How To Have A Good Life

“Real happiness comes not when you choose to be happy, but when you discover the things that will make you happy and then do them.”

- How To Have A Good Life, page 228

What if 30 days from now you loved your life more?

Jonathan Fields started a Good Life Project on his mission to inspire possibility and answer the question, “What are the essential ingredients of a life well lived?” He traveled around the world, learning at the feet of the great thinkers of our time; from Buddhist Iamas to education reformers, and grounded theory researchers to neuroscientists. He found the intersection between science and spirituality to answer the question of how to live a good life.

Each chapter begins with an engaging story and lesson followed by application ideas. By the end of 30 days, you can be in a new place – living a better, more satisfying life. His book is a window into his seemingly simple yet transformational tool to guide your decisions and actions in the quest to live a great life.

This isn’t a book you just read. It’s more a book that you ‘do.’ Fields warns us early in the book that the real magic happens when you put down the book and start doing the work. He’s created a series of online tools that help you carry the learnings and doings into the rest of your life. The value that is packed into this book and online resources is incredible. Below are just three of the many gems I took from it.

The Big Idea

The Big Idea: The biggest takeaway from the book

3 Buckets

"A good life is not a place at which you arrive, it is a lens through which you see and create your world."
- How To Have A Good Life, page 231

Over the years of studying how to create a good life, Fields noticed something profound began to emerge: a simple model he calls the Good Life Buckets. This framework allows you to quickly and easily assess what’s working and what’s not in your life and instantly know where to focus your energy and what to do to make things better.

Fields encourages us to think of our life as three buckets.

  1. Vitality – an optimal state of mind and body. You simply cannot feel alive, happy and joyful when your body is abandoning you
  2. Connection – about nourishing relationships
  3. Contribution – about how you bring your gifts to the world to make a difference

Simply put, the fuller your buckets, the better your life. How full are yours? To find out, you can complete a 60-second snapshot worksheet.

Of course, the buckets are all connected. The 3 laws of the buckets are:

  1. The buckets leak
  2. Your emptiest bucket will drag the others down with it
  3. The buckets never lie

Insight #1

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it will light up your life!

"Curiosity, she realized, is not only a more realistic predictor of a life well lived, but also a much more forgiving and helpful guide."
- How To Have A Good Life, page 162

What’s your passion? Don’t you hate that question? People are told that to find happiness, they need to find their passion. What if it was reversed? What if instead of having a passion or purpose, you pursued things with passion and a sense of purpose?

What if the questions instead were:

  • “What are you interested in?” or even “What are you curious about?”
  • “What’s fascinating to you?” or even “What have you read/seen/heard that you want to know more about?”
  • “What are you working toward that you desperately want to achieve?”
  • “Who do you love to help, or serve or lift up?”

So maybe, instead of having a purpose, you find a way to spark your interest in something that increasingly pulls you. And the deeper you get into that pursuit, the more competent you become with increasing passion and purpose.

All that is required then to achieve this seemingly elusive passion is curiosity. Curiosity, is not just a helpful guide to a happy life but it has proven to be a more realistic predictor of a life well lived.

I created and teach a program called The Power of Purpose in which we help pharmaceutical people connect with their purpose—the difference they can make for patients. The results are overwhelming. Those who explore this connection are not only happier than others, they also produce better outcomes!

My own life is a case in point. A tragedy in my life; the death of my father from a prescribing error, pulled me to learn more about how to help pharmaceutical professionals influence healthcare professionals ethically and effectively. Pursuing my curiosity, I began to master the science of behavioral change; the psychology and adult education behind how to influence others. My desire to serve others and teach what I was discovering led to mastering the craft of teaching with passion and purpose.

My small way of contributing to the world lights me up and fills me with joy and meaning. People are often confused when I bring “work books”, as my mother says, on vacation but following my curiosity lights me up! Interestingly, common characteristics people use to describe me are passionate and purpose-driven.

Bottom line, put on your yellow hat and revel in being Curious George!

Insight #2

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Spark yourself

"What if it isn’t so much about having to find that ever-elusive solitary passion or purpose, but rather finding a way to spark your interest in something that increasingly pulls you from ahead, the deeper you wade into it?"
- How To Live A Good Life, page 163

So how do you spark yourself? Below are 5 ideas to help.

  1. Curiosity sparks – do you have a burning question, a deep yearning to discover and answer a problem, or do you feel compelled to solve something?
  2. Fascination sparks – is there a topic or idea that triggers an intrinsic desire to learn? You don’t want to answer anything in particular, you just feel like you are wired to be interested in this topic.
  3. Immersion sparks – are there activities in which you lose yourself? You lose track of time and would even pay to do more?
  4. Mastery sparks – is there something you would work fiercely at because you want to be really good at it –even world class?
  5. Service sparks – is there a person, group, cause that you feel compelled to help?

It’s okay if no single spark ever rises to an all-consuming mad passion or life purpose. The important thing is simply to recognize the spark, the interest, the curiosity and then lean into it. The mix of what sparks you may stay consistent throughout life or it may evolve as you move through different seasons of your life. And now for the action; how can you weave more of the things that spark you into your days?

The truth, Fields says, about the work to create a good life, is that it is never really done. Filling your buckets, living a good life is a constantly moving target. What one thing can you do today to fill a bucket?

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Jill Donahue

ABOUT Jill Donahue

Everything I do is focused on improving patient outcomes. I do that by being a student and teacher of ethical, effective influence. I teach pharma people and health care professionals how to improve their ability to influence others...
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