The Good Life

1 min Philosophy 22 December 2015

As the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates said, "The unexamined life is not worth living".

He was infamous for relentlessly asking people what they believed, and to explain their reasons for doing so. Eventually he was put on trial for this, and was content with being sentenced to death rather than give up his habit of questioning.

So, in honour of his efforts, it’s worth asking yourself the following:

What is a good life?

A lot of people would probably say that a good life revolves around happiness, in whichever form they understand happiness to take. But how many people actively seek it out? How many people really work towards their idea of happiness?

I would say very few.

The problem with seeking happiness as the ultimate state of being is that it is, by its nature, limited. It is ephemeral, a shifting stream of sand only to be touched, not held. It is simply not possible for a healthy mind to be happy 100% of the time.

From this, wouldn't it seem that the endless pursuit of happiness could only lead to unhappiness? A person may succeed in their goal, fleetingly, but even if you get it, you can’t keep it. Life doesn’t work that way.

So what can we strive for instead?

Perhaps one of the strongest candidates is the pursuit of contentment.

Not necessarily as a sort of middle ground between a good and bad mental place, but as an acute acceptance of life. Being at one with yourself and the world. If you do end up being happy, you can be content with that, and enjoy it all the more. On the other hand, if you're unhappy for any reason, it won't have such an impact on your well-being.

Of course, being content with things is not the same as accepting things - you can always strive towards a different sort of contentment. This pursuit is more attainable than striving for happiness, because contentment is based in reality. If you picture someone who’s down to earth, always very centred and calm, chances are they’re someone who thinks this way. It’s something worth working towards in everyday life.

And, it never hurts to follow in Socrates’ footsteps: question the things you assume to be true, fight tooth and nail for what you truly do believe in, and seek the good life.

For related content, see here: