What is a Good Life? #2
Good day to you all,
First off, thank you for your interest in this newsletter and for all your shares and feedback last week.
If this is your first time reading this newsletter, please click here for background information on the project. Through following this weekly newsletter, I hope it gets easier to navigate one of life’s biggest questions.
The key themes this week are freedom and connecting with / getting to know yourself.
The newsletter is structured into 4 separate sections, as follows:
1. This week’s interview – direct excerpts from an individual interview
2. This week’s insight – an overall insight from reviewing 100+ interviews collectively
3. This week’s reflection – a personal reflection, from me, on one of the weekly themes
4. This week’s questions - questions for you to contemplate to prompt your own inquiry
1. This week’s interview – connecting with yourself
Each week I share direct excerpts from an individual interview
This week’s interview is with Chloe*. Chloe’s current focus in life is exploring connection, with herself, and with others, through her art. Previously, she had established and ran a company. From the busyness of life with her company, having children and a packed calendar, she talks of the importance of slowing down, knowing herself and spending time alone.
*not the participant’s real name
What is a good life for you?
A good life, for me, is living in love and joy. I’m trying to understand how to tap into that feeling. A good life is now more about letting go, than acquiring and chasing. When I gave up my agency, there was a real feeling of letting go of all of this responsibility. I carried a large responsibility for my team and to my clients - I don't know how much of that I enjoyed.
Now, it's about aligning myself with what makes me happy. Another part of a good life is really knowing myself. The more time I spend getting to know myself, the better my life is becoming. I’m also trying to let go of all this expectation, I think we all strive for freedom, but the idea of letting go is scary.
Can you elaborate on what the word freedom means to you?
It's freedom of expectation. Expectation is a big word for me, because I have very high expectations of myself - it's still a hangover from chasing achievement.
Even with art, I had high expectations of where I wanted to be, and it's something I wrestled with. This is a challenge, but I’m trying to create art that feels right – I just want to express for the sake of expression, it need not go beyond that - there's a real freedom in that.
What was the point at which your approach to life changed?
I completely lost myself, by giving all of myself to my work, to my kids - I had nothing left over for myself. I see this a lot, especially with women, but also with men - you’re just caught up in this treadmill of achieving and striving to get to a point.
You never get there, and you lose sight of what you have and who you are. I really didn't know myself. Yoga was my first starting point - situations that felt overwhelming started to become more manageable. It’s incredible, the more time you give yourself, the more life slows down for you.
Can you talk to me about the impact of spending time alone with yourself?
I experienced this very personal change. It’s something that I was never comfortable with in my 20s. I didn't like spending any time alone, because I didn't like who I was - I didn’t feel what I had to offer was of any value. I didn’t see my value, and my thoughts went to dark places. I hid from that through all of the activities, achievements, social engagements, etc. - I was always escaping myself.
However, the more time I spent with myself and got to know myself, the more I realised I am enough, it strengthened everything internally. Now, I feel the value of my presence, which I never felt before - I only saw the value of what I was achieving or doing for others.
2. This week’s insight
Each week I share an overall insight from reviewing 100+ interviews collectively
The two most frequently given answers to the question were not that surprising - Relationships (family, friends, community etc.) and Health. The third most popular answer was Freedom. Given that the pandemic was rarely mentioned in relation to freedom, I was surprised how frequently this word came up (≈ 40% of interviews).
The most common context for it was the desire to have autonomy and choice over how we spend our time, freedom in terms of work and money, and from societal expectations. Freedom was often brought up in an aspirational sense, rather than a present state of experience.
3. This week’s reflection
Each week I share a personal reflection, from me, on one of the weekly themes
In recent years, spending time alone has had a considerable impact on my life. When I say time alone, I mean regular slots without my phone, laptop, friends, etc. - time where it’s just me and my thoughts, with no external inputs.
For me, the most common ways of doing that are meditation and journaling, for others it could be going for a walk, for my Mum it’s her garden, for one interview participant it was long bike rides by himself with no headphones.
With the access we have to information and entertainment, it’s easy to spend entire days consuming content. I have an image of us all as overflowing cups - it’s hard to process and understand what is already in the cup, with a perpetual stream of new information swirling everything around.
Regular time without; technology, other people’s opinions, external expectations and societal conditioning, can be essential to hearing your own voice and understanding what you want and need in life.
4. This week’s questions for personal reflection
Each week I pose questions to support your own inquiry into what a good life for you is
1. What does the word freedom mean to you?
2. Are you satisfied with the level of freedom you experience in your life?
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.
Another great read thanks Mark. I really enjoyed your reflection on over consumption of information and enteratainment, and how that blocks us from any real time to reflect ourselves.