100+ interviews collectively
This week’s insight is an observation - the majority of participants noted that their idea of a good life evolves over time. What worked in their 20s was different from their 30s to 40s, etc. A level of recalibrating was required throughout life.
Participants spoke of shifting priorities, be it: children, giving back, changing living environments, pursuing new interests or changing careers.
One participant noted that a good life is continually trying to understand, adjust to and pursue what a good life meant to them.
“The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20, has wasted 30 years of his life.” - Muhammad Ali
3. This week’s reflection
Each week I share a personal reflection on one of the weekly themes
However big or small the adjustment you want to make, it all starts with an initial step. From there you can ascertain what to do beyond that. For some it may be dramatic, for others more pragmatic.
Three years ago, I dropped everything to find out what I wanted to do next, spending a year in the Peruvian mountains.
Two years ago, one of the participants in this project greatly affected his satisfaction in life by enrolling in a weekly woodwork class - something he loved in school – while keeping other things equal. This one change positively impacted other areas of his life.
We can permit growing discontentment in our lives by maintaining patterns, beliefs and habits, despite recognising they no longer bring fulfilment.
An openness to or curiosity around recalibrating offers a means to counter-balance this, which makes it a powerful tool in carving out a good life.
“I would sooner live in a cottage and wonder at everything than live in a castle and wonder at nothing.” - Joan Winmill Brown
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
If you were applying for university today, what course(s) would you pick?
Is there a new hobby, field of interest or mission that has repeatedly caught your attention that you have not yet pursued?
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.