Updated: Apr 12, 2020
Do you have a Good Life?
If you are an average person, you will spend 90,000 hours at work during your lifetime - that's 1/3 of your life! You owe it to yourself to be as happy as possible during this time, which means understanding yourself, your identity, and what brings you meaning (drive and motivation).
How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing (Anne Dillard)
If we are spending so much of life at work how can we maximise the happiness we derive from it? How can we have a Good Life + Good Work.
Harvard University's 'Good Life' study
Fundamentally, a Good Life is a sense of happiness or deep-seated satisfaction with the life you live.
50% of your happiness is determined at birth
10% is dictated by circumstances
40% of your happiness comes from the choices you make
Have you asked yourself, what brings you a feeling of happiness or satisfaction with life in general - a Good Life? Because that question is what researchers at Harvard University have attempted to answer. The result is an 80-year Harvard study of Adult Development.
The study found that people at the start of the careers, including Millenials and Gen Z, believe that a Good Life is reliant on fame, wealth and achievement.
However, something changed with time. The study found that these were NOT indicators of a Good Life. Instead, people who leaned in to relationships with family, friends and community were more likely to experience a greater sense of good health and well-being, and, therefore, the Good Life.
Two critical aspects of a 'Good Life' experience that links happiness to longevity were found to be:
Connectedness (social interactions) - where social interactions amplify identity and belonging
Quality of social interactions - where social connectedness and connectivity increase meaning and achievement
Social connection improves physical health and emotional well-being. A telling study by the University of Michigan showed that lack of social connection is a greater detriment to health than obesity, smoking and high blood pressure. Quality social connection can lead to a 50% increased chance of prolonging your life, strengthening the immune system and helping us recover from disease faster. People who feel more connected to others also have lower rates of anxiety and depression.
But stating connected doesn’t come without effort, it takes investment of time and energy and sometimes money (if coffees are involved). In other words it takes ‘drive’.
The Good Life needs Drive!
He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how (Nietzsche)
Quality connections with people reinforce your sense of identity, meaning and belonging. Still, your sense of Achievement is about something more. That something more is motivation or drive.
Your sense of drive is not about working to live or living to work. Why? Because living a Good Life is intrinsically linked to a sense of Good Work. Think of yourself as an adventurer in a perpetual quest for happiness, where life and work go together like bees and honey.
People who label themselves as motivated tend to be more:
Your sense of achievement, and the pleasure it brings, is closely linked to drive and motivation. You can explore what drives you by understanding your why levels (identity):
Level 1 | Individual why: the sense of achievement you get from attaining goals for yourself (e.g. a job promotion)
level 2 | Family why: for example, the sense of achievement you get for doing things for your children
Level 3 | Community why: the sense of accomplishment you get through connectedness with the world around you - a feeling that your contribution to the world is part of something bigger.
Level 4 | Values why: the sense of achievement brought about by an alignment of beliefs, values and standards, bringing you a deep-seated sense of your needs being met - in other words, you are flourishing. (Reivich & Schatte, The Resilience Factor)
Your ability to flourish is closely linked to your sense of why across these four levels. Think of it as an alignment of identity, meaning, belonging and achievement. So, ask yourself, what can you do to trigger the happiness benefits found through a higher sense of engagement, involvement, creativity, productivity and wellbeing?
It might be something as simple as replacing screen time with people time or livening up a stale relationship by doing something new together, [such as] long walks... (Robert Waldinger, Director, Harvard Development Study)
Which brings you to the world of ecopsychology and a Good Walk.
A Good Walk helps you to find a Good Life
One of the best ways to improve motivation, physical and mental health, and overall wellbeing is to get outside.
A landmark study, involving 20,000 participants, found that people who spent a minimum of 120 minutes engaged green or blue exercise (green spaces - parks etc. - or blue spaces - lakes etc.) felt more healthy and had a stronger feeling of wellbeing. Importantly, people who didn't achieve the 120 minutes of green or blue exercise felt no benefit.
The studies “point in one direction: Nature is not only nice to have, but it’s a have-to-have for physical health and cognitive function.” (Jim Robbins, Yale Environment)
Blue or green exercise is also known to improve motivation, where you experience a sense of connectedness or belonging to something bigger than yourself. But did you know it can improve your ability to learn? Studies have found that adults who learn outdoors are more engaged and affected by the experience, feel more self-directed and more competent as a result.
Now consider that studies have linked your cognitive performance to exercise. Harvard Business Review, reporting on studies from Stanford University and Leeds Met found that you can expect the following benefits from a programme of regular exercise:
prolonged mental stamina
smoother interactions with colleagues
increased energy levels
better time management
a feeling of satisfaction at the end of the day - a sense of Good Work
You have already heard that social connections are essential to a feeling of a Good Life. Still, there are other benefits, such as mental toughness and resilience. For example, friendship leads us to perceive mountains as less steep. Researchers asked volunteers to meet them at the base of a hill and asked that they either come alone or with a friend. Those who were accompanied by a friend – especially a friend they were close to and knew a long time – judged the hill to be less steep than those who were alone.
The Good Life+Work Project is driven by the quest for a Good Life.
A Good Walk offers you quality time to build better relationships within your team or meet new like-minded people with whom to share you challenges, making them appear less daunting (much like the hill). As well as peer to peer connectedness you will also be able to take advantage of quality time with one of our coaches.
We invite you to experience the benefits of a Good Walk. Join us and make new connections with people and places, and discover more about what brings you a sense of identity, meaning, belonging and achievement.