A good life

I’ve been watching Jonathan Fields’s “Good Life Project” video series. If you haven’t, it consists of weekly videos in which Jonathan interviews people about their (creative, meaningful, fascinating) lives, and the videos are just part of a much larger vision. In his words:

The Good Life Project™ is a movement. A set of shared values. A community. A creed, bundled with a voracious commitment to move beyond words and act. First, as a manifestation of your soul. And then as a quest to have the adventure of a lifetime, and to leave the world around you changed.

I couldn’t possibly love that description more. And I’m so enjoying the interview series that, as part of my 30 days, 30 acts of (expansive, unabashed, downright mushy) gratitude, I sent Jonathan Fields an email to thank him for the good stuff he’s putting out into the world.

But this post isn’t really about Jonathan Fields or his series (though you should watch it). This post is about the question he asks each interviewee at the end of their time together: What does “a good life” mean to you?

I’m always fascinated by the answers he gets, how simple and unadorned they are, how full they are of just plain ordinary beautiful.

Lafayette Rsvr in the Fall (2)

I’ve been thinking about the question a lot lately.

As I launch a new business and explore new territory professionally and personally, I think it might be the most important question I can ask myself: What does “a good life” mean to me? I’m working out my answer. I know it involves my being rooted in love, connected to people who know my heart and fill my soul, and also part of a larger actively creative community. For me, a good life includes time for writing and doodling and reading and hiking, and it means doing work that matters, work that leaves my little piece of the world better than when I found it.

I’m still working on what else it includes, but I’m enormously curious to hear your answers to the question, because I know your answers will make me think. They ALWAYS do.

So please take a second to share…

What does “a good life” mean to you?



  1. Amy on January 25, 2013 at 7:17 am

    One surrounded by family, friends, dogs, sunshine, warmth, and great food. Simplistic? Perhaps. But those are truly all the things *I* need to have a good life. What else is there, really? Oh, a swimming pool. I’d like my own swimming pool.

    • j on January 25, 2013 at 8:03 am

      I think that’s what I love most about this question. The answer keeps being so much simpler that I think it will be… so much simpler than we act like it is.

      I laughed at your swimming pool comment. In the summer, every time we have a 100+ day I think, “I love this! It would be even better if I had a swimming pool.”

      • Tina on January 25, 2013 at 9:10 am

        J – Last summer I spent $34 on a blowup pool from Walgreen’s. It is 5′ wide by 10′ long and about 2′ deep. Not big enough to swim in, but big in enough to float in and lounge in. I swear it was my best investment of the summer! Those 100+ days were spent in the pool with the mister overhead. That’s the good life!

        • j on January 25, 2013 at 10:00 am

          Ha! *writes note to self for July* 🙂

  2. Pam on January 25, 2013 at 8:21 am

    I think my recipe goes something like: free time, travel, parties, free time, hiking, free time, drawing, free time, reading, free time, museum visits, free time… :p

    As someone with not-quite-her-own-pool (it’s an apartment complex) I can say that yes, a pool is great for relaxing and for poolside parties. The times in my childhood when we had either an above-ground pool or (as we used to say) a hammer-down pool were sweet.

    • j on January 25, 2013 at 10:02 am

      A “hammer-down pool” would be sweet for sure. I’d invite myself to your community pool for a swim, but it’s never hot enough in your corner of the woods for me to actually get in the water. I think I’m part reptile. Don’t tell anyone.

      Your recipe ROCKS. xo

      • Pam on January 25, 2013 at 4:49 pm

        A couple of times every summer it gets hot enough to make getting into our pool a possibility (even for you.) I’ll call you when it happens & see if you want to try it. 🙂

        • j on January 25, 2013 at 6:58 pm

          I’m so there! Even if I don’t get in the pool, a Pam Pool Party is right up my alley!

  3. Al Riske on January 25, 2013 at 9:53 am

    I liked what Raymond Carver said in this fragment of a poem he left us …

    And did you get what
    you wanted from this life, even so?
    I did.
    And what did you want?
    To call myself beloved, to feel myself
    beloved on the earth.

    • j on January 25, 2013 at 10:04 am

      That is a great answer… if you like concise, perfect, poetic responses. 🙂

      Love that. I’ve never read it before. Thanks, Al.

  4. Cynthia Fassett on January 25, 2013 at 12:28 pm

    Fullness. Fully present for each moment, each taste, each touch. Giving myself over to Life, while simultaneously drinking each drop it gives. Life is the ultimate dance partner.

