Wanna know why I love you so much? One of the biggest reasons (there are many) is that you want to create a better life and you’re willing to roll up your sleeves to make it happen. It’s inspiring. So, today I want to dedicate the blog to the teachings of someone who has dedicated his career to exploring this driving force and written a brilliant, must-read book about it! It’s called How to Live a Good Life. And, the fella who wrote it is my friend, Jonathan Fields.
Jonathan is a dad, husband, serial entrepreneur, growth strategist and award-winning author. He’s tirelessly researched, tested and shared his practical and simple approach to creating a good life with thousands of people. Now, we get to benefit from his work, too (if you aren’t already!). Ready? Let’s get right to the heart of the matter…
How to Find Inner Peace & Live a Good Life
Kris: With so much information out there on lifestyle, well-being, happiness and living a good life, why aren’t we all walking around in a state of perpetual bliss?
Jonathan: I’ve spent a lot of time exploring this question. And, here’s what I’ve learned. We already know how to live good lives. We have had all the tools and strategies at our fingertips for generations. Information is not the problem. As Derek Sivers said, “If information was the answer, we’d all be millionaires with six-pack abs!” The problem stems from how this mountain of information is conveyed. Most often, it’s hard to digest and impossible to act upon.
So, when I was working on How to Live a Good Life, I realized my job was not to add to the information and complexity abyss. It was, instead, to share what I’ve learned over 51 years of life, thousands of experiments, decades of research and time spent with hundreds of astonishing, embodied teachers in a way that “goes down easy”. I needed to offer wisdom, not information, and do it in a way that would make action so easy, it would be almost indefensible to remain on the sidelines of life. This became my guiding quest.
I also realized, a book, an article, a class or a course is not enough—we also need people. There is abundant research that shows that any behavior change is far more likely to succeed when done in a safe community with others. This is why we also launched the Good Life Community along with the book. The book invites you to try a little something every day and the community embraces and supports you along the way.
Kris: You’ve spent years exploring what it means to live a good life, so tell us, is there some universal answer or formula or framework that can help us all feel better?
Jonathan: This is where that focus on simplicity of information really comes in. Think of your life as three buckets: Vitality, Connection and Contribution. These are your Good Life Buckets.
Your Connection Bucket is about cultivating deep and meaningful relationships. Your Vitality Bucket is about optimizing your state of mind and body. And, your Contribution Bucket is about contributing to the world in a way that is deeply aligned with who you are and what matters to you. Your quest is to keep all three as full as possible. When your Good Life Buckets are full, life is amazing. If any one runs dry, pain ensues. If two run dry, you are in a world of hurt. If all three are ever empty at the same time, you’re no longer alive—by any definition.
Your only job is to wake up and ask yourself, “Which bucket needs a little love today?”. Then, go about doing a little something to fill it, while also remembering never to abandon the others.
Kris: Awareness and intention seem to be really important. How do we “become” more aware and intentional?
Jonathan: For me, cultivating awareness is the starting point. It’s why it’s one of the first chapters in the book. My own practice is a very simple and traditional, breath-oriented mindfulness practice. I sit for about 25 minutes every morning, starting with gentle breathing, then just allowing my attention to settle on the sensation of breath. My mind wanders constantly but over time, you begin to notice the wandering and gain the ability to continue to guide it back.
That being said, the consciousness that “notices” where your attention is at in any given moment, that is the place where awareness takes root. It’s what lets us craft a life of intention, rather than submit to a life of mindlessness.
Kris: What about happiness? Isn’t that an important part of a good life?
Jonathan: Ask the average person on the street what a good life is and most will tell you it’s a happy life. But, this can be a trap for a few reasons.
First, happiness is a fleeting state, not a persistent way of being. Think of it as a series of snapshots, but it’s not the movie of life. This is how we are wired and when we honor the reality that we’re built to move in and out of moments of happiness, things work better. We also need contrast to know when we are happy. It is the moments of emotion that range from boredom to sadness to anger, upset, frustration, struggle or malaise that provide the contrast needed for us to actually know when we are happy.
The problem is, we try to force happiness to be a persistent, always-on state. And, that can lead to more frustration and unhappiness than happiness itself. In fact, research shows the maniacal pursuit of happiness can, indeed, make you less happy.
Kris: You say “a good life is not a place at which you arrive, it is a lens through which you see and create your world”. What do you mean by that?
Jonathan: It’s become vogue to say life is the journey, not the destination. I see it differently. I think life is neither journey, nor destination. It is, instead, a daily practice. It is a commitment to a way of being, a way of acting, a way of seeing and interacting with both our inner and outer worlds on a day-to-day basis. In this way, it is not some nebulous future place. It is, instead, something we create along the way, with every step, every intention and every action.
Yes, it is wonderful to aspire to greater levels of contribution, vitality and connection. But, it is also important to know that in this moment, imperfectly formed, there is access to grace, to peace, to joy, to love, to beauty, to ease. Yes, it may be brutally hard to access at times and it may be fleeting. That is the practice—to cultivate the awareness needed to find and be with it in those moments where it seems most absent. Because in the end, now is the only moment we know we really have.
Kris: Thank you so much, Jonathan!