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What is a Good Life? #3
Inner peace and conflict
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. Through following this weekly newsletter, I hope it gets easier to navigate one of life’s biggest questions.
The key themes that are explored this week are inner peace and conflict.
The newsletter is structured into 4 separate sections, as follows:
1. This week’s interview – excerpts from one of the interviews I conducted
2. This week’s insight – an overall insight from reviewing 100+ interviews collectively
3. This week’s reflection – a personal reflection 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 – Health, inner peace & meaning
Each week I share direct excerpts from an individual interview
This week’s interview is with Chris*. Chris has a senior position at a multinational and at the time of the interview was rethinking some of his ideas on life. He talks about the importance of health, a moral compass, inner peace and trying to find meaning in life.
*Not the participant’s real name
What is a good life for you?
I used to look at this as acquiring things before retirement, then you retire and enjoy it. That's meant to be a good life. I mean material things, like the house, car, and then relationships like a partner, kids and friends.
The bit that I'm trying to get my head around, is that people's health basically governs everything. A friend’s father had health problems and it made me rethink a lot. You can live your life and retire, then get sick, and you're back to square one. A good life is good health.
What else contributes to a good life?
A good moral compass. You sleep easier when you can look yourself in the mirror. Morally, having a good life doesn’t mean a virtuous life, just to be trying. Having inner peace is the best way to describe a good life to me - the other stuff isn’t as important. You’re the only person that fully knows what's going on in your life, we're all, to an extent, hiding things from other people.
A good life to me would be peace in myself. Because no matter your wealth, while I can’t relate to financial hardship, I can relate to feeling like shit inside yourself, inside your head. That's not healthy. So, it would be inner peace, feeling content about decisions I make and treating people with respect.
What challenges do you face in experiencing a good life?
It's all good saying that (a good moral compass), right? But that can actually lead to a less enjoyable life, not a less enjoyable life, but it doesn't lead to a less challenging life. You still have to face yourself daily, in terms of decision-making processes, of what you will or won't do. It’s not a Eureka moment where everything is wonderful. It gives contentment but you’ll always have your demons. You have tough days where you do the right thing, and it's better in the long run, but you don't feel contentment at that exact point - it's a struggle.
Are you seeking meaning in your life?
Yeah, definitely. I still don't know what it's all about, when you see different people and the different lives we live. In some ways, life is very unfulfilling - you do certain things, you have ups and downs, and you die. It's unfulfilling, because whatever you're doing, it's all very short and the reward is rarely as good as the stress before it.
Even when you retire, “Great, I've 20-40 years to live my life“. But to do what? You've been working away to make ends meet, which is all great, but it acts like a distraction too. When you retire, that time of life where you're the no.1 focus - what are you going do? Play golf, collect your pension - just live day to day? You need something else to keep you going, to give yourself peace when you die, because it can't just be distractions.
2. This week’s insight
Each week I share an overall insight from reviewing 100+ interviews collectively
Inner conflict, or a lack of inner peace, was the most frequently given answer (almost 20% of participants) to what the biggest challenge people face in experiencing a good life. Francesco Petrarca’s observation, that a human has no greater enemy than themself, still rings true several centuries later.
The context for participants bringing up inner conflict, or lack of inner peace, was not in extreme circumstances, more the day-to-day battle that ensues between our minds and ourselves. Participants commented on unnecessary overthinking, being self-critical, negativity and catastrophizing, where an immediate threat was not present.
3. This week’s reflection
Each week I share a personal reflection on one of the weekly themes
My approach to developing some inner peace has two components, accountability and self-compassion.
Accountability involves taking absolute responsibility for my actions and reactions. In moments of reflection, it also requires reinterpreting my past, where I decided to defend myself instead of admitting fault.
In the short-term this caused greater discomfort, however, after some repeated loops of failing - getting angry at my anger or judging my judgements, something became very clear to me – despite what we may project on our CVs or social media, we are far more flawed than we let on, and that’s ok.
I then looked at how much I was trying and I couldn’t doubt my efforts. Once I could acknowledge that, some compassion appeared. It wasn’t about accepting mediocrity, but more accepting the truth that others have noted for centuries:
“To be human, is not a fact, but a task.” – Soren Kierkegaard
While our striving is admirable, based on the interviews I conducted, we need to cut ourselves some slack. Self-improvement, for me, is a combination of accepting what is and striving, not merely eradicating or denying what I don’t presently like about myself. Some compassion is required to grease the wheels of development.
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. Which of your actions or failings keep you up at night?
2. Think of a good friend that you respect. If they approached you having done the same thing, how would you react to them?
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.