The only three things you need to live a good life
Here we go again. Another article advising you on how to live a better life. You’ve heard it all before, right?
Well, this one is a little different. My good friend Constance gifted me a copy of “How to Live a Good Life” by Jonathan Fields right before the summer holidays. As a selfhelp book addict, I was ready to dive in, not necessarily expecting to learn anything new.
But I did. Fields simplifies the joy of living into three simple buckets: connection, contribution and vitality. And what could we possibly value more in this overstimulated, overhyped, over-everything age than the core values of being connected, the joy of giving and the feeling of being alive?
Here’s how these three elements have the power to transform you:
I grew up with an alcoholic father. My mother was depressed and emotionally absent. My sense of connection came from reading books, from the teachers who noticed my enthusiasm in the classroom and even from the kind social workers who helped our family when we didn’t have anywhere to live.
But even beyond that, I formed a relationship with the universe.
As a kid, a local church was kind to us and helped us with food, presents at Christmas time and, I think, money (I was too young to know for sure). My time at Sunday school meant that, traditional religion aside, I created a relationship with a power that was greater than me. I learned about the world as a loving home where everyone belonged, not just the “normal kids” at school.
As an adult, I’ve come to embrace spirituality that makes me feel deeply connected to something bigger. Throughout my father’s death, my divorce, my moving countries (five times), I have felt — and continue to feel — an unbreakable connection to the universe. It has saved me in times of despair, and I know it will never leave me.
As an adult, I’m intentional about finding and being around “my people” — those who make me feel safe and loved. I’m looking for that same feeling of connection all these years later.
Do you have your people and that feeling of security in your life?
Fields describes this bucket as, “How you bring your gifts to the world ... It’s about that deep knowing that you’re doing the thing you’re here to do.”
This often seems impossible, I know. Bills to pay. Rent due. People to impress with chic vacations. Parents to soothe with an expanding 401(k).
This bucket speaks to me in profound ways. I left a $500K-per-year job at 30 to work as a life coach and writer. This seemed insane at the time, but it felt like it wasn’t even a choice. My instincts guided me, and I knew that it would work out.
You matter. Your contribution matters. If you oppress your reason for being, it will kill you slowly. When your contribution bucket is full, it feels like, “You’re accessing your full potential, your strengths, your gifts ... leaving nothing unrealized or untapped.” What’s more vital than that?
Which leads us to ...
This is about feeling energized, free from pain, resilient, appreciative and, well, happy. Vitality is the opposite of depression, anxiety and suffering. It’s your birthright. But we don’t always feel that way, do we?
Vitality involves a deep mindbody connection. As Fields says, “Your mind and body serve as seamless feedback mechanisms, chemically and electrically.”
Ever notice when you’re in a slump, you don’t want to do things like work out, cook a healthy dinner or have sex? Your level of vitality directly correlates to all of your decision-making and is deeply driven by how full your buckets of connection and contribution feel.
Vitality is often repressed by fear — fear of the future, of the unknown, of what lies ahead. My favourite quote in Fields’s book (Instagrammed back in December) is, “Life’s greatest moments live in the space between desire and attainment.” We have no choice but to live with uncertainty. But “without uncertainty, there is no possibility.” Ah, sweet possibility.
Could you imagine starting to embrace possibility over uncertainty? Wouldn’t that make you feel alive?
Connection, contribution, and vitality are what make up a good life.