What Is the Good Life?

Positive psychologists are interested in the good life.  What this refers to is the search to understand ways in which to improve human happiness and what makes life worth living.   Thanks to the research we now know much more about this.

For a start, we know that happiness doesn’t just happen to people, but there are things that we can actively do that will increase our happiness, such as learning to be more appreciative.

But we have to be realistic about the good life.  In this regard I find the ideas of the psychologist Carl Rogers helpful. Rogers (1961) in discussing the good life wrote:

“It seems to me that the good life is not any fixed state.  It is not, in my estimation, a state of virtue, or contentment, or nirvana, or happiness.  It is not a condition in which the individual is adjusted, fulfilled, or actualized….The good life is a process, not a state of being…It is a direction, not a destination.  The direction…is that which is selected by the total organism, when there is psychological freedom to move in any direction” (Rogers, 1961, pp 186-187).

Rogers’ view was that the good life is not an outcome to be achieved, once and for all, but rather it is a process that we have to be constantly engaged with and to be continually moving towards.

Most importantly it is about having the freedom to move in any direction but moving in the direction that is most authentic to us.


Rogers, C. R. (1961). On becoming a person.  Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.