What does it mean to live a good life?

To understand and appreciate happiness, you must have experienced sadness. Likewise, to know how to live a meaningful life, you have to understand the inverse. I call this distinction ‘Living versus Surviving.’

John wakes up begrudgingly, goes into the office where he spends time furthering someone else’s dream, and then clocks out for the day. He takes a few minutes to think about what he will do to distract himself from being alone with his thoughts for the rest of the evening. He decides to go home, order take out, and find a show to watch on Netflix. John is a survivor. He goes through every week doing the same things he doesn’t care about. John would be happy if his life were different.

Meet Jane. Jane works at the same company as John. She also isn’t passionate about the work they do there, but she knows this job is helping her get closer to her dream. After work, she goes rock climbing if it’s Monday or Thursday, and trains jiu jitsu on any other day. When she does get home, she loves to cook. While she’s eating, she thinks about what her next step is in getting closer to her dream of improving the world. Though she spends time every day thinking about the things she still desires and wants, she is always grateful for what she currently has. Her happiness isn’t tied to reaching those goals, her happiness is part who she chooses to be.

I was John. Now, I’m Jane.

There are some key aspects that people hone in on to determine whether or not they are living a meaningful life. People consider their purpose, relationships, health, generosity, and influence. Everyone has different values - there is no right or wrong in what you choose, but in why you choose it.

My crutch was playing video games. For many years, I went back and forth. There would be periods where no games were allowed, but slowly I would convince myself that I had earned the occasional game. Without fail, it would cascade into excessive gaming. What determines what is or isn’t excessive? Video games on their own aren’t a good or bad thing. For me, it became excessive when it was no longer about relaxing or rewarding an accomplishment. Instead, it was a way to distract myself from my real goals. I was so terrified by the overwhelming nature of having big dreams. So in those moments, I would persuade myself that I would focus on my goals later. The constant input of stimulus would outweigh the seemingly daunting task of making real change in my life. This would happen everytime I got close to having meaningful impact. Although I am grateful for where I am today, I look back on those years and realize what I could have done instead. Remembering my past and having an intentional vision for my future motivates me.

It also gives me an amplitude of empathy. I have no judgement for someone doing the same thing I used to - distracting the mind. There are many reasons someone else might do it, but the result is the same and I understand it. Thoughts about life, purpose, and everything within can be overwhelming. We all have dreams and desires, but maybe lack direction and accountability.

To live a life you can be proud of, be intentional about what you do every day. Take breaks, play games, browse Instagram, but also spend time discovering and developing your passions. Determine what you believe constitutes a meaningful life and work toward creating that.

Manu Mohit Ramchandani