What is the real goal when we are living the good life? Part 1

A couple of weeks ago I was going to my counselor. I’ve been seeing him for a few years. I was considering what to talk to him about. I usually decide ahead of time so that I can make the most of my one-hour session. I am down to one session a month at this point. I decided to talk to him about my burning question: What is the Good Life. If you don’t know about my challenge for this year read [this] post.

As I was thinking about it, I tossed what I’ve learned so far around in my brain. It seemed to get mixed in with all the other stuff that’s churning in there. Then I set it aside. I’ve been told that major breakthroughs happen when we let our brains work while we’re not paying attention. 

Later, I was reading a book and the word “thrive” popped out at me. 

The connection was made. I had this giant epiphany folks. My brain took off almost leaving me in the dust. I grabbed my notebook and began writing. Here’s where my brain went…

The good life isn’t just surviving. It’s thriving. You and I started over at some point in our lives. We ran, let go, dropped everything, and started over. From that point on, we’ve been rebuilding. 

As you may know, I stumbled around a bit and fell into the 12 steps and recovery life. I dated a fellow for several years who was a recovering addict. I read most of the blue book. I read the 12 steps and 12 traditions. I integrated the many principles in my life. Then I returned to the church. As I grew and recovered, my life changed for the better. 

Total, I’ve been out of abuse for about 14 years if I’ve done the math correctly. I last had willing contact with my abuser sometime in 2006 or 2007. I can’t remember the date and I didn’t write it down. Trauma messes up a person’s ability to remember. Next, I have been a Christian for about 8 years. In the summer of 2012, I renewed my commitment to be a Jesus-Follower. Sometime shortly after that, I stopped thinking of myself as “a former victim of domestic violence” to “a survivor of domestic violence.” 

This was a huge paradigm shift for me. My whole worldview changed with that shift. I remember driving on the interstate and having the thought while heading back to my apartment in the city. I was a survivor. I knew recovery principles, I had my temper mostly under control, I had a steady job, a steady apartment, I was mostly okay in relationships (i thought, more later on this), and I was on my way to a post-graduate degree. I was now a survivor of domestic violence. 

Still, nine years later, I am still trying to figure out what the good life is. Until January 8, 2021. I came across the word THRIVE in a book. 

That word made me realize that life is not just about surviving. It’s about thriving. We mostly settle for surviving in our every day walking around life. We get up, we go to work, we come home, eat dinner, watch tv, and we go to bed. That’s what we do five days a week. We have little variation. 

Those five days are spent doing what is necessary to keep us alive until we can have fun and rest the other two days. Those two days are spent recovering from our five days, having fun, hanging out, and doing what we enjoy. Mostly… if we can afford it. If we can’t afford it we do our best to enjoy our time. Most of us, don’t enjoy life 71% of the time (5/7=71.4%). 

That is what I mean by surviving. Life is okay. We’re mostly happy, but we’re missing something. We know IT is there and we want to know what IT is. That other thing, the something more. 

Some of us are just like hey – life is good. I have a house, a car, a person or two, and that’s enough for me. Okay, I totally get that. I thought I was that person for most of my life. Yet I was always chasing a guy, a hobby, a degree, or whatever the next thing was. Basically I thought there was an IT out there and I wanted IT. 

That IT is thriving. 

Thriving. Thriving is the good life. The good life is more than surviving – it is the other 28.6%. The 28.6% is what we spend the majority of our time working towards. It’s the fun stuff, the fulfilling stuff, the hobbies, the friends and family, the places we choose to go, and the people we choose to be with because we like them. 

Ever heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs? Here’s a Wikipedia [link]. Click it, read stuff, and then come back. I’ll wait.

Okay. Read it? Great

Thriving is the self-actualization layer of the pyramid. Surviving is the Esteem, Belonging & love levels of the pyramid. Getting out of abuse is the Safety Needs level. Doing whatever you need to do (in or out) of a relationship and being able to eat, sleep, and have clothes is the base layer of the pyramid. But I think thriving is doing it a different way than everyone thinks. 

I think that when I’m walking around in life saying “what actually is the good life?” I’m walking around saying – “how do I get to the next level, the right way?” I think that when we get to the top, we’re talking about thriving. I think that when we’re working through our lower levels and we’re not thinking about how to get to the next level, we’re thriving. I think we can’t thrive until we get out of our crappy abusive situations. 

Stick with me here. Websters defines THRIVE as: to grow vigorously; to gain wealth or possessions or to prosper; to progress toward or realize a goal despite or because of circumstances.  [link]

See!?! I think I’m on to something here. 

I have read the Bible a lot since 2012. I think that living the good life requires us to live life the way God wants us to, as who we actually are, and working towards his goals. That sounds not fun at all. Not great at all. It sounds the opposite of thriving – it sounds like being under the thumb of another the way we were in abusive relationships. I say wait, there’s a lot to unpack there and it’s not as bad as you think. 

The basics, to be expanded upon in the next posts, are:

  • Living the good life requires that we grow, make progress, and achieve; 
  • In the process we will gain wealth, even if it’s uncommon wealth; 
  • We will gain relationships, security, savings, enjoyment of life as a whole; 
  • Renewal and happiness. 

These are the things that matter the most. Once we leave our abuse and we work to achieve the base layer and the safety layer, then we can work toward the next layers. That working towards the next layers is surviving and then thriving. I think we can only thrive when we’re in a relationship with God – that is the part that I will talk about next time. 

I know this post is a long one. I think I might be on to something here. Everyone tells us what will make us happy. We have beliefs about what will make us happy. But, what if we can just be happy, living the good life, and thriving if we do just a couple of things? What if we only have to live as who we really are and do what we’re put here to do and that’s all that’s required to live the good life? That’s what we’ll talk about next time. 

What do you think? How are you feeling these days? Today is the day that most people quit their resolution? Are you still going strong?   I’d love it if you entered the conversation. Leave a comment below and voice your opinion. 


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