    • j on January 25, 2013 at 7:00 pm

      WOW. That. Is. Beautiful. I am learning how to dance with life… and not always try to lead! 😉

  5. Michael on January 25, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    Balance in regards to those things that I love to do, all of them; love, as much and as sincere as possible, between family and friends and that special one person; an absence of distracting desire for those things I might want but not need.

    Or Al’s answer. It’s a gooder.

    • j on January 25, 2013 at 7:04 pm

      Al’s answer is kinda perfect. But yours is too. I like the prominent role that love plays in your good life. <3

  6. Christie on January 25, 2013 at 2:03 pm

    Your answer of what a good life means to you contains all the things that a good life means to me as well. That does not surprise me :^) I would add travel now that I have done some of that, to connect to other parts of the world.

    I love Cynthia’s answer as well – that is something that I have just begun to appreciate, being fully present for each moment, each taste, each touch…the whole comment was so beautifully said!

    I am so glad to see Al’s response – I have heard it before but forgot it and it was nice to hear it again. Those words make my heart smile!

    Hugs to this beautiful community!!

    • j on January 25, 2013 at 7:11 pm

      That’s true. Travel. I haven’t done nearly enough of that. Certainly my “best life” would include the time and means to travel. Cynthia’s answer is gorgeous and Al’s is, well… I need a synonym for “perfect.” 🙂

  7. lunajune on January 25, 2013 at 4:13 pm

    A good life ……

    for me I measure the day, from the moment I wake till the moment I sleep, did I do good today ? did I help someone ? did I love myself ? did I give enough ? was I kind ? was I joyful ? did I laugh ? did I make someone smile ? did I share ? did I tell someone I love them ? did I learn something ? did I say sorry ? did I ask for forgiveness ? did I dream a little dream just for me ? did I think good thoughts ? did I act silly ? did I sing ? did I dance ? did I let go of something today ?

    and if I answer yes to these questions…. it was a good day…. and at this point in my life do I think I’m living a good life ? YES because I answer yes to these questions most every day

    • j on January 25, 2013 at 7:12 pm

      Love those questions! And a string of good days = a good life!

  8. Joanne Marie Firthoann on January 25, 2013 at 6:40 pm

    A good life to me, means good health and enough love to go around.

    • j on January 25, 2013 at 7:14 pm

      Yes. Health. I forgot to mention that. We so seldom think about it when all is well, but honestly, after love, health is the most fundamental of all good life requirements.

  9. Chris Edgar on January 25, 2013 at 10:22 pm

    A good life for me is one where I feel like I’m saying everything I need to say in every moment, and in the work I leave behind. Basically it involves me talking a lot.

    • j on January 26, 2013 at 8:39 am

      That made me laugh, Chris. Fortunately for the world, your talking is a good thing.

  10. Clare Flourish on January 26, 2013 at 12:06 am

    A good life is part of a good mutual community, in which each is valued and all talents recognised and cherished and used for the good of all.

    • j on January 26, 2013 at 8:43 am

      I once met a woman who made jewelry, which she sold at art fairs and festivals. She told me there’s this whole sort of underground culture where they barter for services. She told me she’s made jewelry in exchange for dental work, car tires and accounting services. I love that idea. I wish the mainstream world worked more like that.

  11. Kelly Montes on January 26, 2013 at 8:55 am

    A good life begins with the acceptance of wanting what I have.Deeply understanding that I have the ability, and more important the freedom to cherish every moment of what comes my way. A good life has an abundance of time to think, contemplate, ponder and to appreciate. A good life is wrapped tightly in good health, physically, mentally and spirtually. It has just enough disappointment to point me to something better. A good life lives outside the box of stringent traditions, conditions and pojectiones. It can lift a community but does not need to change it’s values. A good life is what I live when I live in the moment.

    • j on January 27, 2013 at 10:37 am

      Well said. I especially like the “just enough disappointment” comment. I’ve been surprised, here and on Facebook, with how many answers have talked about being content with what you have… not wanting more. For me, born with a restless, searching soul, it’s hard to imagine not feeling that near constant nudge, that thing “that points me to something better.” I not only can’t imagine not having it, I’m not sure I’d want to give it up. Every leap I make is fueled by that internal search…

      And yet, we can drive ourselves crazy with yearning.

      “Just enough” is the perfect phrase, because what that means will be different for everyone. Thanks for commenting, Kelly!

  12. Estrella Azul on January 26, 2013 at 11:42 am

    Hmm… (I just typed that and immediately ran a different direction leaving my comment in midair). I was thinking I don’t know how to define a good life. Or how to best describe it. How to say everything I want to say in less than a way too long list.

    So I’ll just say this. Maybe it isn’t about a definition. Maybe it isn’t about the best description. Or saying everything in a list or in one word.
    Maybe it’s all about that little inner compass pointing North when we’re headed in the right direction, and standing still when we have it.

