What is the value and meaning of a human life? Does it lie in longevity? In achievement? Pleasure? Success? Does the value of our lives lie in the amount of happy or enjoyable moments we have? Does it lie in what we create or generate (Art, children, career)?

Our cultural narrative tends to emphasise, in addition to pleasure and achievement, the value of longevity (more years are better). On this point Seneca writes:

“As is a tale, so is life: not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters.”

And elsewhere:

“Life is like a play: it’s not the length, but the excellence of the acting that matters.”

All the wisdom traditions throughout history have echoed this sentiment: The moral life is the meaningful life is the good life. The good life being, not the pleasurable life (though nothing wrong with pleasure), but the ethical life.

So, perhaps we can say that a life is good or ‘successful’ in proportion to the amount of good that life has brought into the world. A good life then has nothing to do with wealth, achievement, fame, pleasure, or longevity, but all to do with the expression of basic human values like love, courage, joy, understanding and compassion.


What has guided and motivated your life so far? (Pleasure, personal happiness, achievement, making a difference, love, money, status, prestige etc.)

What measure of happiness has that motivation brought?

What do you consider the ‘good’ life to be?

What would your life be like if you devoted yourself to becoming a ‘good’ person and living according to values like altruism, generosity and understanding?

do you feel motivated to make any changes in how you are living? If so, where and how would you start?