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What I'm reading #45: What does it mean to live a good life?

By Sam Instone - November 17, 2022

What does it mean to live a good life?

Simple question.

Complex answer. Perhaps it’s living mindfully?

Knowing your purpose and values?

Cultivating creativity?

Overcoming fears and anxiety?

Helping others?

Or understanding the difference between being wealthy and being rich?

It’s a vast subject, but perhaps the most important decisions you'll ever make, are whether to marry, who to marry, and whether to have kids.

None of these are taught to us.

How could they be?

You aren’t able to distil major life decisions into an equation, or even a broad principle.

They're so important, but so hard to teach. 

This is why awareness around high-quality decision-making is so important to lead a good life.

People have different personalities, goals, experiences, and levels of chance and serendipity, all of which make universal truths hard to find and difficult to teach.

Just last week, a friend rejected my recommended scientific personality test, in favour of a horoscope!

Regardless of technological development, the best answer for many big questions will always be,

You’ve got to figure it out for yourself.”

A lot of things work like that.

Some of the most important topics are the hardest to teach, and experience is the only school.

Here are some others:

  • How to get along with people you disagree with.
  • How to respect the views of people who’ve had different life experiences than you.
  • How to make high-quality life decisions when the stakes are super-high.
  • How to deal with failure.
  • How to avoid being swayed by charlatans.
  • How to manage the balance between confidence and ego, recognising that you might be unique but you’re not special.
  • How to accept your own faults without guilt.
  • How to change your mind, especially about things that were once core to your identity.
  • How to listen.
  • How to love.
  • How to come to terms with the agony of making a costly financial mistake.
  • How to accept critical feedback.
  • How to be inspired by others’ success while avoiding envy.
  • Recognising how incentives affect your behaviour, often for the worse.
  • How to recognise the long-term consequences of your actions.
  • How to balance optimism and pessimism so you can exploit opportunities with realistic expectations.

There are no easy rules to learn and memorise – you’ve got to figure those out for yourself.

Mindset matters as does self-awareness around your own fears, emotions, wants and triggers.

For me, a good life is measured by progress.

The quest to improve myself, as an end in itself.

To use the wisdom I've learnt from today’s learning opportunities to live a better tomorrow.

Comparisons are not made with other people, but only with prior versions of myself.

I follow my inner scorecard

This gives me optimism to hope we'll all be a little bit better tomorrow, than today.  


Further reading

What Cristiano Ronaldo (in his peak at Man United) and the soul-hungry devil can teach investors about bonds right now

Choosing who to trust with your life savings doesn't have to be like finding a needle in a haystack. The clue lies in the markets...

What I'm reading #43: How to define your personal values in life

Save and invest for a better life, book a call - SAM