    • j on January 27, 2013 at 10:46 am

      I think there is some truth to what you say, Estrella, and it’s probably more true for some people than for others. For me, the clarity I get from asking (and reasking) my questions around what it means to be “happy,” “successful,” fully engaged with my “good life” help me feel my way to North.

      I know not everyone works like that, though. My husband tells me that I overthink, that I sometimes miss my NOW because I’m busy deciphering the lessons of my immediate (and distant) past. It’s a valid observation, and all my thinking is not his style at all.

      Which is why I love hearing other people answer this question. 🙂

      • Estrella Azul on January 27, 2013 at 1:54 pm

        Yes, probably more true for some people than for others. This type of answer is one of those that is ever-changing. Much like ourselves.

        • j on January 27, 2013 at 8:29 pm

          Exactly! (Isn’t that great?)

  13. Marcie on January 27, 2013 at 1:34 pm

    So enjoyed the interview and conversation. You always lead and link to the most interesting and inspiring stories.
    A good life? For me?
    A life that is about sharing the art of practice..and the practice of art. A life that leaves plenty of time for imagining..meandering..dreaming. A life that is connected with the ones who are most important and the ones I most love.

    • j on January 27, 2013 at 8:24 pm

      I love this phrasing: sharing the art of practice..and the practice of art. That is so you. I wish I lived close enough to take a yoga class from you. I’d pay you in doodles. 😉


  14. Debra Duby on January 27, 2013 at 8:02 pm

    I love this post and everyone’s comments. When I love my life most it contains: snuggling/fast asleep for the 2 hours until the sun peeks out with my little 2 year old daughter and husband, a delicious generous cup of hot coffee (Americano preferred with half and half), a slow morning, some work, some play with close family or friends, at least one delicious meal, a good shower and time to groom!, some exercise, some time to read, think, create, plan and learning one new thing. That’s a perfect day in the life to me! It’s rare but I strive for it :).

    • j on January 27, 2013 at 8:29 pm

      Debra, I love your description of a perfect day. Me too (though I’d have to borrow a two-year-old since my boys are way, way past two)!

      I also like your last comment – that a perfect day is rare, but it’s what you strive for. I think that’s part of what makes a good life too, at least for me. My absolute faith that a perfect day is possible every single time I wake up. No matter how many times I miss the mark. (And, actually, I’m pretty forgiving. If I’m close, I still count it.)

      Thanks for commenting. So happy to see you here!

      • Debra Duby on January 27, 2013 at 8:41 pm

        I love that you thoughtfully acknowledge everyone’s comments! And i love that getting close to the bullseye counts! The idea of having “a good life” has always felt so elusive to me – almost makes me anxious because I feel like I am so behind on so many experiences and adventures. But when I try to dissect “a good life” – its really just a stack of good days, and that helps me feel like “yes! – I can, we can – all really have this.”

        • j on January 28, 2013 at 2:30 pm

          Seriously, the absolute only reason to blog, in my mind, is the chance I get to have conversations like this with all of you. xo

  15. Nancy on January 28, 2013 at 10:37 am

    I have been thinking about this post, and what a good life means to me. Discussed it with a close friend yesterday, and I ended our conversation by saying that to me a good life is the life I deem to be good. He concurred. I have this one life, and it is good, no matter what!

    Love that your posts always stretch my thinking!

    • j on January 28, 2013 at 2:29 pm

      That’s the spirit!

      I gotta say, I sort of like the slight push back here, people telling me they don’t have or want or see any need to define a “good life.” I knew if I asked the question here, your responses would settling inside me in interesting ways.

      Quite the opposite of resistance, I’m fascinated by this question, by the stuff that comes up when I contemplate it. But I love the idea that there’s some portion of my community who are all, “Yeah, whatever. Toss your definitions, j. Let’s dance.”

      Love you guys!

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  17. Annie Neugebauer (@AnnieNeugebauer) on January 29, 2013 at 1:59 pm

    Loved everyone’s comments on this one. I think I agree with most people here that a good life consists of simple things. Happy things like my sweet husband, soft kitties, coffee, sunlight, a Word processor. But I think, honestly, that a good life (for me, at least) also includes some sorrow, some tragedy, some time to cry. Because really, the struggles make me appreciate the quiet happiness so much more. They give me fuel to write, a wiser perspective, and the feeling of a life fully lived. So I guess that’s my answer: a good life is a full, crazy, honest life well-lived.

    • j on January 29, 2013 at 2:25 pm

      “a good life is a full, crazy, honest life well-lived.”


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